Book Review

Book Review: The Art of Overeating by Leslie Landis

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Food. Love it or hate it, you need it. Unfortunately, too many people have an unhealthy relationship with food, which should be a pleasure from beginning to… Well, to end.

If you don’t mind, I won’t speak too much about the end part, OK?

Unfortunately, the relationship with food has become yet another victim of invidualism and consumerism; the former because rather than eat what’s best for our health, we eat what’s best for our taste buds, and the latter because we are encouraged to eat more, more and then some more.

Supersize, anyone?

There are so many dieting programs out there that I am not even going to attempt listing them here. But many of them have one thing in common: they are serious business, often worth of a Master’s Degree (or even a PhD), time consuming and boring. And don’t get me started on how patronizing, paternalistic and guilt provoking these diets are. Just reading about them makes me want to eat the anguish away.

(Where is my chocolate bar? I know I stashed one around here not too long ago…)

Leslie Landis certainly knows a lot about the often dreary, tedious task of going on a diet. She has been practicing clinical psychology for a little over ten years now, amongst others helping people who have eating disorders. And I have the impression that many of the excuses her patients make are included in this book. My personal favourite is when she encourages us to overeat in the name of the environment.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that overeating is selfish. It actually is just the opposite. Consider that it is estimated that Americans dispose of thirty million tons of food waste every year. That amounts to over one pound of discarded food per day per person. How selfish is that? So save the environment. Eat everything you order. Eat other people’s leftovers. Let no doggie bag go wasted. Eat everything in your refrigerator. EAT, EAT, EAT. Remember, it’s a cause bigger than you, so be as big as you can be about it”.

By the way, I tried reading this paragraph over the phone to my Mom and I was giggling so hard I couldn’t manage to get through the entire thing once.

The Art of Overeating is, quite simply, a hilarious look at our quirks when it comes to eating. All those times when you were supposedly listening to your friends vent about her horrid day at work during which you were actually eying the cheesecake displayed prominently under a polished glass bell (which make everything seem even more delicious than it already is) and internally alternately fighting with yourself, calculating the number of calories you already had during the day and if you could afford it a slice or calculating if you can fit a workout in your busy schedule to be able to indulge in that slice – all those arguments you gave yourself are going to be in this book, in one form or another.

For the overly anxious amongst you, don’t worry – no one can take this book seriously for the simple reason that the ridiculous text (much of which sounds like the precedent paragraph) is matched with equally ridiculous pictures and drawings. There is no way someone can take the advice in this book seriously.

Perhaps this is the most brilliant way of encouraging those of us who have eating problems, big or small, to be honest with ourselves and finally take control. For having someone tell us: “Two breads are better than one” or “You want to be true to your family and body type. If your kin are big people and big eaters, then that is your destiny and it is your duty to fulfill it” makes it so hilariously and obviously ridiculous that the major barrier of denial, a big obstacle to solving any problem, is slowly chipped away throughout the book, leaving us ready to clean some mess up.

Humour is a great medicine, and perhaps if we apply it to a sometimes bitter (pun intended) subject, we will be able to finally deal with it, and perhaps eat that slice of cheesecake and focus on our poor friend.

First published here on Blogcritics.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 3 June 2013.

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