on 4 March 2010
The book explores a day in the life of a fat person through themes such as being fat at the workplace, treatment of fat people by doctors, fat people in fashion and fat people in relationships, amongst other areas.It also puts forward a strong and convincing case as to why diets don't work and provides useful information on health figures and facts. Most interesting, I found- was the explanation of the link between the rise of religion and religious associations with being fat (such as gluttony and lust) and the consequential demise of fatness as the ideal beauty aesthetic.I feel that if you are fat- this is a book that might change your life or at least give you a different perspective of things.
If you are not fat, I would recommend it regardless just as a way of broadening your horizons as to what other people go through and questioning the assumptions created by Western societal norms.
on 26 September 2005
Bovey's book is a fabulous, angry, heartening read - she takes a scalpel not to women but to the cosmetic surgery, diet and medical industries which victimise them. She unearths horrifying stories of discrimination and uncovers its motives. Quite how we've reached the silly pass where Carol Vorderman can feel life is over when she reaches size 14 isn't clear (and Bovey offers a description of the problem and not a diagnosis)
This book is compelling, witty and energetic. But Bovey's thinking is also fatally flawed.
1. She uses 'fat' to mean both morbidly obese woemn and also women who would like to lose 10-40 pounds. In this she only reflects society's usages. Sometimes it does seem as if everyone now is either an anorexic cocaine-abusing Size 2 or a plus-size. But it ain't so. Most UK women are sizes 14 to 16. What would be helpful is a health breakdown of the risks of being mildly podgy as opposed to huge. We don't get that here. Nor do we get any real statistics on how often mild serial dieting really leads to massive weight gain. The plural of anecdote is not data.
2. Some internal contradictions. For instance, Bovey says how energetic and fit she is as a size 24, but also admits her joints now won't allow her to do much exercise. Which is it?
3. Bovey's best insight - that those who regulate thier eating and exercise most frantically are exactly those 10-40 pounds overweight - is also her most questionable. It overlooks the possibility that they are those who most need to. We assume - and Bovey assumes - that a normal relationship with food involves eating till full and eating when hungry, a view also pushed by some 'experts' such as Susie Orbach. But this has been disproved substantially by research on portion control, which reveals that people can eat more-or-less what is put in front of them and will do so. What if the advertising model of 'normal' eating is actually a gross pig-out for most of the population? It's probably predicated on behaviour only a 20something male can get away with. What if the middle-aged ladies who don't lunch are right to conclude that in middle age one must be fairly self-conscious to avoid weight gain? Bovey herself implies as much when she advocates the slow long-term weight loss on which she herself settles (see her next book), though one might add that there are other ways to achieve the same ends, including a commonsense eat-today, starve-tomorrow approach of the kind that kept our mothers slim.
4. For Bovey this might be intolerable deprivation. Despite numerous studies that suggest the converse, she continues to argue that the metabolism does not recover from calorie restriction. Actually it does, but it takes time, which is why alternating diet styles works quite well. Bovey herself occasionally admits to binges, and it turns out that calorie control fails because the dieter bounces back at the cookie jar. But this isn't inevitable.
However, nor is the boneheaded prejudice Bovey identifies. What she wants is a world where women can be any size wihtout persecution. As she shows, it's a long way off. This is a fizzing book and deserves to be updated and reprinted.