After my latest mild relapse into panic about my body, I wanted to read some more modern books about coping with EDs, recovery, and all of the societal mechanisms that promote an unattainable body and vilify fatness.  Even just a little pudge.

I am unsure of why I reserved Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight--And What We Can Do about It by Harriet Brown, but I did, and I read it in a day.  I wasn't aware that she had written anything else about EDs, but she evidently chronicled her daughter's battle with anorexia in a book called Brave Girl Eating.  This gave me vaguely squicky Ellen Hopkins vibes (Crank and the ensuing books are basically the story of Hopkins' daughter, vaguely fictionalized).  You, the mother, are profiting from your daughter's pain?  But I didn't realize that until after I finished Body of Truth and started poking around on the internet a bit more.

But back to the book at hand: in brief, it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, and it didn't deliver on the promises made in its subtitle.  Granted, I read relatively scientific things about OSFED and BDD and EDs and so forth, but Brown is acting all shocked that the doctors are in cahoots with the diet pill-and-surgery industry.  Um, duh?  It's pretty obvious by all those tacky pens that most, if not all, doctors have sold out in order to make a pretty penny on the side.  And research?  Ha ha ha ha ha.

Here, let me summarize literally an entire chapter about fat statistics: No causation can be established in any of these studies because every human's body works differently and we cannot generalize about fatness or thinness.  You're welcome.

The subtitle says that Brown would also talk about history and culture.  The culture part was talking about how we see too many ads with skinny people in them and celebrities are skinny and we have been trained to see skinny as a morally good thing, and fatness as a morally deplorable thing.  Again, I could probably pick up an issue of Marie Claire and read an editorial on that.  I mean, I'd have to flick past five thousand photoshopped images of already very unattainable bodies, but whatever.  Brown doesn't posit any sort of solution to this influx of hyperunrealistic media, though.  She says it's there, and that we're all affected by it, even when we don't want to be, but there's no discussion of how we can be better.  It's mostly, "Well, the ads are paid for by Big Money, and you can't fight The Man!  Sucks to be human!  And fat!"

There was also very little history discussed, unless you count some "historical statistics" about how stars in the 50s were fit and large: Marilyn Monroe was a size 10!  I roll my eyes every time I hear that claim.  She's more like a size 2 by our standards, because designers have been vanity sizing the ever-living crap out of clothing for decades.  Just searching "Marilyn Monroe measurements" gives you the numbers: she was about 5'5" (my height), and 35-22-35 as recorded by her dressmaker.  Sure, there were times when she was a bit heavier, but that's also called life and barbiturates.  Body type is pretty genetic, but also due to what you ate as a kid and how many minerals and vitamins were in your food and so forth.  Marilyn had a very tiny waist.  I could probably corset myself down to a 22" waist, but I don't want to.  Her waist was her waist and that's fine.  Finis.  That was her body and it worked the way it worked.  Mine doesn't work the same way because of genetics, environment, and a truckload of other variables we don't understand yet.

Finally, there's the issue of "what we can do about it."  From what I gathered, the author's answer was "join secret fat-acceptance groups on Tumblr."  To her, they were "hidden" and quasi-mysterious.  I dunno; I can find body-acceptance groups pretty easily: check out bodyacceptanceinya.tumblr.com, which is an awesome Tumblr run by a few of my librarian friends.

Thankfully, the book itself isn't that long, thanks to copious endnotes and a bibliography.  I didn't think I could take any more of Brown's odd version of scientific research presented via personal anecdote.  Like, "Oh, when I was a kid, my mom locked up the ice cream, which is why I'm fat.  But I love my body!  But I'm jealous that my husband is 'naturally athletic' and can eat 'whatever he wants.'"  Brown also seems very reluctant to discuss ED, BDD, and OSFED as mental illnesses, which just reinforces the mental illness stigma.   Yay.

I suppose if you haven't read anything about the business of weight loss and body shaming--because that's what it is: a way to make money off of shaming people--this might be a good intro.  However, it's not groundbreaking and is often irritating in its smugness.


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