I was a little delayed in writing this, mostly because I didn’t know how aggressively I wanted to approach discussing someone else’s book. Ultimately, I’ve decided not to mention the name of the book, both because I think this a more widespread issue than any one individual or work, and because I’m not even sure the author is conscious of the tone of her work. To explain: Last year I read multiple yoga memoirs, many of which I’ve reviewed on this site. But there was one that I ultimately gave up on and never reviewed. I suppose I was lured in by the promise of yoga in the title, the cute cartoon yogini on the front, etc. It looked like a fun book. But I didn’t find it particularly fun reading. The narrator was very hard on her family, her body, and her initial diet, which she dismissed as bad, lazy, too commercial, etc. In fact, the primary focus of the book seemed to be diet, not yoga. The author kept talking about restricting her diet and restricting and restricting, but didn’t seem any happier with her life.
I’m perfectly comfortable hearing about how people have revived their energy or reclaimed their self-esteem with diet and exercise–that can be inspiring and interesting–but there was just so much shame in this book. Shame is a terrible thing to do to your body. At some point in my reading, I realized that the narrator’s shaming was bringing me down, too. It was a little bit mysterious. I wasn’t like I thought, ‘oh, shaming!’ as much as I found myself slightly disconcerted and had to think about why parts of the book bothered me. I realized that, despite the fact that I’m a healthy person, I was still prone to empathizing with an author when I’m following them for a whole book. I even wondered if I’d read the book in a bad mood that had clouded my judgment, but then stumbled across another reviewer’s take:
“I may not go as far as she does in her low-fat diet (I’m lucky not to have weight issues), but she makes me think twice about the ice cream in my freezer, or at least consider serving myself a much smaller scoop….Later in the same chapter, she writes, “If you eat healthy and low-fat most of the time, you can splurge on the occasional more-indulgent foods.” I perked up, wondering what would count as indulgent for someone who bemoans her previously unenlightened nightly snack of Cheerios and chocolate chips (please! My indulgent snack is a bowl of melted peanut butter, topped with vanilla ice cream, granola, and chocolate syrup.) So she continues, “On a weekend—not every weekend, but on the occasional Sunday—Neil and I will go out for whole wheat organic pizza made with hormone-free cheese (I know, I live on the edge).” If she’s living on the edge, even my decent diet puts me over the cliff, but that’s fine.…”
If an author can make readers without weight issues feel slightly bad about ice cream in the freezer, imagine how those struggling with their weight or eating disorders would respond to this book. That’s why I’d encourage anyone who feels themselves being brought low by a book just to stop reading. Especially when you could read Curvy Yoga’s “Curvy Voices“ personal essay collection instead.