"It's bikini season, people!" Have ye not heard the cries of panic and joy from every commercial, magazine cover, and Facebook ad that pops up in your peripheral vision, when all you're trying to do is take screenshots of your ex-boyfriend's super-ugly baby?!
Shut up, world. It's summer. That's what it is. You can feel free to celebrate this fact in your teeniest-weeniest, yellow-polka-dottiest bikini — but you don't get to rename all of June, July, and August for the rest of us. It's not that I resent swimwear; it's that, for me, the dog days of summer should be called Read A Book In Front Of The Air Conditioning Season. RABIFOTACS, for short.
I've wanted to write this particular column for a long time — partly for those of you who, like me, enjoy spending much of summer with your nose in a book (either indoors or on the beach). But, also because the top questions (along with "What diet are you doing?") that I get from new readers are "Where can I read more about this?" and "Where do I start?" And, as much as I want to tell you to
just read my column and nothing else, I'd like to try to be a better person than that.
Forget diet books this summer,
please. Once and for all, get rid of anything on your shelf that promises a Total Body Makeover or 30 Pounds Lost In (Any Number Of) Days. Instead, join me in diving into the wonderful world of anti-diet books: the kind of bullshit-free literature that talks about eating, self-image, and food in a way that doesn't insult your body and brain but instead empowers you to treat yourself and your health with kindness and respect — and also isn't boring (I promise).
Happy bikini season, and a merry RABIFOTACS to all.
The Anti-Diet Project runs on Mondays twice a month. In the meantime, you can follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject — and share yours with me as well. I want to see what you're reading, what you're munching, and my all-time favorite: sweaty gym selfies! Or, just show off that kick-ass bikini. (Is that creepy? OH WELL.)
Let's start at the very beginning — because it's a very good place to start. If you're remotely interested in learning about or attempting Intuitive Eating, then Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch's landmark book is THE place to start. The concept of eating intuitively existed before these women, but in their years of experience they coalesced the topic into a readable, digestible format that changed the lives of countless chronic dieters and disordered eaters. It certainly changed mine.
I dip into this book when I hit a wall or when I'm craving that old feeling of "structure" that I leaned on when I was dieting.
Intuitive Eating is a constant support, though never preachy or rigid. Even if you're not looking to change your diet, this is a fascinating look into the way we think about food, eating, and body image as a culture. It's a must.
Crucial tip: Make sure you pick up volume three and not an earlier version. Those ones are still great, but they were written before concepts like "mindful eating" had become part of our lingo. Plus, in the intervening years, a wealth of research has taken place that supports Intuitive Eating's success in long-term health and weight maintenance. Having hard evidence like this at your fingertips is invaluable when you need encouragement. by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch, $10.53, available at Intuitive Eating: Vol. 3, Amazon.
Before I found Intuitive Eating, I found Geneen Roth. She's a legendary writer on topics involving women and food. Having suffered through her own harrowing journey with disordered eating, Roth created a career based on talking about the things no one was talking about: the shame and secrets that eat away at the soul of someone who's tortured by food.
When I first read Feeding The Hungry Heart, I could barely get through it; it hit too close to home. It's a collection of stories and essays from men and women who share their experiences with bingeing, hiding food, hoarding food, and becoming buried in bodies they felt entirely separate from. I kept picking it up and then putting it down to read something else — something less real. But, each story in this book stuck with me, no matter how much I wanted to forget it. These people's experiences nudged me closer to the realization of what I really needed to do for myself, and how I needed to do it.
Not all good things feel good, and this wasn't exactly a fun read for me — but it was a necessary one, and one for which I'll always be grateful. , by Geneen Roth, $6.26, available at Feeding The Hungry Heart Amazon.
But, this one was a blast, obviously! It might not seem like an Anti-Diet book, but I have my reasons. Anyway, who
doesn't want to spend their summer reading (or re-reading) Mindy Kaling?
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling discusses her own relationship to diet, body image, and fitness with zero gravitas — and that's pretty revolutionary. Everyone is so desperately concerned about this stuff (and by "everyone" I mean "me"), and to see Kaling talk about it like it's NOT the most important and definitive characteristic of her life and personhood is disorienting and rad.
I'm sure it actually sucks when stylists try and obscure or mangle Kaling's body into weird outfits, as she describes in a later chapter. But, the bottom line is Mindy Kaling wears what she wants. She knows she's not skinny, and she also knows she's not the behemoth wildebeest that industry folks might see when they look at her (or whenever they look at someone who's fatter than an iPhone).
Of course, I'm not crazy about Mindy's love of dieting-as-hobby, but I've never heard her say something like "Finally, this is the diet that's going to make me skinny, and then I'll finally be happy and okay." She seems pretty happy and okay right now. Or, at least okay with her level of okay-ness. Which is a pretty great place to be. , by Mindy Kaling, $11.31, available at Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) Amazon.
Theresa Kinsella, my Intuitive Eating coach, introduced me to Tara Brach a few months back, when I was struggling with body image. She nudged and nudged and nudged and finally ordered me to read it — and now I understand why. Radical Acceptance is as simple as it sounds and completely impossible to summarize in a sentence. All I can say is: I've learned to (slowly) let go of rigid, linear thinking and embrace where I am right now. Maybe that doesn't sound super-sexy and exciting, but it is absolutely key to this process.
Learning the tenets of Radical Acceptance makes life and change and feelings and all that bullshit infinitely more manageable — because you learn that acceptance is not about managing those things.
If you're completely turned off by the hippie-dippy turn this slideshow has taken, give Brach's podcast a shot first (it's free). Tara's deep, but she's accessible and funny, too. Radical Acceptance might not be for you, or it might be exactly what you need. , by Tara Brach, $10.27, available at Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha Amazon.
Another of the top questions people ask me is whether or not I'm affiliated with the
Health At Every Size movement. I'm not (at least, not officially; are there badges or something?). Then again, I am, in a way.
Linda Bacon's book on the subject of weight and health is another that has changed the lives of millions. "Fat isn’t the problem," Bacon says. "Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates 'thin' with 'healthy' is the problem."
Filled with studies on the science of weight, eating, and long-term health, Health At Every Size is a great companion to Intuitive Eating, Vol. 3. Bacon works to eradicate the diet myth and get readers back in tune with their bodies' natural hunger and fullness signals. We can always use more of that. , $10.69, available at Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight Amazon.
Of course, it's not
just about learning to eat intuitively; in order to do that, you've got to leap over the hurdle of body image. This hurdle pops up again and again, like the fireballs in the harder levels of Two Dots (anyone else concerned about their Two Dots addiction? Can we talk about it?).
This book is rock-solid, kick-ass ammo for the body-image war. Authors Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter wrote the book not only to take down the concept of dieting-as-solution but also to liberate people from the whole idea that their bodies' are a problem. When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies explores the origins of "Bad Body Fever" and all the other thought patterns we get caught up in — the kind of thinking that becomes a trap. Then, the book offers real solutions and methods for freeing yourself.
Body image is not a simple problem, nor is there one solution for it. But, this book is a wonderful place to start — and something to fall back on. , $12.46, available at When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession Amazon.