Even though I'm a fan of Mika Brzezinski's books, I haven't seen her live on Mornin' Joe. My television watching is of the binge sort; a season of The Killing, or Breaking Bad, or Orange is the New Black. Had to check: It airs 6-9am.
Loved Knowing Your Value. Stumbled upon it front-faced out in the business section at big-box bookstore--I don't shop indies in my small city because we don't have indies in my small city. And Brzezinski's book, that book, is so chockablock full with excellent advice, that I took two pages of notes from it that I share with my Intro to Women's Studies students--yeah I teach about identity, justice, and equality, as well as information literacy, as my day job--in the weeks we talk about work in and outside the home. That's always my topic to cover, but they aren't so interested for some reason.
But, I digress. Obsessed: America's Food Addiction--And My Own, is a self-explanatory title, folks. You can figure it out, but I'll give you a synopsis. Its genesis was a conversation Brzezinski and her best friend, Diane, another woman in broadcasting, had that pushed their friendship to the edge.
If you don't know Brzezinski, she's a gorgeous, size 2 blonde, ambitious, mid-forties woman with two daughters. And her friend Diane is a bit older, no children, whose career isn't as high profile as Brzezinski's. Plus, Diane weighed about 250 pounds. Brzezinski flat out told Diane that she was fat and that she loved her and didn't want her to die and that she needed to lose 50 poundsm more or less.
But that wasn't all. Brzezinski confessed her own food obsession. How she thought about food constantly from the moment she awoke each morning. How she exercised and pushed her body mercilessly. How she disciplined her mind so that she wouldn't overeat, wouldn't indulge in the foods that she really craved.
The women's ongoing conversation and personal food histories are interwoven within the chapters of the book within which Brzezinski captures the state of our freaked out relationship with food today. Between the two of them, they're tried every fad diet in the USA. She explores fat phobia by visiting Yale's Rudd Center and seeing how the Fat Phobia Scale works and watching fat bias in action.
She shares information about the changing eating habits of American families. Depending on how well versed readers are, much of this is not new, such as American homemakers relying on processed and canned foods more so in the 1950s and 1960s. And how this has snowballed to the point that today
Cooking from scratch seems to have become a hobby for a small group of people and a chore that the rest of us no longer bother with.
Too, we're aware of food science and we biologically respond to foods that have added sugar, fat, and salt: we become addicted to them, like methheads. Brzezinski includes interviews with several recovering food addicts, case studies, if you will, making her argument more persuasive: Michael Prager, Ashley Gearhardt, and Brian Stetler all dealt with food cravings and won, eventually.
Reading about sugar in our diets was most illuminating. I considered whether there was a tipping point that our bodies could or could not metabolize. Thankfully, I don't drink sugary drinks, which are mentioned as the worst offenders. But learning about how hard the liver works to break down fructose, plus its potential link to cancer is worrisome. Dare I mention obesity, diabetes, etc. I think y'all know all that, right?
As the book progresses, Diane loses weight and exercises while Brzezinski adds weight and tries remaining at 135 which is her body's set point. She visits a nutritionist who suggests she add more protein to her diet for satiety since she rarely feels full after eating her spartan diet. She solicits dieting advice from persons successful at maintaining weight loss: Frank Bruni, Padma Lakshmi, Jennifer Hudson, Nora Ephron, and others.
One of the last chapters was most important, especially to me, "Teach your children well." Modeling healthy eating when your own habits aren't that fantastic, what a conundrum? One exercise in the book uses a points system to help children understand the quality of different food choices; you rate the food from one to ten.
What works best for me/us is not buying high fructose corn syrup items, but then my husband buys and brings home those items.
Brzezinski uses her platform to open the conversation about this topic with her audience and widen it to other audiences and readerships. It's an excellent introduction to what's going on with our food and why we should be more mindful about what goes into our mouths. Afterall, it is our very lives we're talking about. We should be mindful about what we eat, when we eat, why we eat, and how we eat.