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The Ministry of Thin

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Losing weight has become the modern woman's holy grail… everything will be better when we're thin. We're obsessed with weight, we dislike our bodies, we worry about the food we eat, we feel guilty, we diet… Too many of us are locked into a war with our own bodies which we'll never win, and which will never make us happy. The Ministry of Thin takes a controversial, unflinch ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Summersdale
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  259 ratings  ·  44 reviews


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Deborah Markus
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(This review is of an ARC I received from a Goodreads giveaway.)

Have you ever noticed that when it comes to talking fitness, it tends to be about what men can do and what women look like?

This is a broad generalization, one I'm happy to see pushed off the table when it comes to running (which is all about how fast you can run a mile and how many you can do without stopping). But whether it's with my friends or in fitness groups, I've noticed that for women the talk is all about losing weight, los
...more
Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin*
Semi-interesting. Mostly meh. The author wrote a book about anorexia, but this reads like a sequel to that. In the introduction she said she'd try not to talk about her anorexia often, but it was mentioned in almost every chapter, often at length. Some people might not mind that, but it wasn't what I expected. The question of "how the pursuit of perfection got out of control" was never even answered.
Annie
Dec 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this - but I couldn't.

The author's constant personal stories about her experiences with anorexia should have made it better but they just ended up feeling shoved into each chapter and added to the disjointed feeling of the book. Woolf barely scratched the surface of an subject in her chapters, which was too bad since there was so much potential. For all the name-dropping of various feminist authors, I didn't think she really read any of their writings! Or at least unders
...more
Morag Gray
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
I hoped this would be something like Naomi Wolf's "The beauty myth", but it quickly degenerated into an insecure woman's thoughts, somewhat scattered, on how she perceived herself (and other women). I think it said more about the author than it did about the perceptions of scoiety.
Emily Devine
Jul 18, 2013 rated it liked it
"I'm probably over-thinking this. And revealing my own superficiality."

That quote pretty much summed up this book for me. I felt that the book started off strong for the first few chapters, but somehow it ended up dragging on and focusing on feminism a little bit too much for my liking. Still, some valuable ideas were presented and I could definitely relate to some of issues in regards to the pursuit of perfection, I think every female and male could. I would've liked to read more evidence base
...more
Emily Crow
I'm not sure why I read this book, since I didn't like the author's previous one, An Apple a Day. I guess because I'm kind of curious how society got so obsessed with dieting and skinny celebrities and other superficial crap, and I'm (usually) willing to give an author a second try. The good news is that this book is better. Not great, but mildly interesting and Woolf does have a few good points. Even so, if you only have time for one book on this topic, I'd probably go with a different Wolf--Th ...more
Helen To
The Ministry of Thin is the second book I have read by Emma Woolfthis year, the first being her memoir An Apple a Day: A Memoir of Love and Recovery from Anorexia. This book is an intelligent and critical analysis of the destructive affects of the pursuit of bodily perfection. Woolf is unrelenting in her look at the various industries that control the looks and emotions of the women who invest their time and money in them. The Ministry of Thin looks at how the fitness, cosmetic and diet industri ...more
Sherri
Aug 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I saw this on the "New" shelf at the library and was drawn in by the title . . .

Woolf definitely outlines the problem, but I don't feel she adequately explored solutions. Her attitude toward those who are overweight was incredibly condescending in places as well. (In the chapter "Ministry of Gym" she basically asserted that she doesn't believe people's excuses for being overweight and out-of-shape because "exercise works . . . it's not rocket science.") It's not exactly a kind treatment of thos
...more
Amy M
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
This read like a college research paper. I didn't learn anything, there were no new insights, just the usual media, culture, perfectionism theories of why anorexia develops. I felt it was a rant against society.
Catania Larson
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
It was promising, and there were a few ideas I liked, but for the most part nothing was new or particularly noteworthy.

I felt like I was reading a (long) blog.
Emmi
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
An utter disappointment.
BELIEVESINMIRACLES
I debated whether to give this book a 3 or 4 star rating and decided to be generous being the Christmas season is with us right now.

This book really is not about being thin, it is a huge litany of every possible thing in society that pertains to women ( whether things being done to women or things women are doing to themselves by choice or by societal pressure ). She discusses weight loss and gain, but goes into pay inequality, make up, cosmetic surgery, mental illness, sex, men's perceptions of
...more
Ashleigh Jackson
Jun 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
I had such high hopes for this book, everything about it seemed to ooze potential when I saw it glinting at me on the library shelf. But when I started reading it quickly became apparent that no single contributory factor to poor body image in women was going to receive a lot of attention from the author, and what was written about each was heavily peppered with relentless anecdotes about the author's personal experience with anorexia. This could have added to the overall book, but in too high a ...more
Drew
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
While interesting, this book does not break new ground, but rather affirms what we suspect, know, experience (and at times reads like a research paper, particularly the last chapter, titled "Conclusion".) Still, the culture of body image and distortion is a rich and valuable topic to explore.

My favorite passage, quoting a Jacqueline Maley editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"One of the more insidious trends of the modern era . . . is the moral sanctity people attach to their food choices. E
...more
Laura
May 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
The title of this book was misleading. It didn't deal with 'how' the pursuit of perfection got out of control at all. Rather, it was more of a rant about the current state of affairs on a broad array of feminist topics and didn't add anything to the current dialogue. I was expecting to learn something new, but it all seemed like it had been said before. Further, the book relied heavily on anecdotes and where Woolf referenced actual facts, there were no Notes at the end to show where they came fr ...more
Josey
Jul 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
I was very much looking forward to this book, and was very disappointed. Although the author is upfront with her history of disordered eating, my sense is that she is not as recovered as she says--the few chapters I read were full of red flags and outright disordered thinking as well as rampant fatphobia (both in the literal sense and in the hating-fat-people sense). Rather than offering thoughtful critique it was a fairly upsetting read that I would not recommend to anyone.
Toni
This is a book about how women must diet constantly, consume only organic food, detox regularly, marry the perfect man, produce beautiful babies "effortlessly", be confident but not a bitch, be professionally successful without being pushy or unfeminine, be naturally beautiful, well-dressed and made-up, stay young despite aging being inevitable and most of all.......be thin!!! I enjoyed this book immensely...a very intelligent look at the pressures women of the Western world face.
kashiichan
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
The truly sad thing is that most of the women reading this book have already figured most of this out. Still, a good example of having a clear argument against the negativity of the media, the danger of fad diets and the punishing self-hatred that most females (and, increasingly, males) face.
Nollie
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Maybe a 3.5. The beginning started out slowly, with a lot of information we already know, but she got more insightful as the book continued on.
Gato
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. As a fellow ED alumnus, I I felt this author's thoughts particularly on anorexia (which, curiously she never refers to as anorexia nervosa) and bulimia were 100 % on point. I’d never heard of the 1940s starvation study and plan to read more about that amazing bit of research. All the chapters in the book which focused on elective plastic surgery, Botox, makeup, tweezing and shaving, social media pressure, tabloids, male versus female beauty expectations, and pregnancy bodies w ...more
Bad Girl Bex
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Middle class feminist drivel.

This book isn't good. It lacks any real cohesion, doubling back on itself and repeating statements from previous chapters. It contains other threads of perceived iniquities towards women, that only barely, tenuously link up and the prose throughout is flat and dull.

I enjoyed the author's first book - a memoir of her battle with anorexia - because it is something I personally find completely alien & impossible to comprehend and she wrote from the heart with illumi
...more
Ellie Broughton
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
(First reviewed on For Books' Sake).

Pretox, detox; thinspo, fitspo; Crowtox, fillers and peels: all this pseudoscientific jargon tells us is, ‘you’re not yet good enough’.

Women are targeted with the message hourly (or so it feels) from several different sources. So Emma Woolf’s new book The Ministry of Thin offers a good interruption to these scheduled broadcasts.

A bit of background: Woolf is a columnist for the The Times and had experience as a beauty journalist prior to that. She has also appe
...more
Barry Martin Vass
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very entertaining book about the way we see ourselves, the sometimes constant struggle to stay young, thin, and desirable, and the many things we do to achieve this look. Emma Woolf is a former anorexic, the great-niece of the author Virginia Woolf, and a health and beauty columnist for The London Times and other papers, and a presenter on English Television's Channel 4 and Radio 4. This is a carefully-researched book that casts doubt on the way we live our lives and our view of our ow ...more
Sheri S.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not generally a huge fan of self-help/pop culture books but I really liked this one. Woolf, who is a recovered anorexic, writes about the history of the perfect looking woman and how culture promotes perfection in women. She covers such topics as diets, detoxing, fashion and beauty, age and surgery and how these issues contribute to the quest for perfection. She points out how much our culture promotes being thin and how society focuses on celebrities and their seemingly perfect look. She wr ...more
Hayley
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My only disappointment with this book is that it wasn't published fifteen years ago - if it had been, maybe I wouldn't have spent my late teens & twenties feeling constantly dissatisfied with my appearance.

Woolf's writing is honest, sincere and easy to read. Page after page, I found myself identifying with the pressures put on/felt by women to look perfect. For the first time, I really took time to reflect on why we are so bothered by body image and who decides what 'perfect' is anyway.

Altho
...more
Sarah Reicker
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A clearly laid out introduction to the concepts of how marketing targets women, and how the patriarchy is behind it all. Having read "The Beauty Myth," a few years ago however, I found that this did not explore the concepts in any depth. I was personally looking for an expansion on the topic but did not necessarily get it. While I thought she covered some interesting ideas around the "ministry of thin," I couldn't help but think that the research was a bit lacking. Again though, I think that thi ...more
Zoe Nissen
Jun 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
It's rare that I can't finish a book. But when the author mentions how calorie restriction is the "healthier" option after spending two chapters engaging in fatphobic language, I had enough. Woolf consistently mentions "studies" without actually giving her readers citations to double-check, which lends to a lack of credibility in her writing. I have serious doubts as to whether the author is as "recovered" as she claims. While I don't discourage those who are still on their journey from sharing ...more
Crystal
Nov 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
The author bemoans everything that she feels is wrong with our current society and suffers from golden age thinking where makeup was minimal, clothes were just clothes, children played in the street (and women were only expected to have dinner on the table at 5). As to how we can improve and evolve from the current state of things she offers very little. She seems to believe that 'society' does this to women but doesn't acknowledge women do this to each other and chose to do these things to them ...more
Burcu Asena
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Finished on 4th march. This book shocked me frequently. There were many horrible things in it that I couldn't believe. I'm familiar with the desire to be thin and eating disorders but the age,surgery,fashion and all that left me sad,annoyed,hopeless. I realised once again that it sucks to be a woman today. The author seems to made lots of research before writing this book, she uses many data and compares those data with her, her friends' experiences, and other data. To be honest there were times ...more
Fiona
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very absorbing read

Emma Woolf is very open about her own experiences as well as relating those of other people. Some truths about eating disorders and how those living with them think and feel are uncomfortable but you never feel judgement from Woolf just a lot of empathy.
She's also done a fantastic job of pulling together the myriad of external cultural influences and assumptions that impact on the way we see ourselves and each other.
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“Being constantly hungry is no life at all.” 10 likes
“Are we really going to spend our whole lives like this, feeling the wrong shape and the wrong weight in the wrong skin?” 5 likes
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