Magazine article Herizons

Self Esteem Comes in All Sizes

Magazine article Herizons

Self Esteem Comes in All Sizes

Article excerpt

SELF ESTEEM COMES IN ALL SIZES:

Both these softcover books explore similar and by now familiar themes. Terry Poulton's No Fat Chicks, the less successful, describes how advertising, media and the weight-loss industry work together to seduce billions of dollars from hopeful but deluded women. Carol Johnson's Self-Esteem Comes in All Sizes is a good tonic to the depressing picture that Poulton so cleverly paints. Johnson presents a wealth of information and practical tips to fight the internalization of society's loathing of fat.

Poulton is a Canadian-born journalist who now lives in Louisville, Kentucky. She is adept at wordplay and the result is fun to read. Poulton's story begins in 1982 when Chatelaine approached her with an offer to pick up the tab if she would promise to lose 65 pounds in six months and write about it. Her description of that effort, the "toughest and loneliest time of her life," is vivid and moving.

Predictably, Poulton's deadline approached faster than her goal weight. As her body resisted the final 30 pounds, she covered an inquest into the death of Juliette, an obese woman who collapsed at the doorstep of the now-defunct Weight Loss Clinic. Despite expressing horror at the self-imposed ordeal that killed Juliette, Poulton continued to inflict many of the same trials on herself. She met her goal, and like the overwhelming majority of not-so-public weight loss efforts, the pounds so painstakingly lost, found their way back.

This personal history is the best part of Poulton's book. Unfortunately, she claims it's already been written, a claim belied by her opening statement that she and Oprah Winfrey share the "hellish" experience of having the whole country watch their desperate dieting failures.

Most of Poulton's book is devoted to her conspiracy theory; not a new idea. She uses other authors' works appropriately, although at times she loses perspective. Large women are discriminated against, but are they treated worse than African-Americans and homosexuals ever were, as Poulton claims at one point? She cites newspapers as credible sources of statistics, which is surprisingly naive for a journalist.

So how did we get from Reubens's paintings idealizing well-curved women to the "No at hicks" bumper stickers of today? Poulton's theory does not explain why women participate in this massive self-betrayal. Without an analysis of the cultural context in which women are so easily brainwashed, Poulton's book is incomplete and essentially unsatisfying. …

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