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Summer Reading: Thin is the New Happy ~By Valerie Frankel

This book is our book group’s read for May 2009. Everyone gets to pick their own books for the group to read and discuss. I never would have picked this book myself, and am glad that I was given the opportunity to read it.

This is a personal story about a woman’s journey to finding a happy body image. Her body image woes began long before she began as an editor at Mademoiselle Magazine. Her Pediatrician suggested to her parents that this daughter would have to be watched because she would have a problem managing her weight.

This is the most major similarity to me in the whole book; my pediatrician told my Mother that I would always have a weight problem. This my Mother found hard to believe because everyone in her family was complaining about how skinny I was and what “bird legs” I had.

My Mother had tried several diets along her path, but discovered that people just thought she was heavy because of her well endowed chest. She went on three major diets in her life and was successful each time and kept it off for years. Her mother sent her tons of ads and stories about dieting so she vowed not to do that.

Frankel writes the book as a look into what she had to do to make peace with herself and find a body image that she enjoyed and felt good about. She did not wish to pass on her body image problems to her two daughters.

I was a chronic dieter simply out of habit. Diet was what I did. It was all I knew. In fact, dieting know-how had been hardwired into my brain since preadolescence. Thanks to recent advances in MRI technology, we now understand that the brain takes shape according to the stimuli it receives. This was a good argument for forcing a kid to take piano lessons. If she learned to play young, her brain’s nerve and synapses would retain musical affinity forever. I didn’t play piano. Or chess. My teenage brain was honed, forged, and wrinkled for dieting. Reducing was my chief adolescent pastime. I made charts. I logged calorie input and output. I kept food journals. I read diet articles in magazines, ripped through weight loss books.

Frankel has put her years of weight loss, study and magazine work to good use in this book. It is quite entertaining and she details many of the subtle media inputs that many people do not know about.

Her clicker trials on her own thinking are very informative, just how many times in the course of a day she thought about her body image and that these thoughts were negative was astounding. Frankel’s self studies informed her as to what she needed to do to find peace of mind.

I would not want to read this book without a discussion group to follow, I think each individuals insights into their own body image, stimulated by this book would be profoundly informative.

An important read for nearly every woman I know – there is benefit on many levels.

What do you think? Do you have a body image problem?

Other interesting posts you might enjoy:
From Mom Grind:
You Read Women’s Magazines, Ill Give You Ten Reasons to Stop
Magazine Covers: Powerful Men, Half Naked Women
Children Self Image


Due Date for Writing Contest THE DIVORCE coming up June 1, 2009. Check it out.


20 Responses to “Summer Reading: Thin is the New Happy ~By Valerie Frankel”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I would like to read a book entitled “I Made Peace with My Older, Larger Body – and I Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow.” I can’t find it on Amazon, though.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..I LOVE YOU MORE THAN EVER

  2. Positively Present Says:

    Hahaha, I love Betsy’s comment. That’s great. I definitely have body image issues and I think everyone else I know does too (which is pretty sad since most of my friends are healthy, good-looking, fit twenty-five year olds). I studied gender in graduate school and how female body image is portrayed in popular culture is one of the things I focused the most on. The pressure to be thin and beautiful and feminine starts SO early in life (just look at cartoons and children’s films!) and it’s so hard to detact from it.

    Positively Presents last blog post..how to give the world a virus

  3. Jannie Funster Says:

    “I made charts. I logged calorie input and output. I kept food journals. I read diet articles in magazines, ripped through weight loss books.” Patricia, I can totally relate to that from my high school days. Tho I was never anorexic, I focussed too much on weight and body image – – which I blame entirely on the magazine images of “perfection.’

    But I’m okay now! And will watch my daughter in the future for any such body worries.

    And Besty – I’m writing that book, stay tuned! :)

  4. Vered - MomGrind Says:

    I love Betsy’s comment too. :)

    Sounds like an interesting book.

    Vered – MomGrinds last blog post..A Rose Garden

  5. J.D. Meier Says:

    I really like the point that what you learned early on can help you later in life. It’s a reminder that as much as we change, we also become more of who we are.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Iterate More, Plan Less

  6. Mark Says:

    Thanks for this review, sounds very interesting. It is interesting how what adults say as we are growing up have such an impact on us for so long.
    I do not have a body image problem. I would like to be in a little better shape, however I am good with where I am at for the moment.

    Marks last blog post..White Knuckles or Hands In the Air – How Do You Ride?

  7. Patricia Says:

    Betsy,
    What an award winning reply….and title! Let’s write the book and get on Oprah! Best seller here we come…I am taking this to book group tonight…

    Positively Present
    We are now witness and experiencing the fact that culture has been wrong for quite a while now…culture has lost course and direction …a perfect time to figure out who one is and then live that best life.

    Vered,
    Thank you for your comments….I don’t have a great deal on this subject so I hope you don’t mind the referrals to your blog and wealth of information!

    Jannie,
    I wish someone would tell folks that middle school and high school are all about confusion and path finding – it is a time to dig deeply into the very source of who one is and test out how how build on the strengths. Instead we are all set afloat on the confusion ship and told to figure it out and pay for it…so we can compete and make a lot of money….we are playing out a game of survival of the fittest on only one playing field….I can not think of a better way to defeat a culture and produce more followers than the systems we have in place right now…This is why I home schooled my children.

    JD,
    The lessons I learned by having cancer at birth was that I will never fit in so I might as well make the best of it….or the best of me – those early life lessons are part of the master palette of becoming one’s best self.

    Mark,
    I do not have a body image problem either, that is not to say that I do not have a few problems with my body – health issues to work on and heal – I think those early messages have such a huge impact and right now I think the cultural image for woman is that if you are not the ALPHA female in the pack you are in a horrible position.
    This book is about lack of respect for the female human experience – it is an old story.
    How to care and love another person

    I am glad that someone picked this book to read – I would not have chosen it, but it has opened up my thinking in so many areas.

  8. Sara Says:

    Patricia — This was a well written book review and an important issue. If we put our body image in historical or even cultural perspective, things might seem very different.

    I like to think that I was born in the wrong century. If I had been in the seventeenth century when Peter Paul Rubens was painting, I would have definitely been a perfect model for him:~)

    I also agree with Jannie…so much of this is based on the messages were sold about how our bodies OUGHT to look!

    Saras last blog post..In Switzerland: Extreme Sports

  9. Dot Says:

    Sounds like a very interesting read. Maybe those book groups are worth checking into, after all. Quite a coincidence that we both wrote about dieting issues at the same time.

    Dots last blog post..The Joys of Alcohol and Other Fallacies

  10. Patricia Says:

    Sara,
    Last night at book group, I was with 4 people who thought this woman’s problem was a good problem to have – thinking about food, dieting, and keeping control 24/7, I just spent most of the evening listening.
    I would have been great for a Ruben’s model too! I have such large legs and arms…
    I do not think my group could relate to figuring out a whole new body image and health that I have to deal with since my last cancer surgery – The prejudice I am experiencing now makes me profoundly sad and I find myself defending my body size by telling everyone I survived cancer…

    Dot,
    I think body image and dieting are all about spring too…because spring is sexy. I will pop over and read your wisdom!
    Thank you for your comment

  11. Liara Covert Says:

    When a person is completely happy with the self, then he or she does not think abut size, labels or eating habits, what he or she has or has not. One can evolve to fully love and accept any condition. This is the infinite power of love.

    Liara Coverts last blog post..Sandra Rogers & 11 points on anger & hate

  12. LisaNewton Says:

    Although I haven’t done any book discussions, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to books you might otherwise pass up. I’ll have to see if there’s one at my local library.

    Body image is tricky business, and I’m with Betsy on this one……………….:)

    LisaNewtons last blog post..A Garden Tour of Malibu’s Adamson House

  13. Patricia Says:

    Lisa,
    Body Image is such a tricky issue and I had a hard time with our discussion – I am more with Betsy on this subject.
    I was just sent another book to review which is about how the food industry is corrupting our food and overt addicting people with their formulas and advertising. It is full of quite a bit of new research but it makes me happy I did not have TV for a great deal in my life.
    I got my copy for $1 at a used book sale. I am sure it is in the library

  14. Patricia Says:

    Liara,
    I think you are completely right about self acceptance. I do think you can be self accepting but not accepted by others and although you may be upset by others non-acceptance this can certainly influence one’s life.

  15. Tess The Bold LIfe Says:

    I used to have a body image problem. I out of 10 kids and I want the only short and well endowed one and got teased and mocked all the time.

    In high school I made many good friends who never said anything mean about my body. I recovered!

    I wouldn’t allow a scale in my home when my kids were growing up. It didn’t help because of all of the other influences from media, friends etc.

    Tess The Bold LIfes last blog post..Bold Spontaneity In California

  16. patricia Says:

    Tess,
    It is so hard to help children have a good body image…my sister was nearly Miss Ohio in college and I was the only tall – giant kid in the family…Bones was my nickname in school !…My kids are in fairly good shape, but each has had to learn to like their own bodies and in our culture this has not been an easy task

  17. Barb Hartsook Says:

    Hi Patricia. I once heard a speaker say that men don’t talk to the mirrors as women do. We pinch and pull in and take note of what is wrong with us. Don’t look at my fat! we want to shout. While men flex their muscles — or where they want them to be — and see what they want to see.

    I haven’t watched any men do this — my hubby wouldn’t do that in front of me at least — so I can’t say with certainty. But I can agree all us gals are like that. I used to work with women on self-image, and had to coax out of them something they liked about their bodies! (Me too.)

    I’m gonna’ buy Becky’s book as soon as she finds it and shares. :)

    Barb Hartsooks last blog post..Do You Have a Minute, Jack?

  18. Patricia Says:

    Barb,
    thank you for coming on by and sharing, I hope you will share Becky’s book when it is found too.

    My hubby does look in the mirror lately and sees old…His eye lids are drooping now as the fat tissue shifts downward (Like Brian Williams on the TV News) But with all his outdoor biking and gardening work he is truly looking like a “wrinkle dog” He loves that he is so muscular and “skinny” tall, where as I get sick about all the comments about how I should share my food (I am heavy) and not eat all of his…hmmm

  19. Cindy Platt Says:

    Body image. Grrr anger. My grandma was a full figured dairy farmer. Every day when we milked the cows one of her bits of wisdom that I hold deeply was: “develop your mind and the rest will follow”. She was right. I am super cautious about what images my daughter sees like magazine covers, zero tolerance for commercials, billboards etc. She can read now and asks questions and takes second glances when we are at a check out stand and the magazines are glaring at us. Develop your mind rinse and repeat. Looking forward to the book.

    Cindy Platts last blog post..You are a Writer

  20. patricia Says:

    Welcome Cindy and thank you for your comments.
    Develop your mind – what wise words and I thank you for giving them to us. “Develop you mind rinse and repeat” I love it…good advice.
    I was very careful with three daughters, but number 3 is a producer’s dream so I am working on translating that into a wholistic approach to fashion and body image. As a communications major she would made a great stylist for all women if she would learn about different body types and how a body works at it’s optimum – at 23 it is hard for mom’s to know anything!