Y’all, I had such conflicted feelings about this book. Having recently written my own (much shorter) tale of food and fatness, I was kind of surprised when the library let me know Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and My Own was waiting for me. I had put it on my request list, probably before it was released in early 2013, and had completely forgotten about it. It’s a blissfully short read, so there is that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s engagingly written, and there were a few times when I was totally on board with Mika Brzezinski’s admonitions to be healthier in both mind and body.
I like Mika, and often watch her on “Morning Joe” while fixing school lunches for my kids. It helps to think of the “Joe” hosts as the Morning TV equivalent of Time magazine—news for people who have more knowledge of what’s going on in the world than your average human—but only a little bit more. With this in mind, and having read excerpts from Mika’s previous books, I felt pretty prepared for Obsessed to be as overly-simplified as I expected.
My Top Ten takeaways boiled down to this:
10. It’s OK to tell someone they are fat—if they are a really, really good friend that you care about.
9. Offering to pay that person to lose weight is not at all demeaning to them.
8. Not letting that person be on the cover of the book you co-wrote makes total sense, because—obvious reason—even though she lost 75 pounds, she’s still not skinny and it will compromise your brand.
7. If parents love their kids, make sure they have a healthy self-image (whatever that is), so they never get fat.
6. Obesity is a first-world problem. Buy fresh fruit and veggies, exercise at a specialty gym and voila, no more fat people.
5. Women will always have to be very skinny to be successful, have amazing jobs and be important to the world. This is an unfortunate fact, but it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, you will not be successful if you are fat.
4. Being obsessed with staying thin is totally worth it, even thought it is very time consuming, because you will be an important woman with an amazing job. Conversely, men can get fat—nobody cares.
3. Rich fat people are even more lazy and slovenly than poor fat people, because they have the money to buy healthy food and pay for personal chefs, personal trainers, nutritionists, therapists and gym memberships, and they don’t.
2. There is so much good information out there about lifestyle management, proper exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and advocating for better nutrition for everyone and Mika didn’t research or use any of it, preferring instead to offer weak expert commentaries, platitudes, disreputable diet plans and outdated eat less/exercise more advice that rarely works for anyone over the long term.
1. I do not believe for one fracking minute that Christie Hefner, whose opinions are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, made a conscious decision to feature “athletic women” with “strong physiques” in Playboy, “to shift attitudes about what we consider beautiful and encourage the next generation of girls to value exercise.” [My eye-roll when I read this was EPIC.]
I want to believe that Brzezinski thought she was doing a good thing for her friend Diane Smith. I desperately hope Diane Smith didn’t feel bullied by her friend to lose weight to satisfy Mika’s convoluted belief that she couldn’t be highly regarded in her field because of her weight (Mika’s health concerns for Smith seemed to run a distant second). I hope that, despite the Ambien-induced-entire-Nutella-jar incident Mika realizes that, honestly, she will never be overweight, so she should lighten up on her self-assigned Food Nazi status and
eat a cheeseburger * enjoy her amazing, uniquely privileged life and maybe devote some time to educating herself and becoming an advocate for healthy living, good nutrition, excellent healthcare and decent living wages for everyone. This, more than anything, would help people maintain healthy weights and live longer, more active and more vigorous lives.
*I will not thin-shame!