Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski has a book hitting stores tomorrow titled Obsessed: America's Food Addiction — And My Own. She talked about the project this morning on her own show, as well as Today, and a lot of what she had to say was great, and made perfect sense. For instance: "The obesity crisis in America is not because people are undisciplined or because people are slobs," Brzezinski insists. "We have to stop judging people who are struggling with their weight." Damn right. Agreed. That said, Let's be careful about diagnosing every overweight or obese person as addicted to food or having an eating disorder. That's just not true.
Brzezinski does have an eating disorder, however, although perhaps you'd never know it. She's fully aware of how it looks, being the thin, well-kempt TV personality, talking about obesity; she writes: "How does a person who is not overweight write about her lifelong obsession with overeating without sounding like a narcissistic, woe-is-me skinny girl?" She is quite candid about her food issues in excerpts from the book; for her, binge-eating was a way of life:
For years, I suffered from an almost uncontrollable urge to eat certain foods. My disordered eating patterns extended from late nights in high school, when I would jam two or three Big Macs down my throat, to all-night eating sessions alone in my dorm room, to an Ambien-addled night when I walked downstairs as if in a trance, in front of my horrified husband, who watched me scarf down an entire jar of Nutella with my bare hands.
After binge-eating, Brzezinski would go on long, "punishing" runs. She also had bouts of bulimia.
According to Brzezinski, as she battled her own bingeing over the years, she watched her best friend, Diane, gain more and more weight. A horrifying confrontation took place (Brzezinski said to Diane: "Diane, I am terrified to tell you this but I love you too much not to. You’re not just overweight—you’re fat. You’re OBESE. Other people don’t see the beautiful person I see when I look at you. They see a woman who looks like her life is out of control, who can’t even manage her own body.”) and spurred the writing of the book.
Eventually, I made Diane an offer: she would work at changing her approach to food and exercise and lose seventy-five pounds, and I would help her do it. I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and to pay for her to lose weight. She could do whatever it took—buy a gym membership, hire a personal trainer, seek guidance from a dietitian, even seek out bariatric surgery. Whatever! I would be paying my girlfriend to start taking care of herself and to change her life.
At the same time, I would work at overcoming my own obsession with food, gain 10 pounds, and accept the new me. My goal was a healthy 135-pound woman who ate a reasonable meal when she was hungry, instead of someone who freaked out when the scale tipped 120 pounds, fought against the urge to eat at every turn, and often felt drained by all that effort.
Yeah, you read that right: She paid for her friend to lose weight. Brzezinski explains that they were battling the same issues — and maybe they were, and still are. But hopefully Brzezinski is not intending to make a blanket statement about fat people and food addiction; that would be wrong. Not every person carrying more weight than the American medical recommendations for BMI is a food addict. Just like not every person considered a "normal" weight is healthy. Brzezinski herself, formerly a size 2, is proof of that. There are so many factors — first and foremost weight-regulating genes, but also diet, sleep, stress and exercise — that have an effect on how much we weigh.
It's great that Brzezinski has started a conversation regarding how we view obesity, as well as drawing more attention to how addictive "hyperpalatable" and "ultraprocessed" foods can be. But even though she thinks we shouldn't be judging obese people, she basically did just that with her friend Diane. Apparently their friendship "is stronger than ever" now. Great! Still: Let's not make it a habit of calling our friends fat and offering them cash to lose weight, mmmkay?
Obsessed (excerpt) [Today]