When I first spied a press release for model and Real Housewife Kelly Bensimon‘s third book, I Can Make You Hot! The Supermodel Diet, my initial response was a giant eye-roll. Marketed as “like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together,” I was sure it would be full of terrible, borderline pro-ana tips and “light” recipes that no one likes. But upon actually reading it, I was surprised to find that it’s actually got some really great information…it’s just that, like a lot of information on health and fitness, it’s swaddled in the kind of body-negative, appearance-based, fat-shameyness that has made the diet industry a punchline.
I tried to reach out to the publisher for an interview or more information, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect with anyone. But I still wanted to give the book a fair shake because, while getting made into a person who is “hot” is perhaps not the best motivation for me personally, it may work for other women. And I worry that I fall into a health book rut and always read/review/interview the same kinds of things/books/authors, so I wanted to give this a chance. Just in case, you know, all of the marketing surrounding it was hiding some sort of secret gem.
And there is some really good information in the book–like not being afraid of carbs, exercising, and eating high-energy food. But then there are lines like this:
You’re not going to believe me, but I’ve considered myself fat. And I could have stayed fat. Instead I decided to make different decisions every single day, because for me, there really isn’t any alternative.
And then this:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your body type in order to get skinny is not hot. I’m not advocating that everyone weigh 104 pounds…but at the other end of the spectrum, being overweight or obese is certainly not hot; it’s just plain unhealthy.
Is that helpful, Kelly? Because you know, according to the BMI, I’m “overweight,” and I’m a runner and a yogi and pretty damn. Am I not hot? Are all of your readers who will never be in the “normal” range not hot? Or, moreover, are women who are in recovery from eating disorders not hot?
Speaking of eating disorders, Kelly wants you to know that she, too, could have been weak enough to succumb to one like all those other ninnies out there who want to be hot but do it in a not-hot way.
I was definitely in danger of developing an eating disorder, and what saved me during those years was running. I ran almost every day, mostly to keep my weight down and my spirits high.
Because people with eating disorders never exercise to self-medicate, right? This is not good advice.
Kelly Bensimon seems to, at times, try to actually motivate readers–mostly through personal stories that are hard to sympathize with, like how photographers are mean and being wealthy makes it hard to related to people–but for the most part, this book is a small parcel of good intentions, a handful of great pieces of advice (drink water! Eat real foods! Don’t skip meals! Do the kinds of things that make you feel beautiful!), and a giant drop-cloth of conventional-beauty-touting, abelist, cisgenered, promise-I-don’t-promote-skinny-except-that-I-do body-negativity.
When America is struggling with an obesity epidemic that threatens to hamstring our workforce and bankrupt us with sky-high medical costs, we need a diverse range of diet and exercise advice available, so that every single person can find a plan and a kind of motivation that works for them. And while Bensimon’s book may work for some people, it’s an example of how good advice becomes negative. It preys on low self-esteem, it puts Bensimon on a pedestal of “hotness” that readers are expected to watch and try to achieve.
If this book helps one women find motivation and eat healthy food and generally feel awesome about herself, then it’s not a total waste–especially considering a small portion of the proceeds are going to GenerosityWater.
But if the body-snarking, fat-shaming, and general air of “how to be hot like me” drives anyone away from being healthy, away from finding a kind of exercise that she enjoys, away from eating and making wholesome, nutritious recipes, then it’s just another brick in the wall between “hot” people and “not hot” (read: overweight, unhealthy) people. That’s not what we need.
Image: my copy of the book