Rachel Brown's Reviews > Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories

Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner
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's review
Aug 07, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: memoir, nonfiction

A lightweight memoir about compulsive overeating.

I've read a couple of memoirs about eating disorders and/or body image issues, mostly because I read a lot of memoirs in general. By far the best-written was the anorexia/bulimia memoir Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, by Marya Hornbacher. I liked the latter so much that I gave it to a friend of mine who is interested in psychology, only to discover much later, to my chagrin, that she had wondered if I was trying to send her some kind of message. That book is intense.

However, with others I have a sick tendency to enjoy the loving food descriptions on the exact same level that I would enjoy those in a cookbook. Compulsive eaters are second only to food writers in their ability to conjure up the complex web of emotions and sensations associated with eating.

Lerner becomes a compulsive overeater at a very young age, spends years under the care of a clueless psychiatrist, and finally ends up in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt. She contemplates jumping off a bridge, but is interrupted by a man who had been beating off in the bushes. This is definitely the best truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment in the book.

Women in America have huge issues with body image, weight, and food. I am one of only about two or three American women I've ever met who has never been on a diet, and I have known a lot of women with eating disorders and body image obsessions. So a book on eating disorders and body image had better either address those issues in sociopolitical context or else be one heck of a compelling story. Lerner's book didn't quite make it for me on either count. More humor would probably have helped, and more of a focus on the interplay between her dysfunctional brain chemistry (she turns out to be bipolar) and the dysfunctional circumstances of her life.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 7, 2012 – Shelved
August 7, 2012 – Shelved as: memoir
August 7, 2012 – Shelved as: nonfiction

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Yeah, I found it a bit weird how poorly written this book was, given that she's apparently some kind of big-time editor (at Random House? She was Elizabeth Wurtzel's first editor, I think, anyway).

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