Tag Archives: mika Brzezinski

Review of “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction–And My Own” by Mika Brzezinski

obsessed4xI finally finished Mika’s book a couple of weeks ago.  It is only 228 pages, but it was very difficult for me to read.  I struggled to read it because I felt as if someone reached inside my head, pulled out my innermost thoughts, and placed them on a page for the whole world to read.  But, I am glad that I read it.

She confirmed for me what I have known for a long time.  I have even shared this idea on this blog.  That all eating disorders, whether bulimia, anorexia, or obesity, all have something in common.  They are all illnesses that need to be treated as such.  Anorexia and bulimia have been treated as illnesses for a long time, but obesity still suffers the social stigma of being a personal character flaw that needs to be addressed by that individual alone.

What I learned from reading Mika’s book, and from conversations I have had with a family member with bulimia, is that some of the dysfunction she has with food, and the dysfunction I have with food are the same, and they need to be treated as such.

As a child, a teen, college student, and well into her adult years, she obsessed about food much in the same way I did.  I thought about food all of the time growing up.  I dieted, starved myself, took diet pills, binged, purged through crazy exercise stints.  I never thought I was thin enough.  I always thought I was fat, even when I was not.

Reading what Mika and her friend and co-writer, Diane, had to say was like reliving all those thoughts all over again.

We live in a society that values beauty and thinness above all else.  People who suffer from eating disorders that keep them thin are definitely viewed as having a more sympathetic problem than those whose disorder makes and keeps them fat.  Her friend Diane, whom she confronted about her excess weight put it quite succinctly, “At least your obsession with food helps you keep the weight off…mine doesn’t” (p. 116)  Mika continued, “She may be right, but it is still not healthy.  One problem is that being so thin really gets rewarded. When I’m at my thinnest, I have everyone in the world telling me how great I look.” (p. 116)

This rewarding thinness and weight loss really concerns me.  I have to admit that I have some concern about how everyone fusses over my weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention.  When I know I’m going out to be among a group of my friends or family, I take some extra care to look my best.  I choose my clothes to carefully pick out something I know really accents the weight loss.  I fix my hair.  I put on make up.  I prepare myself mentally to have everyone tell me how great I look.  I know it’s a bit narcissistic, but I have lived a lifetime being ashamed of how I look and trying to make myself as invisible as possible.  It’s nice to be fussed over.  But, I am concerned about going from being known only as the fat girl to being known only as the fat girl who lost a lot of weight.  I really long for people to really know me.  I have always felt the real me has nothing to do with how much I weigh, or what I eat, and it would be such a relief to really be seen for who I truly am.

What I found really interesting about this book was the discussion about how food companies have made foods that are deliberately addictive.  The combination of sugar, salt, and fat apparently trigger some of the same pleasure parts of the brain that addictive drugs do.  That explains why it is easy to become addicted to these foods and keeps people eating long after they are full.  I know when I eat processed foods, they have a different effect on me than whole, clean foods do.  I feel more sated, and I definitely have a short-lived feeling of pleasure and satisfaction from eating fried, greasy, salty, sugary foods.  But I also know that once I start to eat these foods, it is hard for me to stop.  There are certain foods I definitely have all or nothing relationship with.  Nutter Butters, for example.  I have known for years that I have one of two choices when eating them.  I can eat none of the Nutter Butters in the box, or all of the Nutter Butters in the box.  There is no in between.

I’m sure the food companies aren’t making foods like this because they are inherently evil, but they make foods like this to increase the likelihood consumers will keep buying their foods so that they keep making money.  That is, after all, why they are in business.

I think that there are several really good points in this book:

  • We need to re-think our ideas about weight either thinness or obesity.
  • We need to re-think our approach to rewarding thinness over non-thinness.
  • We need to re-think our approach to dealing with all eating disorders.
  • We need to re-think our approach to food and wellness.
  • We need to ask/force food companies to be more responsible in the foods they produce and how they are marketed.
  • We need to take aggressive steps to address the obesity problem in our country.

They think an open and honest dialogue is the best way to begin to address some of these problems.

“More than a year after our infamous conversation on Long Island Sounds, Diane and I are more convinced than ever that sharing our stories and providing support to one another are huge steps toward changing the way we think about weight and food.  … ‘We need to be able to have that dialogue, but first thing we need to do is lay down the burden of blame and shame,’ said obesity expert Dr. David Katz. ‘Until we do that, we as a nation are stuck at this impasse on obesity.'” (p. 139)

I agree.  This is primarily why I started this blog.  I wanted to have an honest discussion about what it is like to be fat and facing horrible health problems.  I wanted to discuss how I chose to address those health problems.  I also wanted to discuss how I got fat and what was keeping me fat.

Writing about my problems, and putting my thoughts out into the world definitely helped me deal with some of my issues.  I’m not saying I am completely cured.  Yes, I made the decision to take charge of my life and change its trajectory, but it was not that simple.  I have had a lot of struggles along the way, and I still do.  It wasn’t just one choice.  I still have to make the choice every day to stay on track.

The surgery helps keep me on track, but it does not keep me from making bad choices.  I can choose to waste my daily caloric intake on junk food or healthy food.  I can choose to exercise or not.  I can choose to overeat and stretch out my new smaller stomach, or I can choose to stick to the plan.

But back to the book.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in food and health issues.  In fact, I recommend it to anyone even if they are not interested in food and health issues.  I don’t think Mika and Diane mean this book to be the solution to everyone’s food problems, but to be the start of an ongoing dialogue that will hopefully change the face of our nation.

So, let’s not waste any time in starting this conversation.  In the words of the infamous SNL icon created by Mike Meyers…”talk amongst yourselves!”

My 15 Nanoseconds Of Fame

So, I have to admit, that I squeed with crazy fan-girl joy last Friday night when a famous person re-tweeted my tweet with a link to my blog.  And a week later, I’m still talking about it.

Last Friday, I wrote about Mika Brzezinski tweeting her weight.  I tweeted the post and copied @morningmika.  Later that night, she re-tweeted my tweet and replied that I have a great blog.

So, of course, I immediately texted a friend of mine, “OMG! Mika Brzeznski retweeted me!”

To which she replied, “Have you bragged about it on Facebook yet?”

“OMG! I didn’t even think of that!” I typed back furiously.  “I’ll do that now!”

(I think she was making fun of me, but I was too stuck in a fan-girl crazed haze at the time to realize it.)

I had a teeny uptick in Twitter followers and a huge increase in traffic to my blog as a result.  (As well as delusions of grandeur and fanciful dreams of appearing on Morning Joe to personally tell Mika, ((and I guess Joe, if I must)), about my upcoming, nonexistent book about how I lost 175 pounds through gastric by-pass surgery and how that changed my life.)

A week later, things have returned to a somewhat normal state.  I am reading Mika’s book, Obsessed, about her own struggles with food and body image.  I am also reading Eating My Feelings by author Mark Rosenberg, who I met this week at Politics & Prose in DC.

He is absolutely hilarious, irreverent, and foul-mouthed.  I thought he was pretty great.  I hope to have reviews and my thoughts on both of these books up soon.

Anyway, I am heading to Pittsburgh this weekend to check up on mom.  Her cast is off, things seem to be normalizing in her life.  She can drive, eat, and is doing physical therapy several days a week.  She finally found out from social security what her monthly stipend will be, so she can set her budget.  She’s starting to come out of the broken arm, husband dying, surgery, living with a cast portion of her life.  I know she still has a long way to go before she is totally comfortable with her life again, but for now, she’s doing good.

Have a great weekend!

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Food Addicts R US

Normally, I am not a fan of the show Morning Joe.  I think he’s kind of a jerk and I’m not a fan.  I do watch it some mornings as I get ready for work because there is rarely anything else on that is any good.  I like some of the people he has on his show and I am starting to really like Mika Brzezinski.

This week, however, I am totally glued to MJ as Mika has just come out with a new book:  Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction – And My Own.

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Mika co-wrote this book with a friend of hers.  I have not read the book yet, but I am putting it on my wish-list!  She and her friend have been discussing very honestly about their different addictions with food and the effect body image, food addiction, and eating disorders have had on their lives.  Mika has talked about her bulimia and her friend was obese.  Her friend has lost 75 pounds and Mika has gained about 14.

For the record, they are both beautiful women who need to change nothing.

Part of what motiviated yesterdays post about my own food addiction, apart from my mini meltdown on Sunday, was listening to Mika talk about her own addiction.  She tells, and retells a story about how one night, she woke up and began eating an entire jar of Nutella. Her husband found her in the kitchen when he woke up with an empty jar and her hands covered in Nutella.  Although I’ve never eaten and entire jar of the stuff myself, I completely understand and can identify with the feelings that compelled her to do this.  I have certainly found myself in the kitchen gorging myself on whatever it whatever it took for me to satisfy that urge.  Watching her on TV was like looking in a mirror, but a mirror where I am 5’10”, blonde, and totally hot.

I love the conversation she’s had about the shame of having an eating disorder.  I can totally relate.  And she talked about how she felt as if she had no right to come out about her own eating problems and her opinions about food and weight because she is thin and not fat.  Which, I can kind of understand what she means.  I have often listened to skinny girls who complained about their weight and thought, “yeah right, what do you know about being fat.”  But what I have come to realize is that it’s not the fat that’s the problem.  Whether one is fat or thin is immaterial, it is our own self-image that is messed up…that’s the real issue.

She has also talked a lot about how foods are designed to be addictive.  She had the author of another book that I am adding to my wish-list, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

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Michael Moss specifically talks about how the food companies spend a ton of money to make sure that we crave their foods.  It is easy to see how we have a huge obesity problem here in the US if the food we eat is made to be addictive.

It’s this combination of a destructive obsession with body image, fat, and self loathing and addictive foods that really seems to be at the heart of the problem.  When 2 out of three Americans are obese or have some kind of eating disorder, we have a problem.  People like Mika and her friend talking about their issues, is how we start to address it.

I cannot wait to read these books and I’m really looking forward to see what Mika has in store for tomorrow’s show!