Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories

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9780743221832: Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories

The author traces her lifetime struggle with an eating disorder and depression, describing how her size and self-esteen were intertwined, her experiences with support groups and therapy, her education, and the family secrets that haunted her recovery.

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Review:

As post-modern recovery memoirs go, Betsy Lerner’s account of compulsive overeating and decades' worth of yo-yo dieting may strike the casual reader as considerably less compelling than, say, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s similarly toned though far more solipsistic and seemingly endless diary of her affair with Ritalin, Now, More, Again.(The editor of Wurtzel’s breakthrough Gen X memoir, Prozac Nation, Lerner figured prominently as a character in the sequel.) Lerner’s admission that, "I am powerless over Hostess cakes, and my life has become unmanageable," may not seem to equate with the far more harrowing revelations recounted in so many gripping first-person dependency confessionals. But there are potentially hundreds of thousands of readers (both men and women, though there is a bit of a Bridget Jones-like assumption here that Lerner is writing primarily for the former) with whom the author will strike many a poignant chord as she charts a lifelong battle with her weight. She takes us from those all-too-familiar and universally mortifying school days (the book opens in 1972, when Lerner was a 12-year-old being weighed in front of her sixth-grade class in the gymnasium), through twentysomething years filled with sadness, unrequited love, and a pioneering membership in Overeaters Anonymous, to a bout with suicidal depression that resulted in a six-month stay at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Like Wurtzel, Lerner is at her best when she is turning her sarcastic and unsparing sense of humor on herself. ("In college, when I first encountered Descartes, it took me no time to translate his famous dictum into something I could relate to: I weigh x, therefore I am shit," she writes.) But she also shares with her celebrated protégé a recurring confusion between trying to relate with her readers via unflinching honesty and simply sharing too much uninteresting or irrelevant information. --Jim DeRogatis

About the Author:

Betsy Lerner holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She is the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize and an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was selected as one of PEN's Emerging Writers in 1987. She is the author of The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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