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Book Review: Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction and My Own by Mika Brzezinski

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Obesity in America has gotten a lot of attention lately. The evening news is filled with stories of leaders of major cities trying to limit what residents and visitors are allowed to eat or drink and a First Lady in the White House determining what K-12 students are permitted to eat while at school.

A new book by Mika Brzezinski, Obsessed America’s Food Addiction – and My Own, takes the conversation and the dialog about overweight Americans one step beyond by writing that we need to start calling people fat. With all of the politically correct language rules floating around today, this author starts the book off on the wrong note by saying there is a need to start calling people out for being overweight by using the f-word, fat.

She also tells readers that she is really not qualified to write the book because she is a skinny girl with an overinflated image of herself. She writes that she has a TV show and was born into a wonderful prominent family and has led a blessed life. Brzezinski does go on to say she gets it that readers may not want to read her opinions on the obesity problems the country faces.

Nonetheless, she has written a complete book filled with advice from other celebrities and weight loss stories about her best friend Diane who happens to be what Brzezinski calls fat. Readers may be on the defensive through the first couple chapters of this book.

Try as I may, I really wanted to hate this book the whole way through until the author started writing about her obsession with food and her eating binges. Even by the end of the book, I was still questioning if calling people fat, especially teens that have a daily struggle with self-image, has any role in the solution to obesity. Giving kids the power to use the word fat as part of their bullying repertoire may not be the best idea.

Race, gender and sex preference slang is off limits these days, as it should be. This author is suggesting that calling people fat is appropriate and acceptable. I just don’t like this idea. There has to be a better way to get the message across.

Food Obsessions

Brzezinski writes about her “daily tyranny of food cravings” that started when she was in high school and continued through her adult life. She writes of eating two or three Big Macs at a time, all-night eating sessions and walking into her kitchen late one night to eat an entire jar of Nutella with her “bare hands.”

The author tells readers that she acted like “a junkie hungering for the next hit of crack.” Thoughts of food were on her mind all the time and she has spent years of her life “obsessing over food, chasing after food, gobbling down food” and then punishing herself for it by trying to eradicate the effects.

She also writes of her longtime friend Diane, who is around 250 pounds and how one day Brzezinski decided to call her friend fat. The author then confesses her own eating disorders to Diane. The two challenge each other, Diane to lose weight and Brzezinski to get over her eating binges and to gain weight.

The War on Obesity

The group of people she selected for input on the issue is appropriate, maybe more so than her if readers are looking at the author for just her exterior appearance. Some of the celebs she writes about include Norah Ephron, Gayle King, Chris Christie and Jennifer Hudson, all of whom share their own personal battles with food.

One of the things about this book that saves it after an introduction that puts the reader on the defense is that it looks at both sides of the dysfunctional eating habits of Americans today. Those that are too thin by choice are also battling with an eating disorder just as those that are over their healthy weight.

The author does write about mixed media messages about being thin but also that foods filled with fat and high levels of salt and sugar are available 24/7. She also includes some research throughout the book such as one in three kids is overweight today, which is triple what it was in 1963. There are also tidbits of health-related issues from being overweight long term.

One the best lines of the entire book is when Brzezinski writes that people need to look at what they have to offer and feel good about it versus looking at what others have to offer. Food obsession is a serious condition, be it someone who overeats or is addicted to junk food or someone who is bulimic, anorexic or someone who over-exercises and is obsessed with eating only the right foods.

Such serious problems certainly need addressed with serious solutions. This book may be just a book about two friends trying to help each other out of their particular situations. If you want to read about other’s eating disorders, this is a good book to read. If you are looking for a book with solid solutions, this is not the book.

Knowing Your Value was an excellent book with sage advice for women to get the salary they want and feel they are worth. There were great tips and Brzezinski’s story was a good example. Unfortunately this book doesn’t deliver the same value.

About the Author

Brzezinski is the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. She is also a New York Times bestselling author with two previous books, All Things at Once and Knowing Your Value. She lives in New York City with her husband, investigative journalist, Jim Hoffer, and their two daughters.

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  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Excess sugar in sodas, cakes and other foods is driving the horrific costs in health insurance. We really need an excess consumption tax to pay for the health care and to discourage excessive sugar consumption.

  • Melissa Farber

    If Mika Brzezinski can call people “fat,”
    can we call Mika Brzezinski “dimwitted,” who only got her career because of nepotism?

  • Peace Lady

    Why would I want to get advice from a woman who obviously, if nt proudly, stands as testimony to her failures…as a healthy person, a “journalist” who can’t get beyond WoW! and I love it and everyone realizes she can’t maje an intelligent comment..so she has answers pumped into her ears…while she literally needs to peer into the teleprompter.

  • courtney

    I have watched Morning Joe and I know that Mika can be pretty blunt. However when I saw this book in the library I was curious and I decided to read it because I have struggled with my weight and hoped that this book could provide some insights or solutions on weight control. Also because Mika is slender, I was just interested in her testimonial on this subject. Sadly after reading a couple of chapters, I just could not get past the section in which she has the confrontation with her friend Diane when she calls her out about being obese or fat during an outing with both of their families present. I thought that was such a mean thing to do to her friend. Mika goes on to tell her friend that her weight is the reason she has not gone further in her career, is why Diane wears black all the time, and offers to pay what ever expenses to help her lose weight. How embarassing for her friend. Mika considers herself to be somewhat of an expert on obesity, but I can assure her that most heavy people are painfully aware that they are overweight, and have probably tried several times to lose the weight. A better approach could have been to offer to walk or work out with Diane or to share healthy recipes. But to call her out like that with her family present was just unkind. I wanted to finish the book, but just couldn’t because this really bothered me.