Friday 12 August 2011

Devouring Books: Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

I have a confession to make. I'm a non-practicising vegan, a term which I've entirely made up and which other, saner people would call a hypocrite. I am entirely down with a vegan lifestyle, abhor the shit that animals go through just so people can chow down another burger, and yet I remain part of the problem- I am neither a vegetarian or vegan, and if I think about that fact too much, I don't feel too good about myself. My friend finds my pseudo-veganism hilarious (I do follow an insane amount of vegans on twitter for someone who eats meat practically every day) but it is really pretty shameful- if I can't even follow what I believe in, what kind of person does that make me?

Don't answer that. No, really. Let's talk about the book instead. Skinny Bitch is a bit of a life changer, a no-nonsense guide to what meat and dairy and sugar really do to your body, things that we kind of already know, but don't want to admit to ourselves. It is also, unashamedly, a great encourager of a vegan lifestyle, something which so many people have complained about it doing as a 'hidden agenda', but which is actually clear pretty much from the outset. Nothing hidden about it. My favourite part of the whole book, all the awful meat side-effects, and shocking treatment of animals aside, is the very end, a small p.s. where the authors tell us that, actually, they don't care about being skinny- what really matters to them is good health, and from that good health, happiness. It's a message that can't really fail to strike a chord with everyone, and whether or not you think a vegan diet will get you there, it can't really do any harm to try, I would think?

So, I didn't love everything about this book. Nearly everything, but not quite everything. When describing the torture of farm animals (something that did, and always, made me want to cry a little bit) they talk about the fact that animals have emotions (true) and that when you eat their meat, you are actually eating their fear and pain. Huh? I get that they're trying to make the point that the suffering of sentient creatures shouldn't be allowed for our gluttonous urges, but I was a bit turned off by the idea that 'eating emotions' could cause cancer and heart disease, and all the other horrible things that they attribute to the crap that we eat. The other stuff on its own is enough, believe me, without all the 'eating emotions' thing on top. (This is not to say that I'm not sympathetic to the plight of the animals, see: wanting to cry, but just that I don't think emotions are a physical thing that can cause you harm when you eat them. Ok? Good.) I also didn't always appreciate the tone of the book, in terms of the fact that it was kind of mean- calling ones existing diet choices stupid all the time is not exactly endearing, but then again I don't think this is what they're trying to achieve- I think, in their eyes, it's more of a cruel to be kind tactic. As well as the mild meanness, there was a tiny touch of hysteria in the things they have to say about meat and dairy (and sugar, I keep forgetting!) in that the message seemed to be, if you don't stop eating these things, you will get cancer, or any of a number of other health problems, and die horribly and painfully and (gasp!) fat.

Other than that, though, it's difficult to find a crack in their argument against eating meat and dairy, and it's very difficult to say, 'but yeah, what about...' because I can't really think of anything that should fill in the ... there. I kind of think that my reaction to the book is going to be wildly different to that of someone who doesn't really care about animal welfare, and who doesn't believe that eating meat and dairy is that damaging to you (but seriously, cows milk? Putting aside how weird it is to drink another animal's baby food, what about the fact that it is specifically designed to aid growth, something which you don't really need when you're a grown up. But anyway, moving on...) I think this accounts for the wildly varying reviews I found on amazon- if it's something that you're not at all willing to accept, you get almost offended and shouty about it, or, on the flip side, you think it's the best thing since sliced bread and adopt the lifestyle offered in it immediately, never looking back and trying to be the happiest, and skinniest that you can be.

And as for me? Well, it's certainly given me a lot to think about. On the plus side, I was a sort of nearly vegetarian when I was at uni (the occasional meal out and house steak feast excepted) and when I think about it, I feel like I was a lot healthier, and felt a lot better then than I do now, where I just accept any meat or animal product that turns up on my plate (I also didn't have much cheese or milk or butter at uni, and I have them all the time now). How much of this can be attributed to bad diet, and how much to a touch of crap-life depression, I don't know, but would it hurt me to try out vegetarianism, for real, and then maybe veganism too? Probably not. I would talk about how difficult this would make it for me to eat out places, and how it would set me apart from others, but the truth is that I'm already the fussiest eater in the world, so this change wouldn't make that much of a difference in terms of what other people think about my eating habits (not that that really matters). Whether all this will stick or not in terms of me making actual, real changes to the way that I eat and view what I put into my body remains to be seen, but I will tell you this- since finishing this book, I haven't had any meat, even turning down a sausage sandwich (and I love sausage! [don't think disgusting things]) for lunch. A hangover from slaughterhouse horrificness? Or the start of an actual life change? Only time (and willpower) will tell on this one.

P.S. This book also talks a lot about giving up soda. To this, I can only say that you can take away the flesh of dead animals, and their tasty cheese, but I can't give up my Diet Coke. Probably not for anything. This is one of those addiction things they were talking about in the book, isn't it?


  1. Lots to comment here! First, I freakin' LOVE your non-practising veganism. Hahaha, made me crack up. Emotionally, I'm RIGHT there with you. But, similar to you, I eat meat ALMOST every day. (I might eat red meat once every two weeks...but tend to eat quite a bit of chicken).

    Now, here's the thing about vegetarianism...cuz I could NEVER be VEGAN. Man, I lurrrvvee cheese. Cheese, french bread, mind erasers and I'm content. But I WAS a vegetarian for almost ten years. From 10 - 21. But then, I woke up and I was craving a cheeseburger like there was no business. I mean, hard core. And I tried to resist. But I couldn't and I didn't and I chowed and here I am 14 years later still eating meat.

    And I hate HATE what they do to animals. I mean, hello...I had half of my anatomy class in high school walk out because we were dissecting a cat. Ewww!

    Animal brutality is AWFUL. And totally unacceptable. I guess I ease my mind because I make a point in purchasing free-ranged chickens and kosher beef. Is that real? Who knows. I tell myself it is.

  2. I actually have this book but I haven't read it yet. I was vegan for a short while, but I missed things like cheese, yogurt and ice cream. I haven't drank real milk in years, I think almond milk is better.)

    I became a vegetarian because I thought that the way animals are treated for meat (and sometimes milk) is terrible. When I do buy dairy I try to pick local brands.

    Occasionally I do crave things I used to love like sushi or omlets but it passes. I feel so much better when I don't eat meat. But the thing about being a vegetarian is that you have to be willing to cook, which I think turns people off.