Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — And My Own by Mika Brzezinski

December 11, 2013

obsessed Summary (from the publisher): Mika Brzezinski is at war against obesity. On Morning Joe, she is often so adamant about improving America’s eating habits that some people have dubbed her “the food Nazi.” What they don’t know is that Mika wages a personal fight against unhealthy eating habits every day, and in this book she describes her history of food obsession and distorted body image, and her lifelong struggle to be thin. She believes it’s time we all learned to stop blaming ourselves, and each other, and look at the real culprits—the food we eat and our addiction to it. Mika feels the only way to do this is to break through the walls of silence and shame we’ve built around obesity and food obsessions. She believes we need to talk openly about how our country became overweight, and what we can do to turn the corner and step firmly onto the path of health. So Mika made a deal with her very close friend Diane: they would work together on this book and on their personal goals, to help Diane drop 75 pounds and to break Mika’s obsession with staying superthin.

As she did in her bestseller Knowing Your Value, Mika has packed each chapter with insights from notable people in medicine, health, business, the arts, and politics. Singer Jennifer Hudson, the late writer and director Nora Ephron, TV host Gayle King, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and many others open up to Mika about their own challenges and what works for them when it comes to food and diet. It’s time we stopped whispering the F-word (“fat”) the way we used to shun the C-word (“cancer”).

This book—with its trademark Brzezinski smarts, honesty, and courage—launches us into a no-holds-barred conversation with family and friends, in schools and kitchens, in Congress and the food industry, to help us all find ways to tackle one of the biggest problems standing between us and a healthier America.

Reaction:

I’ve never watched Morning Joe in my life, so I didn’t know the first thing about Mika Brzezinski before picking up this book. Instead, I was pulled in by the title and cover photo. Here was this thin woman proclaiming to have a food addiction — just like me! As I leafed through the first few pages and learned that Mika was also battling what she termed the “tyranny of thin,” I knew I had to read the whole thing.

For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. I really enjoyed reading about Mika’s obsession with food, how she thought about it constantly while simultaneously depriving herself to maintain her size-2 figure or how she exercised compulsively to erase any extra calories she might have consumed during the day. That’s exactly how I am, and I took great comfort in discovering that I’m not alone in this hell.

And as Mika experienced, this is not the kind of problem one can easily talk about with others. It does come across simply as vanity or as some kind of ploy for attention/compliments. But it is incredibly exhausting, both physically and mentally, to live this way. I think Mika captured this side of the disorder very well.

There were things I didn’t like about this book, including Mika’s somewhat preachy tone as she made suggestions about what kinds of foods people should be allowed to eat (and let’s face it, the expert’s recommended ways of talking to kids/teens about healthy eating were incredibly hokey), but unlike Mika, I’m not striving to make the whole country aware of this food addiction problem. I was just interested in how the problem applies to me. (Yes, I’m selfish that way.)

My two main takeaways from the book are these: 1) Other people (perhaps many others) suffer from obsessive food thoughts and food addiction the way I do, even if their outward appearance doesn’t show it; and 2) Like Mika, I’m going to accept a higher “set point” for my body. There’s no logical reason I have to be the same weight I was in high school. That’s a totally arbitrary number and requires far too much stress and effort to maintain.

I don’t think I could have arrived at this point without Mika’s book, so I’m grateful for that.

Rating:

People who read Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — And My Own by Mika Brzezinski will obviously do so for their own reasons. The content of the book might or might not satisfy those reasons. But for me personally, Mika’s story was exactly what I needed to hear in order to come to terms with my own food obsession and to start formulating a healthier attitude towards eating and exercise. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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