April 10, 2008

Skinny Bitch Alternatives

This post was written by Jaime, who writes the very entertaining blog Surplus. And you know what? She's not a big fan of the book Skinny Bitch. She's got some WAY better ideas for you.

Skinny Bitch bills itself as "A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Crap and Start Looking Fabulous," which I guess it is, or is supposed to be, but what got me to read it (aside from my savviness, and desire to look fabulous) was the fact that beneath this chick-lit-diet-book facade was a call to veganism! Scandalous, I know. Vegans aren't chic! Vegans wear sandals and hemp sweaters! Look at the black-clad chick on this cover - is she a vegan? She doesn't look like a dirty hippie! Although this seemed sneaky (why not "A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Be Vegans"?) I was, I admit, intrigued.

I'm not a vegan, but lactose-intolerant vegetarian is very close, and I've found some great food ideas from the vegan realm. And in the last couple of years, Skinny Bitch has been *everywhere*. By "everywhere" I mean I read about it on the internet and saw lots of people reading it on the subway. It probably was on TV, too. (Oprah? Anyone know?) But it was big, and I was curious.

Are you curious, too? Even if you're not a vegetarian, are you interested to hear why some people think veganism is the way to go? Wonder if you might find some wisdom within these pages to apply to your own health-seeking life? And maybe in a hip, entertaining package? Or maybe you're a savvy girl interested in a no-nonsense guide to looking fabulous - you don't care about veganism, but this book's promises sound great. Thinking you might have a read?


Are you ready for a rant? I have one. But all that negativity is probably bad for my pores. So let's look at this from a positive angle.
Here are some things you could read instead of Skinny Bitch if you wanted a well-written, well-organized, well-researched, readable, intelligent, enjoyable presentation of the same arguments:

On veganism: Fast Food Nation. Doesn't actually advocate veganism, but is a much better version of the chapter in SB on the evils of meat production. You know, it really nails that apparently elusive combination of well-researched and written-with-a-sense-of-narrative-or-cohesion. Or we could just fill three pages with a list of quotes from slaughterhouse workers and call it a day.

On a healthy diet: Mark's Daily Apple. This is a ridiculously thorough health/diet/nutrition/exercise blog. Some of the ideas seem fringe at first, but they're backed up by solid science, come from totally sane people, and can still be applied to your life. And unlike some other books that I might be blogging about having really disliked when I read them this weekend, there are actually fantastic guidelines for healthy eating, rather than an a haphazard aggregation of vague directives.

On badass girl empowerment: The Bad Girl's Guide to Getting What You Want. If I made a modest effort to obscure the cover of Skinny Bitch when I read it in public, I can't imagine that I'm admitting to having read this book at all. Granted, I did find it, literally, on the floor of an auditorium. So it's not like I bought it or anything. But then I read it, and kinda loved it. It's more daring than SB, less cheesy, more empowering, less gratuitously cursey. (And I like to curse a lot. But the tone of Skinny Bitch turned me off - maybe because it was coupled with poor writing and shoddy health advice? Hm.) Sure, The Bad Girl's Guide is straight-up chickpowerment, an inherently cheesy genre - also a genre I sort of just made up? - but it's smart, funny, awesome chickpowerment. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just don't tell anyone, okay?

On the science of diet: Good Calories, Bad Calories; Mark's Daily Apple. Yes, Good Calories, Bad Calories isn't 100% perfect. Sometimes Gary Taubes gets a little selective with which studies he discusses. But it's SCIENCE, something hugely lacking from Skinny Bitch. I refuse to accept health advice without any hint of backing it up or explaining why. So while GC,BC was imperfect, I was left pining for its talk of molecules and cells. And, y'know, research and evidence. Whatever.

On exercise: Stumptuous. Not that Skinny Bitch actually devotes more than a few sentences, total, to this topic. But it maybe should've. I swear by this website. "Strong women are cool! Every straight boy should want one!" The fact that I actually *like* going to the gym, the fact that I have any muscles in my arms (or anywhere else), the fact that I can pick up heavy things that two years ago I'd have attempted to move by sheer telekinetic ability or by staring them down - all thanks to this website. (There's also a smart, sane, thorough section on food.)

I'm all for a cruelty-free diet. I'm all for putting minimal crap into my body. I like health-food, and I like being told that Chix Rawk. I just also like books that are intelligently and coherently written. And don't suck.


  1. No but seriously, Jaime, what do you think? ;)

    Thanks for the SB review. I haven't actually looked into it, but I plan to check out Fast Food Nation and the other links you mentioned. (Well, I already check out Mark's Daily Apple, but I haven't read the books yet.)

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. Not that I ever had any inclination to read that book after seeing an interview with the authors, but thanks for the review! I'll officially never read it now!

    And thanks for the links, too! Many I already frequent, but I picked up a couple more for my blogroll.

  3. Gena - were the authors too glib? Snooty? Slapdash? What adjective would you use? I'm curious. (Never saw an interview with the authors.)

    (*waves hands in air*)

    thats it

    thats all I have to say

    thank YOU for saying it all for me/us.


  5. I second the Fast Food Nation motion. I read that recently and it was an awesome book. Didn't turn me vegetarian, but definitely made me rethink what kind of meat I eat, made me want to go get grass-fed, free-range meat (now wanting to go out and actually going out are two things entirely, but that's another issue).

    I don't like books like this that don't even both to touch on exercise. They focus on food, which is important, but conveniently ignore this whole other realm which is equally as important. French Women Don't Get Fat was a great example - it had fairly good eating advice, but it actually advised AGAINST frequent or lengthy (and by lengthy I mean more than 30 minutes) exercise.

  6. This entry pleases me. I find the title grating and if it had been good I would have been tempted to read it and thereby reward them for such a crappy title.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I was intrigued when this book came out, but decided not to read it after seeing the authors interviewed. Like Gena, it's now official that I will not be reading it.

    The authors' tone was very condescending, and definitely NOT empowering. It was like, "Wake up, stupid! You have to live the way we say so to see results!" Blech.

  9. I saw Skinny Bitch in a bookstore, picked it up and read it without having heard the hype about it. I would really like that hour of my life back. :p

    I don't have any problem with veganism and the people who want to practice it, but hysterical vegan screed? No thanks. I wish it had said that on the cover.

  10. Any woman that swears by stumptuous is a-ok in my books. :)

    We eat skinny-bitches for breakfast :P

  11. I hate to go against the grain, but I read the book and thought it was ok. I think it will appeal to fad dieters and diet book junkies (which i am, diet book junkie that is) who might not have otherwise given veganism a second thought (which i hadn't). If I remember correctly, it also had references for further reading. I've never seen the authors or read any reviews of the book, so I'm not sure what's so off-putting.
    Do vegans have to wear hemp sandals? Can't they be fashionable trendy people who give priority to their appearance? While I wasn't converted, I can't imagine it set the vegan movement back at all.

  12. Great review! I absolutely agree with your assessment of diet books that don't include exercise (by the way, the real reason that French women don't get fat is that they smoke like fiends. This is probably the hidden secret of many a "skinny bitch").

    The Stumptuous website is awesome. I also like Mark's Daily Apple, but it has some limitations, particularly if you're going the vegan way (i.e. a complete prohibition of grains). And the Paleo Diet (or 'caveman' diet) sounds scientific, but there's almost no hard evidence to back it up. But there are excellent features on vegetables and on fitness.


  13. Great post. :-)

    I love it when I read stuff that tells it like it really is.

  14. amen to stumptuous. i've been swearing by that site for years. as for skinny bitch, i don't think i'll be reading it. i'm somewhat offended by its title. i know what she's trying to do: provoke a response. knowing that makes me less inclined to respond. nothing against the vegan thing (i'm 95% vegan and 100% vegetarian myself). it's the attention whore mantra i find offensive (gives us truly empowered women a bad wrap!). ;-)

  15. This book is just evil marketing. Being vegan is great but I hated how they made this book out to be some fashionista diet with a political agenda. All the vegans I know made the lifestyle choice out of their personal values related to animals, NOT to become skinny. I also really did not care for the demeaning tone. Much of it sounded like the evil voice that used to live inside my head that constantly reminded me how I wasn't good enough or thin enough.

  16. Stephanie? My mother used to live inside your head? ;)

  17. Thanks for sharing those reviews with us. I'm with you - I'm looking for books that are well-written, not just written to catch the media's attention and create an unnecessary stir. I like my books to have MEAT, unlike my foods! :)

  18. Thank you for saying, but ever so nicely! I hated lots of the book, loved your post, and especially loved that you refrained from too much bitching but instead provided alternatives that are so much better!

  19. I saw the book at my friend's house and was curious because of the cover. I read the first few pages, thought it was funny, and picked up a copy for myself. I didn't realize it was about a vegan diet either, but I am glad I read it. I think it is an easy read and I happen to like their humor. I didn't see the interview though. The reason I'm glad I read the book is that it lead me to futher research the subject of animal cruelty. What I learned is unimaginable. I decided I can't support an industry where $ is the bottom line even to the point of risking human health. One of the books I found is titled Mad Cowboy. There is a video too, but the book is much more informative. I have found so much on the internet as well. Just seeing the Peta videos firmed up my decision to be vegan. I am new to the diet, but I imagine I won't change my appearance based on my diet.

  20. Great blog! Those are really excellent recommendations. (And even though it's over-hyped at this point, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan has an excellent section on eating locally and organically, with a more biological take than does Fast Food Nation.

  21. )

    Forgot to close my parentheses!

  22. I'm a vegan and I'm not a dirty hippy.

    I also have friends that have lost from five to thrity pounds by following the advice in Skinny Bitch. They're happier, healthier and they look great.

    Most vegans now are young and progressive people. Check out peta2.com

    You come off like a real skinny bitch lol

  23. i read it. i liked it. i lost 15 lbs by incorporating the most of the diet info. i also excercise 2-3 times a week for close to an hour. i'm happier & healthier. eating more fruits and veggies. i still eat seafood. i used to eat everything. i read the book because i wanted to lose weight. even though they call the reader stupid while giving their advice/ info. it really stuck in my head when i was hungry and choosing what to eat e.g. that cinnabon smells delicious...followed by that's bleached flour, refined sugar that is hard for my body to process... i'll wait till i get home and get something. i don't think this is the only book anybody should read but it did give good information that helped me make better choices. maybe it's not for the reader who knows it all already. but for somebody like me how used to stop at wendy's for chicken nuggets and a jr. bacon cheeseburger i'm glad i read it. i know why i shouldn't eat those types of food, what they do to my body and had a starting point for new options.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)