Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: Beautiful Bodies, by Kimberly Rae Miller

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke

"I'm addicted to dieting. I've never meet a diet I didn't want to try. Okay, maybe the Master Cleanse (I imagine there's a lot of heartburn involved), but other than that I would try them all, and I have. Well, most of them. I have eaten nothing but meat, nothing but raw vegetables, nothing but fruit, nothing but juice. I have counted points, calories, and macros; scarfed down all of my meals in a six-hour feeding window; banished gluten and dairy; and had pre-portioned food delivered to my apartment in the wee hours of the morning by elves. I have paid an arthritic old Romanian woman in a dentists' office to sodomize me with a hose, flood my colon with filtered water, and the suck my feces out with the very same hose. All of it in the name of weight loss. Dieting is my only real hobby.”

“…I have come to rely on the structure and hope diets provide as a way of anchoring myself to the world. When there are no rules or promises to life, a diet provides them. When things are at their most stressful, calorie counting is a refuge of control. I am aware that this is very much in line with disordered eating behavior. I have no concept of what ordered eating looks like. I'm not in the slightest bit alone, though; disordered eating has become so culturally ubiquitous that we now have a name for people who are too healthy, relentlessly healthy, people who take every article someone like me writes to heart and adjust their life accordingly. Orthorexia is just one of a long list of new feeding and eating disorders we can now be classified as having."

"…Weight gain and loss is a simple equation: we gain weight because we take in more calories that our body needs to fuel its functioning. We lose weight by expending more energy than we take in as calories in our food. What isn't quite that simple is determining just how many calories each of us needs to achieve our personally, medically, or socially acceptable body - whatever our goal is. Our bodies don't come off an assembly line. Two people of similar weight, height, body shape, and lifestyle can eat the same foods but with vastly different results. Some people require fewer calories than others. Their bodies are models of metabolic efficiency: they seem to hardly need any food at all to function in the world, and if they were to eat the recommended amount of food suggested by governing guidelines, they would actually gain weight. Their body is a great betrayer, who can bump up the needle on the scale in one moderately indulgent weekend.

Then there are a lucky few who have metabolic cycles that essentially burn off excess fuel as it enters the body, regardless of their energy output, people with the coveted "good metabolism" who seem to maintain a slim build regardless of eating habits. Although to be fair, men and women of this type have a harder time building muscle for the same reason that they have a hard time retaining body fat. Most of us are somewhere in between these two, but most of us also feel firmly we're the former. I do."

Initially, I was really into this book. It is part a history on diets which I found interesting, and part memoir which seemed relatable and funny. I liked the book and I liked the author. Her writing style was fun and breezy, but the more I read, I couldn't help but think that she needs to get some serious help: that she has body dysmorphia and that she should not be dispensing health and fitness advice to anyone. She seems to have an addiction to it that is not healthy.

Official synopsis:
Like most people, Kimberly Rae Miller does not have the perfect body, but that hasn't stopped her from trying. And trying. And trying some more. She's been at it since she was four years old, when Sesame Street inspired her to go on her first diet. Post college, after a brief stint as a diet-pill model, she became a health-and-fitness writer and editor working on celebrities' bestselling bios - sugar-coating the trials and tribulations celebs endure to stay thin.

But what is the ideal body? Knowing she's far from alone in this struggle, Kim sets out to find the objective definition of this seemingly unattainable level of perfection. While on a fascinating and hilarious journey through time that takes her from obese Paleolithic cavewoman, to the bland menus that Drs. Graham and Kellogg prescribe to promote good morals in additional to good health, to the binge-drinking-prone regimen that caused William the Conqueror's body to explode at his own funeral, Kim ends up discovering a lot more about her relationship with her own body.

Warm, funny, and brutally honest, Beautiful Bodies is a blend of memoir and social history that will speak to anyone who's ever been caught in a power struggle with his or her own other words, just about everyone.
While I enjoyed the carefree writing style of the author, at times it got to be too much. The personal parts of the story were not told in a linear fashion which made the story feel disorganized and jumbled. She would start to talk about one thing, switch over to something else, and then it was like she forgot that she never made her original point and went back to it many pages later. 

In the beginning of the book, she mentions going to the New York Public Library to conduct research. Nothing comes of that story and she switches over to another topic. Over 100 pages later, she goes back to finish that story in the library. And based on the lifelong struggle she portrays, one would think she is morbidly obese: when in reality, she is 5’6” and for most of the story, has a healthy BMI. The heaviest she admits to being is a size 14, her smallest a size 8, which according to her is still too big. I feel like once many readers discover this, it might turn them off from her struggle and stop viewing her story relatable as she does not really seem to have the weight problem she is portraying. I have to admit that I was feeling for her struggle up until that point. From there, I felt more like she was not qualified to complain about her weight struggles when many people have it significantly worse than her.

Fortunately, towards the end of the story, she seemed to realize being a certain weight is not that important in the grand scheme of things as long as you are healthy and happy and she was able to come to terms with her life and her body which brought her to a more body positive conclusion. This story started out great, took a slump, and then regained itself in the end for me:

"…There are seven billion bodies in the world, and I got this one. It may not be the best one, but it's far from being the worst. It comes from a long line of people who have survived things much more harrowing than social-media bullying…I've gotten the best they had to offer. It's a strong body and a soft body, and while it's not as beautiful as I'd have liked, it's the only one I will ever have, so I'm, working on being thankful for it."

3 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo. She is glad warmer weather is finally here so she can enjoy brunch on many of metro Detroit’s outdoor patios.


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