BOOK REVIEW: Thin Is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel
I'd been looking forward to this book for so long. I love Valerie Frankel's novels (and her blog) and I do like a good weightloss/body image memoir, particularly when they're funny, and Thin is the New Happy didn't disappoint.
Frankel had been struggling with her weight and, more importantly, body image, since the age of 11 when her mother decided Valerie was overweight and something must be done. (She writes: “I could have food. Or I could have approval. I couldn’t have both.”) I'm constantly amazed at the terrible comments parents direct at their children in these kinds of books, but Valerie's mother's mother was even worse, so you can almost understand why she was so fat-phobic. This pattern also acted as a catalyst for Frankel to deal with her issues - she was determined not to pass them on to her own two daughters.
Frankel addresses these issues in a variety of ways. She gives up dieting. She contacts one of the boys who teased and bullied her about her weight at school. She attempts to have it out with her mother. She tackles her constant negative self-talk by buying a clicker to record just how many negative comments she makes about herself each day (the result is staggering). She has her (dull and functional) wardrobe overhauled by a style expert. She even poses naked for a national magazine.
All the while, Frankel is also relating stories from her life that relate to her body image and weight, so we learn about the death of her first husband and her subsequent relationship with her second. We learn much about her mother and sister and daughters. We learn about her time as an editor at women's magazine, Mademoiselle (not a healthy place for a woman with body issues - the chapter heading is "Ugly Valerie").
As I almost always find myself saying about memoirs, Thin Is the New Happy is brutally honest. It's also very funny. But more importantly, it's inspiring. And it left me with one image that I can't get out of my head - after deciding not to look at herself in a shop window she passes each day, Frankel instead looked down at her daughter, who smiled up at her "big and beautiful", causing her to wonder how many of these moments she'd missed "while frowning at my profile in storefront windows". This was a wake-up call to me, as I'm sure it will be to many women.
If you've ever had any issues with body image (and I'll just bet you have), you need to read this book.
Like this? Try Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster