Roth v. Spinardi: Review of “How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too…”
This is a review of How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too: Stop Binge Eating, Overeating and Dieting For Good Get the Naturally Thin Body You Crave From the Inside Out (Binge Eating Solution) by Josie Spinardi.
I’ve read most of what’s been published on this subject, starting with (to name a few) Kim Chernin (The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity and The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness) and Marion Woodman (The Owl Was a Bakers Daughter), up through Geneen Roth (Feeding the Hungry Heart) & Caroline Knapp (Appetites: Why Women Want), & now this. The emphasis on thinness here is disturbing. It feels like the same carrot (no pun) that’s been dangled in front of chronic dieters since the beginning of time, so in this sense it feels manipulative. A come-on to buy the book. Certainly the best possible outcome is to stop bingeing, but using the promise of thinness to achieve that? Seems unscrupulous, & more than a little dishonest, to me. This from someone who repeatedly disses the advertising industry, which is in fact greatly responsible for planting & reinforcing & & exploiting & capitalizing on women’s need to be thin. Exactly as this book does. Enticing buyers with the promise of thinness is the reason diet & fashion are multi-billion-dollar industries, & I haven’t noticed a decline in the rates of eating disorders in this country because of any get-thin-quick scam. Quite the contrary, which Spinardi actually describes in some detail in terms of the effect dieting has on craving & food obsession, but which she fails to mention is her own M.O. & which you would never suspect because, hey. A woman would never do that to another woman, right? & the diet-mongers & ad execs? They’re laughing all the way to the bank; getting rich, as they do, on women’s failure to achieve the impossible.
And many women are, let’s face it, never going to go from being Oprah A to Oprah B, but so what? That shouldn’t be the point, anyway. The book did get good reviews, marginally better on Amazon than Geneen Roth’s original book, Feeding the Hungry Heart, so I decided to give it a try. I thought maybe someone had a newer & fresher approach to the same message.
But this author’s message is nothing like Roth’s, whose books are about stopping bingeing AND about becoming comfortable in the body you have, not continuing to chase some body shape that is going to be unattainable for many. This does not mean some women aren’t going to lose weight after reading Josie’s book. But for someone who has been obese, a goal of 150, 160, 170 pounds might be a huge achievement and an ultimate goal, since it is way healthier than a much lower weight if it can be achieved and maintained without bingeing and yo-yo-ing, not to mention how crazy-making those behaviors are. But “skinny”? I think this just sets up women who may not end up “lean” or in “skinny jeans” for a feeling of failure because they haven’t achieved that, when they may well have achieved something amazing by stopping a crippling behavior, & I’m sure not going to throw my larger sisters under the bus by saying this book is anything other than what it is: in the end, it’s just another diet book; another telling of the same old same old, & if you are thinking “Oh, skinny is just a word, it doesn’t mean anything,” I can tell you that words & numbers are how this battle is waged & that they mean everything, & no one who says she is on your side should be using them against you. I can just hear it now: “I meant, whatever skinny is for you.” Ya right.
So now I think that the reason Roth gets worse Amazon reviews than Spinardi is that in the 30 or so years since Roth was first published, her message of self-acceptance has lost favor with a female population that had 3 more decades to be worked over by the advertising industry and is more obsessed than ever with being thin. This saddens me greatly.
Before anyone goes un-helpful-ing this review (I notice that the people who provide less than glowing reviews of this book get flamed [originally this review was on Amazon]), I’d suggest you look at what your expectations are & how much you are going to blame your collision with reality on this reviewer. That is, are you angry because I’m telling you it’s okay to give up the idea of looking like Kate Moss? Because someone should be telling you that, but unfortunately, Josie is not. Believe me when I tell you that trading one lofty set of expectations for another is not going to help you if both are ultimately unattainable, & however successful you may be at losing weight with this approach, if the whole thing is couched in a false or leading promise & you have not learned, or at least started to learn, self-acceptance on a much deeper level than “skinny jeans” can provide, ultimately you are going to be no better off. Maybe worse.
So overall I would say that the difference between Geneen Roth and Josie Spinardi is that with Spinardi, changing your approach to food is a means to an end; namely, “thinness.” With Roth, changing your approach to food is the end, & whatever happens weight-wise as a result of that change is completely secondary. Which is as it should be.
I was sorely disappointed that, for all the homage Josie pays to Geneen Roth, naming & quoting her in various sections, the places where it would be appropriate (i.e., ethical) to name her, like where entire sections seem lifted directly from her books (one small example, the section “The Two Satisfaction-Boosting Questions/What Do I Want?”), are glaringly absent. She’s not quoting directly, so quotation marks aren’t required, but neither does she provide a reference to any of Geneen’s books as the source. Which they very obviously are. So a footnote is required.
This is relatively minor, but I found the “like, totally” dialect in which the book is written to be mildly irritating. A lot of women reading this have been trapped in this behavior since before the author was born & probably don’t want to feel like they are reading something out of Teen Magazine. And please, look up the word “expedient” & use it correctly next time. It may sound like “ex-speedy-ent,” but it isn’t a synonym for “fast.” Cripes.
To me, any good that might come from the book’s exploration and description of some behaviors (as Geneen Roth did WAY before this book or any other on the subject) is negated by the fact that “thinness”–rather than losing your fear of food–is the reward for any changes you make. How to Have Your Cake is written in a rather simplistic way, and in my mind at a questionable emotional cost to readers. If you are bent on reading this, be very clear on exactly what you are trying to achieve & create your own context, because the only context you will get from Josie is “becoming skinny,” which, because it’s just a Band-Aid for bigger issues, has absolutely nothing to do with becoming happier with yourself. Roth will help you to create that context, so as soon as you are finished reading this review, go read everything Geneen Roth has ever written.