Diet Breakthrough or Diet Dupe?

Like many people, I have to admit I gained more than a few pounds during the holiday season. Also, like many people, my New Year's Resolution is to get healthier and lose weight (again!). So when I saw Skinny Bitch ($13.95, Running Press) in the weight-loss section of my local bookstore, I thought "Here's a diet I've never heard of." Skinny Bitch lures you in with its chick-lit-style cover and its tagline: "A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!" Wow, sounds great! The authors, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, worked in the modeling industry, one as a model, the other an agent. They are self-proclaimed Skinny Bitches. They start off telling us what we already know: eat whole grains, more fruit and veg, sugar is bad for you, etc. But in the Chapter entitled "You Are What You Eat," the authors delve into the evils of eating meat – not just how bad meat supposedly is for you, but also how bad conditions are for animals on farms and in factories. It was then that I realized that the secret to this fabulous new diet is nothing more than veganism.

Now don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for those who choose to follow a vegan lifestyle (so please, no angry comments to this post). I even tried it myself, but I couldn't stick with it. So I really admire people who have the willpower and determination to become vegans. But I wish the authors and publishers would have been more upfront about the fact that this book is really a guide on how to be a vegan. Nowhere on the front or back covers is the word "vegan" mentioned. I can imagine that the many people who bought this book thinking it would teach them how to balance all of the food groups while learning how to eat right and become healthier were bitterly disappointed to learn that they would have to eliminate meat, fish, and dairy altogether.

The authors admit that they became vegans when they learned about the treatment of farm animals, so I can't help but feel they had a hidden agenda with this book. Their descriptions of the deplorable treatment of animals on farms and in factories and slaughterhouses are so stomach-churning that it would make anyone think twice about eating meat, and to be sure, that's what the authors intended. It just would have been nice if this book was more obvious in its vegan-based directive – an idea that might not have put this book at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List if it weren't disguised as a sassy self-help guide for the 21st-century woman.

The authors, according to the back cover, have successfully counseled models, actors, athletes, and other professionals using the Skinny Bitch method. One of them has a Master's Degree in Holistic Nutrition, the other doesn't (does being a "self-taught know-it-all," as the back cover describes her, really qualify her to be a weight-loss expert?) The book is described as a "tough-love guide" and boy, is it ever. In true Skinny Bitch form, the book is liberally sprinkled with the F-word and the S-word, and the tone at times can be abrasive. It just comes off as being obnoxious. And I've never read a book in which the author calls the reader an a**hole. Of course, the reason for this is to make us hate ourselves for being fat, unhealthy slobs so that we'll feel ashamed of ourselves and embrace their diet. But I felt it was unnecessary. The authors come across as high school Mean Girls all grown up.

I wasn't expecting a miracle diet, but neither was I expecting a book on veganism, a topic covered more thoroughly in other books (like The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, and Food for Life by Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D.). The Bottom Line? Skinny Bitch does make a compelling argument to stop eating meat and start living a vegan lifestyle, but I would have liked to have been able to make the informed choice of buying a book on veganism before I spent the money on it.

Now that I've let you in on the fact that this book is a guide to being vegan, and if it's something you would like to learn more about, you can go to the Skinny Bitch website at www.skinnybitch.net.

Has anyone else read this book or tried this diet? I'd love to hear your opinions, experiences, or views. As Mike Myers' "Linda Richman" used to say on "Coffee Talk," "Discuss!"

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