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You Ask, I Answer: Skinny Bitch

What do you think of the book Skinny Bitch?

– Jamie Pierce
Salt Lake City, UT

Skinny Bitch advertises itself as “a no-nonsense tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!”

While I do give the book credit for rightfully criticizing the treatment of farm animals and dedicating a Marion Nestle-inspired chapter to the politics behind the approval process of artificial sweeteners and other substances, I summarize it as “an often inaccurate, wannabe-”shocking” nutrition book that sometimes spouts crap and is under the impression that insulting the reader is fabulous!”

Skinny Bitch claims to “finally tell you the truth about what you’re feeding yourself.”

However, despite its “hip” title and grrrrl-power writing style that launched it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, it is riddled with faulty facts, bad science, hyperbolic pronouncements, and silly suggestions.

Skinny Bitch makes the argument that the only way to be healthy is by becoming a vegan who shuns alcohol, white flour, and caffeine. Let me make one thing very clear — I don’t doubt for one second that one can achieve health by being vegan and avoiding those three things. However, it is untrue to claim that is the only way.

Disturbingly, the author prey on readers’ body image fears by making the case that not only does even the smallest amount of meat and dairy make you sick, it also makes you — gasp! — fat.

Allow me to share some passages that elicited groans and eyerolls from me.

* “Soda’s high level of phosphorus can increase calcium loss from the body, as can its sodium and caffeine.”

While phosphoric acid in soda has indeed been linked with leached calcium from bones, the sodium mention is odd.  Did the authors take look at the nutrition facts on a can of soda?  A 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains 35 milligrams (that’s 1.4% of the suggested daily maximum intake). Ironically, the frozen vegan burger products the authors endorse so enthusiastically can contain as much as 500 milligrams of sodium per serving.

As for the caffeine-calcium loss link — it’s weak, at best.

* “One study even links caffeine to an increased susceptibility to diabetes.”

Bad science alert! The studies they refer to are ones suggesting that people who already have diabetes may benefit from cutting back on caffeine in order to improve their blood sugar levels.  Besides, certain compounds in coffee — such as chlorogenic acid — have been linked with reductions in blood sugar levels (and, therefore, a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes).

* “When we eat fruit with other foods… it rots and ferments in our stomach.”

Not surprisingly, that ludicrous statement is not attributed to any source. Right, because it’s science fiction. Feel free to enjoy nectarines in a salad, bananas with almond butter, and sliced apples with oatmeal.

* “We have food rotting, decomposing, and fermenting in our intestinal tracts and colons, hence the need for colonics.”

Did the author with the Masters degree ever take a human physiology course? I assume she didn’t; otherwise, she would know that nothing can cling to the colon and “rot away” since the cells that line that organ slough off several times a day. There is no physiological need for colonics. The best thing you can do is consume plenty of fiber and remain well-hydrated.

* “You don’t see many tigers getting colonics, do you?”

A very weak argument. I also don’t see tigers brushing their teeth, wearing contact lenses, or making green smoothies.  Does this mean I shouldn’t, either?

* “Your body can’t handle animal fat, so it settles like lumpy shit all over your ass, thighs, sides, arms and stomach.”

I’ll let that ridiculous quote speak for itself.

* “If you want to get skinny, you’ve got to be a vegetarian.”

The idea that vegetarian = skinny is ludicrous. After all, vegetarians can eat ice cream, cakes, cookies, muffins, pizza, french fries. They can consume more calories than they need and, consequently, gain weight.

There is no doubt many vegetarians eat whole, minimally processed foods and enjoy plentiful health benefits.  However, the mere act of not eating dairy or meat does not equate with weight loss.  Furthermore, this quote is disturbing in that it is focused on weight, rather than health.

* “Dairy products produce mucus.”

Another myth these authors clearly didn’t research (spoiler: dairy sticks to existing mucus; it doesn’t produce it).

* “[Dairy products] are the perfect thing to eat if you want to be sick and have a diseased body.”

As much as I dislike the narrow-minded notions that dairy products are the only way to get calcium and absolutely necessary for human
health, I am also irritated by the frantic and inaccurate warnings that dairy products are equivalent to chugging Draino.

* “Eggs are high in saturated fat.”

Absolutely untrue. One egg contains approximately 1.5 grams of saturated fat — that’s 0.4 fewer grams than a tablespoon of olive oil!

After pages upon pages of criticizing processed foods and sugar, the authors go on to recommend a variety of frozen vegetarian burgers, soy ice creams, and tofu hot dogs. HUH? Frozen vegetarian foods, like other frozen items, are hyper processed, high in sodium and offer minimal nutrition. Soy ice creams are high in added sugars; the fact that they are free of dairy does not turn them into a “health” food or a daily staple.

* From the FYI chapter: “Donate blood. You can save a life and lose weight at the same time.”

I think that was when my eyebrows hit the ceiling.

Alas, I could go on (trust me, I could!), but I think you get the point.

To “make up” for their verbal abuse at the reader, the authors conclude the book with positive-thinking mantras lifted right out of The Secret (“every day in every way my stomach is getting flatter”) and a clearly-tacked-on-by-a-public-relations-friendly-editor reminder that, despite the title of the book, unrealistically thin illustrations on the front and back cover, and constant references to weight, “they couldn’t care less about being skinny.”

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14 Comments

  1. Marianne said on April 5th, 2009

    Wow. I haven’t read the book, but know that is popular. But after reading some of their claims, I’m glad I’ve never picked it up to read. But I guess it’s no wonder that all of these food myths (like dairy causes mucus – I had someone tell me that the other day when I was sick with a cold) continue to exist – when you have a cleverly written best seller telling you these “truths”, you will continue to pass them on. Thanks for the review.

  2. sarahlu said on April 5th, 2009

    I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this blog! I loved your take on the Skinny Bitch book; smart and hilarious! kudos

  3. attrice said on April 5th, 2009

    This post is wonderful. As a vegan (for personal ethical reasons) I abhor people trying to sell veganism as a magic weight-loss panacea. I was morbidly obese when I went vegan and stayed morbidly obese until I made a concerted effort to cut calories and increase exercise. Calories are calories, after all, regardless of whether they come from plants or animals.

    I absolutely love this blog, btw. Thanks for all the good information.

  4. Blake said on April 6th, 2009

    I’ve seen this book at bookstores and I’m glad you posted this. I’m not surprised that it contains the ridiculous claims that it does. I find it sad that everyone thinks they are an “expert” these days.

  5. Eat2Prevent said on April 6th, 2009

    I know an intelligent woman who swears by the Skinny Bitch vegan philosophy, and it’s nice to hear the other side of a clearly biased story. This only serves to underline that our society still equates “healthy” with “skinny.” Soy products, in addition to being processed, have in some cases been linked the very problems they are supposed to help prevent, like Alzheimer’s and menopause symptoms. Thanks for being outspoken about this.

  6. Lizzy said on April 6th, 2009

    I got some genuine chuckles out of this post; thanks for the insights. I think, now, that you should definitely make book reviews a staple on here. =)

    (Thoughts on Joe Schwarcz’s An Apple A Day? Recently got my hands on a copy and can’t wait to start after exams are over.)

  7. Lizzy said on April 6th, 2009

    I got some genuine chuckles out of this post; thanks for the insights. I think, now, that you should definitely make book reviews a staple on here. =)

    (Thoughts on Joe Schwarcz’s An Apple A Day? Recently got my hands on a copy and can’t wait to start after exams are over.)

  8. glidingcalm said on April 7th, 2009

    love this post and hearing your review! im going to link it in my next blog post! hope you don’t mind! :)

  9. dave said on May 20th, 2009

    Wow, thanks for this review. I just finished the book myself and was horrified veganism should be portrayed in such a light.

  10. j-bear said on November 20th, 2009

    I think the book is great!! I know an amazing number of people that chose to go vegan after reading Skinny Bitch. Maybe I do not agree with all of the tactics used, but it is getting the job done, and it is getting people to do their own research. Seriously these are vegan women with a beyond pro-vegan book that was on the NY TIMES Bestseller List, must we tear into it like this? HELLO??!!

  11. Andy Bellatti said on November 22nd, 2009

    HELLO!!!!

    Yes, I definitely feel like I must tear apart a book that does a huge disservice to sane vegans who don’t feel the need to spout inaccuracies in an attempt to “convert” omnivores.

    “Skinny Bitch” is a disgrace to the vegan movement. It not only make ridiculously inaccurate statements, but also contradicts itself constantly. The authors push for a minimally processed diet and then wholeheartedly recommend hyper-processed vegan foods loaded with sodium and preservatives.

    The fact that “an amazing number of people chose to go vegan after reading Skinny Bitch” is precisely why I am happy to have ripped this book to shreds. I want people to realize this book is NOT representative of the vegan movement.

  12. Amy said on April 13th, 2010

    I finished Skinny Bitch about two weeks ago, even though it has been out for years. It actually was the push I needed to move me from being a vegetarian to becoming a 100% vegan. What did it for me? Not the nutritional info. I’ve been around long enough and read enough nutritional books and spoken to enough nutritionists to know what I need to know. What pushed me over was the information provided on the farming and dairy industries and the massive amount of information provided on artifical sweetners. The “voice” of this book is harsh, but after the initial shock value, it wears off into something that is more sarcastically funny than anything. I personally took no offense to any comment that was made.

    In the end, the authors did make a point of saying that you shouldn’t even trust them, but to go out and research things for yourself. And simply if you do nothing else after reading the book, just read the ingrediants on everything you eat.

    The authors also admit that the title was created simply to sell books. But the book itself did not leave me feeling like I wanted to get “skinny” or that its what they were pushing for. Yes, there are a few smart-ass comments about getting skinny or loosing your fat ass, but all in all, it was really for me about putting healthy foods into my body.

  13. Andy Bellatti said on April 16th, 2010

    What is completely non-sensical about “Skinny Bitch” is that after all those rants on artificial sweeteners, many of the “recommended” foods are highly processed and not at all in line with their “eat REAL food” stance.

    The note tacked on at the end about not trusting the authors is simply a “cover your arse” tactic because they realize that a lot of what they say simply isn’t factual.

    I think the vegan community deserves better. Much better.

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