Skinny Bitch is a book that is perfect for people who want to be made to feel bad about themselves. (Haha, I kid.) While it is written in a slightly demeaning, rude and snarky tone (“You need to exercise, you lazy shit”), the heart of the book has good intentions and I honestly really enjoyed it. The cover reads: “A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!” It certainly lives up to the name. After all — playing devils advocate obviously isn’t getting anyone’s attention with the scaring high obesity rate in this country.
Chapter 1: Give It Up
The book starts out by talking about all the nasty habits we need to give up that are decreasing our quality of life and keeping us overweight and unhealthy. The list includes cigarettes, alcohol (though they say that organic, sulfite-free red wine is okay in moderation), diet and regular soda, coffee (gasp!), processed junk food (think Cheese Nips, Cheetos and Snickers), over-the-counter meds, and a sedentary lifestyle. They make some excellent points (you can’t get trashed every evening and down 15 fast-food tacos at midnight expecting to be trim and healthy, and you can’t chug can after can of chemical-laden diet coke and expect your body to be at it’s best, for example) The key word here is moderation.
Chapter 2: Carbs (The Truth!)
This chapter hits home. Be not afraid of carbs, just eat the right ones. Throw out your nutritionally devoid, processed, refined white rice, bread, pasta and tortillas in favor of wholesome, hearty, nutritious whole-grain versions. Simple carbs like white rice and foods made with white flour tend to give us an immediate, short-lived energy boost followed by a violent crash. Whole-grains work the opposite way by stabilizing your blood sugar, helping to keep you on an even keel throughout the day and providing you with long-lasting, steady, slow-burning energy. This is a doable switch that most people probably won’t even notice.
Chapter 3: Sugar is the Devil
This chapter tries to scare you out of eating sugar, but the take-away message is a good one: to read labels and notice all the sneaky ways that sugar makes it into your food. Too much sugar isn’t good for anyone, and it has the same high/low effect on blood sugar and energy levels as eating white rice, bread or pasta does. The authors give a lengthy list of all-natural, healthy sugar substitutes, many of which actually provide health benefits. They end this chapter with a long rant about the dangers of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, which I completely agree with (it’s just CHEMICALS! How can that be good for you?). I used to eat 3-4 mountain dews a day, at least. It took me forever to give it up, but when I finally made the switch to turbinado sugar, honey and agave nectar as my go-to sweeteners, I actually started craving sweets less. A little of the real thing is better than boat loads of the fake stuff both health-wise and taste-wise, trust me! Aspartame has some really scary side effects. Read up on some of the different sugar substitutes here!
Chapter 4: The Dead, Rotting, Decomposing Flesh Diet
The chapter title says it all. The authors, Rory and Kim, lead vegan lifestyles. That is, no animal products whatsoever- no meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, eggs, butter or other dairy. It’s obvious that these ladies want to get you on the train that runs straight to Veganville, and that’s fine. It’s up to you to decide what changes you’re interested in making to this area of your diet- if any- and how to realistically go about making them happen. The gist of this chapter is that we weren’t meant to eat so freakin’ much animal protein and fat, especially when it tends to replace the good stuff, like whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and legumes. They go on to talk about the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that are used on the animals we end up eating, and how they’ve all been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans, as well as contribute to a long list of other health problems. “Every time you consumer factory-farmed chicken, beef, veal, pork, eggs, or dairy, you are eating antibiotics, pesticides, steroids, and hormones.”
Chapter 5: The Dairy Disaster
Cow’s milk wasn’t meant for humans, it’s supposed to be for baby cows, etc. They discuss the hormones in milk and dairy products, the mistreatment and sad life of dairy cows (they often get infected utters with sores and lesions from the constant milking, and the puss that oozes from these wounds gets into our milk- YUMMY YUMMY), and offer many other plant-based, natural ways to get sufficient calcium in your diet. I adore real cheese (soy cheeses that I’ve tried taste like ass, but I do love vegan cheeze sauce!), but I have switched from cow’s milk to almond milk and haven’t missed it one bit. I especially love Silk’s Almond Milk because it has a sinfully rich and creamy texture and taste, minus the nasty hormones and animal fat. I’ve found it to be a wonderful replacement for cow’s milk in everything from baked goods to pouring over breakfast cereal.
Chapter 6: You Are What You Eat
This chapter was the hardest for me. It’s all about animal abuse on factory farms. There are quotes from slaughterhouse workers that line right up with that horrible meat.org video, and they were jaw-droppingly difficult to read. I don’t think it’s a secret that evil, scary, unthinkable abuse goes on in factory farms (and even on many so-called “free range” farms), and I just can’t be a part of that anymore. It’s easy to hide your eyes and look the other way, but the truth is that this abuse is very real, and we have no idea what our hamburger or fried drumstick went through to feed our bellies. Not only that, but the conditions of these farms are nothing short of grotesque- factory workers vomiting and urinating near (and sometimes ON) the meat that will eventually find its way to our supermarket shelves, the animals living their whole lives in their own filth and waste, rotting meat often being mixed with fresh simply because factory farming really all comes down to making a buck. To quote Linda McCartney: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” The chapter concludes with a discussion of how factory farming is destroying the environment via soil and water contamination and that it uses an insane chunk of our resources and energy to slaughter so many animals every year for our consumption.
Chapter 7: The Myths and Lies About Protein
This chapter squashes the myth that we need animal protein to survive. I’m sure you know someone who is vegetarian, or have heard about a celebrity being vegetarian, and they’re probably thriving and living a pretty healthy life. Obviously we don’t NEED animal protein to survive. Americans typically eat too much protein, which is hard on our bodies and takes the place of the other good, plant-based stuff we should be eating. Grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and many vegetables offer significant amounts of protein, all of which allow a vegetarian to consume adequate amounts of it with ease.
Chapter 8: Pooping
Yep, pooping. Just think about all that meat you’re eating, rotting away in your intestinal tract. The point of this chapter is to get you to ask yourself, what are my pooping habits? Do you have a little trouble in the loo? Are you regular? If you’re dropping cocoa puffs, the girls say your diet is probably lacking the important fiber found in plant foods (there is no fiber in animal products!), which helps naturally clean out your system and move things along. Fiber has a host of other health benefits, too, like stabilizing blood sugar levels and protection from certain forms of cancer. Turns out, you can learn a lot about your health from poop.
Chapter 9: Have No Faith: Governmental Agencies Don’t Give a Shit About Your Health
You know where this is going. Trust no one, basically. Many government officials have hidden agendas, and none of them concern your health or well-being. The girls rag on the FDA (“F***ing Dumb Asses”), EPA, and USDA with some shocking and scary revelations. Apparently the many regulations that are in place for the production and safe consumption of our food are often ignored, all in the name of saving (or making) a buck. You aren’t always getting what you think you’re paying for. They talk about “sham” organic certifiers and advise to proceed with caution when purchasing organic foods that were solely certified by the USDA (they offer names of more reputable certifiers, like Oregon Tilth). The authors’ answer to all this? READ THE INGREDIENTS. Read up on the meaning and requirements behind different labels and logos (here is a good place to start!) and read the ingredient list of everything you buy. Just because something says “heart healthy” on the package doesn’t mean it isn’t loaded with a ton of chemicals that are horrible for you. Things that say “all-natural” rarely ever are. Forget calories and fat and heart-smart logos- pay attention to the actual ingredients, and if the list contains scary words you can’t pronounce and is a mile long, AVOID AVOID AVOID.
Chapter 10: Don’t Be a Pussy
Well! This chapter tells you to get over it and get on with it. The authors approach this chapter as though you’ve decided to go completely vegan, in which case you’ll probably experience frustration and possibly anger in the first month or so. They say to carry (vegan) snacks with you at all times so you’ll be less tempted by fast-food places, and to remind yourself that your new lifestyle will be well worth this initial inconvenience. Personally I think that if people are to make drastic lifestyle changes, they have to go about in a realistic and gradual manner. Fortunately, the girls acknowledge this and tell you to set mini-goals for yourself each week that will lead to a cleaner, healthier, more responsible life. Quit dairy the first week, for example, and then stop eating processed foods the next, etc. One thing I loved about this chapter was that they talk about noticing how different foods make you feel. Sit down while you eat, pay attention to your food, really savor it, and then notice how your body feels during the meal, afterward, and a few hours later. They discuss the addictive properties that junk food and fast food can have (they release “feel-good” chemicals, which makes you want more more more), and urge you to break yourself free from these hazardous addictions and habits. They emphasize nourishing your body with the good stuff it was designed to consume, and end the chapter with a list of vitamins, why they’re important, and which foods provide them.
Chapter 11: Let’s Eat
This chapter walks you through a perfect day of eating in the Skinny Bitch world. The authors recognize that we don’t live in a perfect world, so they provide you with list after list of “acceptable” vegan food choices, from cookies, bread and cereal to vegan soups and hot dogs to condiments and salad dressings and frozen desserts. Then they give you a month’s worth of menus and meal ideas, which I thought was pretty cool. The chapter ends with a shopper’s guide to ingredients. One list is titled “Bad or Potentially Bad Ingredients” and the other is “Scary-Sounding But Actually Harmless Ingredients”. Nifty.
Chapter 12: FYI
This chapter is short and lists random nuggets of advice and tips for a Skinny Bitch life, from the importance of checking your toothpaste for unsafe ingredients to the awesomeness of yoga.
Chapter 13: Use Your Head
The last chapter in the book, this one is all about thinking for yourself, becoming an informed consumer and taking charge of your life. If you don’t recognize an ingredient on a food you’re interested in, call the customer service 800 number on the package and ask what it is. Break up with your loser boyfriend. Quit your dead-end job. The point of this chapter is to remind you that YOU have the power to change your life, so get off your ass and start making things happen!
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and informative and entertaining at the same time. Not everyone will appreciate the colorful language and “tough-love” approach, though. If you don’t like being told that you are a fat pig and have cankles, you might want to pass on Skinny Bitch. One thing that bugged me throughout the book was their overuse of the word ‘skinny’. I actually subbed the word ‘healthy’ anytime they wrote ‘skinny’ as I read, because I felt like it was much more appropriate. The authors admit that they named the book what they did because they knew it would get attention. I realize that “Healthy Bitch” might not have sold as many books.
I believe that everyone could gain something from reading this book. Even if you have no interest in going vegan or vegetarian, we can all stand to clean up our diet a little bit, and at the very least this book will make you think twice about what you’ve been putting into your body. We just have to do the best we can. Not everyone can afford to buy organic everything all of the time (myself included!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t make better, smarter choices where our budgets allow. Maybe you’ll read Skinny Bitch and decide to give up dairy, or you’ll start eating more vegetables, or you’ll start reading the ingredient list of your favorite foods and find better alternatives if you don’t like what you see. I think that if you make it a point to take good care of yourself, get regular exercise, put thought into what you eat, take care while purchasing and preparing your meals, and make your health a priority, you will become the very best, most healthy version of yourself possible.
Who wants to be ‘skinny’, anyway? I have myself a set of legs that just won’t quit, and that’s okay with me. The rocks are here to stay, vegan or not.
I’d love to hear what you have to say, even if it’s to tell me how everything I’ve written here is wrong. Go on, leave a comment