Here’s how the first installment in the Skinny Bitch series (authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin) starts:
Are you sick and tired of being fat? Good. If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to get skinny...
This is not a diet. This is a way of life. A way to enjoy food. A way to feel healthy, clean, energized and pure. It’s time to reclaim your mind and body. It’s time to strut your skinny ass down the street liek you’re in an episode of Charlie’s Angels with some really cool song playing in the background. It’s time to prance around in a thong like you rule the world. It’s time to get skinny.
It sounds almost empowering. Almost.
The first red flag? If you’re full of self-loathing then…wait for it…getting skinny is the answer! If that’s not clear from the introduction, it is made super-clear on the first page of chapter one where it says: “Healthy = skinny. Unhealthy = fat.” I’m sorry, but I think that simple equation has been firmly established as utterly false.
Getting healthy is a lot more complicated and is absolutely not correlated to being skinny. Some of the least healthy people I know are really skinny. The authors seem to maintain a distinction between a “skinny bitch” and a “scrawny bitch.” That’s when they recommend against over-exercising. Despite warning against over-exercising, they promise that “you’ll soon become addicted to exercising.”
And the mixed messages don’t stop there. They are opposed to fad diets, like low-carb diets (and especially Atkins). They encourage people to eat bread and fruit. This makes it seem like a not very restrictive way of eating (a lifestyle, remember, not a diet). But they have a whole chapter that explains why “Sugar is the Devil.” That would make it thoroughly evil. I’ve posted about why food is beyond good and evil here.
On the pro side (for me, anyway) they promote a vegan diet for lots of the right reasons too. They quote Linda McCartney, who said that “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” They remind you that if you adopt a vegan diet, “you’re sparing the lives of at least ninety animals a year.” They even talk about the environmental impact of livestock farming (methane from livestock contributes a lot to global warming).
But I want to take issue with two of their fundamentals.
First, the whole bitch thing. People are annoyed enough with vegans. We are inconvenient, not just as dinner guests (“what will we feed you!?”) but as in-your-face reminders that your food choices have moral implications for other animals and for the planet. So associating veganism with being a bitch. It’s just not the kind of PR we need.
Second, the idea that being vegan will make you skinny. No. It’s just as easy not to be skinny as a vegan as it is not to be skinny as a non-vegan. There’s all sorts of vegan crap out there.
Now of course, the skinny bitch “philosophy” does not include vegan crap. Nope. A skinny bitch will embark on a regimen of “pure eating.” Remember: this is not a diet:
Never feel like or say you are “giving up” your favorite foods. Those words have a negative connotation. You are simply empowered now and able to make educated, controlled choices about what you will and won’t put into your body, your temple. Be grateful that you know the truth about the foods you used to poison yourself with…Be excited about feeling clean, pure, healthy, energized, happy, and skinny.
So let me say this. I’m vegan. Have been for over two years now. I eat a fairly “clean” diet, in the sense that I choose lots of whole foods, no animal products, I don’t drink alcohol or take any drugs, I’m more active than my peer group. But I am not skinny. I’m kind of average, really. And I was kind of average *before* I became vegan. So the magical transformation won’t come simply by becoming vegan.
That’s not to say there aren’t all sorts of good reasons. But becoming vegan is not to be approached as another diet that will get you thin. And all this “pure and cleansing” talk–getting rid of toxins and so forth–it’s just not borne out by science. See this about juicing.
That’s my myth-busting message today: Go for it! Become vegan (which is not just about food, by the way). But you don’t have to be a bitch and don’t listen to the people who promise you’ll be skinny.
Skinny isn’t even a great goal. It’s not empowering. And if you are experiencing self-loathing, try loving the body you have and treating yourself with compassion and care. We have lots of that to go around on this blog!