Jill posts about vegans being seduced by Mannon, and mentions Skinny Bitch. (It will get no link love from me.) Its creator has been criticized for publishing a how-to book for especially health-conscious anorexics:
Contributors to the popular feminist blog Feministing have criticized the emphasis of the “Skinny Bitch” books on weight loss, noting that some women with eating disorders use vegan diets to restrict their food intake. Ms. Freedman isn’t buying that critique. “It’s not politically correct to suggest women should be thin,” she said. “But it is healthier.”
And so much more profitable.
I blogged about this way back when. I picked it up in the bookstore a couple of years ago. It’s an unsurprisingly slim read. It’s not an especially creative book, IIRC–its gimmick is that it takes the same advice you get from most other diet books (eat greens and fiber, stay away from refined sugar) and combines it with strict veganism in ways that turn both veganism and healthy eating into a religion in the most Puritan sense of the term.
So it is a sizeist book, unapologetically so. But it’s not just a sizeist book. It’s a book that might as well have been designed to make veganism more appealing to women with eating disorders–and women disposed towards developing them.
It’s a dangerous book from a disordered-eating standpoint for a few reasons:
1) It does equate thinness with health, rather than encouraging people to be healthier. I understand that you can’t sell diet books by encouraging women not to think of themselves as disgusting cows, but that doesn’t make it right.
2) It might not be possible for most people to follow the advice. While most people could probably stand to get more exercise and eat more fiber, most people probably aren’t going to have an easy time getting skinny, and so they should probably not start with that goal in mind. Skinny Bitch goes a fair ways towards proving this–it’s not easy to follow the plan if you have many of the same logistics problems that tend to cause unhealthy eating in the first place.
3) It insists that this is the only efficient way to become skinny and healthy. People who follow the Skinny Bitch plan will almost certainly lean out a great deal, but you don’t need to become a fiberphilic vegan in order to accomplish that goal. This means that readers will have a harder time looking at choices that might work better for them from a lifestyle and an emotional standpoint–say a long walk after a filling meal. It’s not a good idea to teach people to equate healthy eating with misery and failure.
4) It advises people to completely abstain from entire categories of food. This is dangerous for two reasons specific to developing disordered eating habits. It makes your options that much more restrictive–some people who fail to plan cheat; some people who fail to plan starve themselves. Starvation can become a habit, particularly when you notice how much weight you’re losing. It can also make it that much easier for a dieter to introduce other restrictions of equal or greater severity. In other words, it can become unintentional practice for stopping eating altogether.
5) It tells readers that failing to abstain from these entire categories of food will kill them. (No, really–the milk you drink might as well be laced with arsenic. Except arsenic doesn’t make you fat). It’s not a good idea to teach people to be terrified of food. Fetishistic purity dovetails really well with the kind of compulsive behavior that characterizes eating disorders.