The evening I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of Cameron Diaz's book The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body, Cameron Diaz was coincidentally speaking about her book. But I didn't realize she'd be until right before I showed up and saw a few paparazzi standing outside in the cold at Union Square comparing lenses. Once I did, I began to get frightened.
Inside, the store showed few signs that there was a celebrity in its midst – except for a large poster in the front that indicated that if you were there for the reading, you should purchase your book at the counter. That seemed easy enough, though I felt weird about the fact that I wasn't going to the reading because of prior plans, a feeling exasperated by the aggressive nature of the sales clerk at the counter. "You're here for Cameron Diaz, right?" he said, pegging me in a way that made me wonder if he knew more about me than I knew (or know) about myself. When I quickly nodded, he asked me if I needed more than one book, rattled off a list of instructions about not losing my receipt, and warned me that Barnes & Noble/Diaz's private security might be patting me down upstairs. I felt so guilty about not actually attending the reading (partially because of a missed opportunity to see a celebrity that nags at many of us) that I actually took the escalator one flight up and debated sticking around for a moment, before putting the book in my purse and sneaking out the door.
Following Diaz on her recently created social media accounts made me feel even weirder about not going to see her speak, a feeling that grew once I actually started reading the book. If I was skeptical at first of a wealthy female Hollywood star sharing her health secrets with those with far less genetic and monetary benefits, those mostly melted away. While the book is wrapped in a stunning photo of Diaz in a white bathing suit, the actual hardcover is made up of small photos of women Diaz apparently photographed herself.
But Diaz comes off in her book the way you'd think she'd act in real life: bubbly and friendly. As a bonus: she's actually done her research and is knowledgeable and fair. "Right now, whatever shape you are in, your body is an amazing machine that does so many cool things, from using the air in our environment to keep your brain alive to turning a bowl of cereal into an explosion of energy that allows you to run down the street to catch the bus," she says in her introduction. "And knowing how to take care of that body is the most important information you can ever learn. Ever."
"I'm not a scientist. I'm not a doctor. What I am is a woman who has spent the past fifteen years learning about what my body is capable of, and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life."
Diaz is upfront right away about what her book is not: a diet book:
It is not a workout regimen. It is not a manual to becoming a different person.
Here's what it is: a guide to becoming yourself.
What kind of yourself does Cameron want you to be? A healthy self. Her manual reads a bit like a cross between a science textbook and articles from the Well section of the New York Times your mother sends you, with a dash of a best friend that likes to overshare. Here are some of the parts I felt moved enough to post-it.
Cameron Diaz believes that though she always had issues with acne, it was her reliance on unhealthy fast food as a young woman that made it worse than it was. If only she had tried to "LISTEN TO HER BODY" earlier, she would have had fewer issues with her skin. Cameron Diaz is probably grateful that during the part of her career when she had bad skin, HD television did not exist. She can more freely reflect on that pain now with limited damning video evidence.
As noted above, Cameron Diaz also likes to use caps lock to express her excitement about an idea. For instance: the fact that the life expectancy of the average U.S. citizen is decreasing because of obesity. "THAT'S CRAZY!"
Cameron Diaz has also written two helpful timelines to explain the history of food and technology in the United States. For example: "1990s: Light-up sneakers. Beverly Hills, 90210. McDonald's McLean Deluxe. Lay's baked potato crisps. Fat-free Pringles..." or "2000s: Finally, everything we need without leaving the couch!"
Cameron Diaz's book is surprisingly full of scientific facts, like in the chapter called "Eating & the Sun" where she explains how science works. For those who had good science teachers as youths, these sections will be boring. For those who didn't, they are probably incredibly enlightening. For those who had good science teachers and forgot it all when they started eating badly and drinking too much, they are a helpful reminder.
Cameron Diaz's book has a lot of diagrams of body parts that are beautifully drawn and labeled. It reminded me of that great computer game where Adam and Eve taught you about the human body that I can't remember the name of (ADAM?) but would love to find the CD-ROM of.
Fun fact: Cameron Diaz hates sugar. Though she hates what it does to you, she actually is really just into savory foods, which she points out is very convenient for her in her quest for health. That being said, it's slightly difficult to believe her when she's going on and on about how nutritious and delicious quinoa, grilled chicken and kale are when you know her secret is that she is sugar-immune.
Cameron Diaz writes a lot about the power of water. Yes yes, water is the best: but Cameron actually suggests that when you wake up in the morning, you immediately drink a big bottle of water that you've left on your bathroom counter. "I go from being a wilted plant to one that has just been rejuvenated by the rain," she says of her ritual. I tried this tip this morning and I too felt like a rejuvenated plant.
Cameron Diaz is surprisingly vocal about bodily functions, like in her sections "EL EM EN OH PEE" and "CHECK THAT SHIT OUT" where she suggests paying close attention to your excretions to make sure your health is on point. "Humans fart an average of twenty-two times a day. Yes, even you," she writes. Duly noted.
Cameron Diaz really wants you to get up and move. "Even if you work hard all day, your day-to-day life can make your body soft. And that softness is a modern-day killer, the equivalent of the savanna-dweller's lion (actually, the lion was better, since it kept people moving)," she writes. As I read this book while sitting at my desk eating a very large bagel with cream cheese that I had walked but 20 paces to prepare, I feel that a lion in my life might actually do a world of good.
A big part of Cameron Diaz's book that has already gotten a lot of press is when she talks about LAAAADDIESSS and their LADDDDDDYparts, probably because she spares no detail. Cameron Diaz knows a lot about vaginas, that's for sure. She also knows a lot about vulvas and makes sure that her readers know the difference. Whether vagina or vulva, she suggests that you let your pubic hair fly free and definitely is not a fan of lazer hair removal because of its permanence.
"...just like every other part of your body, your labia majora is not immune to gravity. Do you really want a hairless vagina for the rest of your life?" she writes. "Twenty years from now, you will still want to be presenting it to someone special, and it would be nice to let him or her unwrap it like the gift that it is," an argument that reads a little bit like something someone who used to organize purity balls but recently had a change of heart would make.
"These are our bodies, ladies! It's OK to talk about them. And it's really, really important to get comfortable, get real, get knowledgeable, and get comfortable," Cameron writes about describing the week or so she went around talking about a new way that women who have babies via C-section can give their children the bacteria they miss by not being born via the vaginal canal at dinner parties and the like. Those dinner parties sound delightful.
Cameron Diaz writes that until she got to Hollywood, she had never understood that growing older was a bad thing, having grown up with amazing grandparents whom she adored:
It never occurred to me that it was a bad thing to grow older, and now I live in a world and work in a business that is bent on telling people–especially women– that they are no longer vital once they start showing signs of 'aging.' It makes me sick to my stomach! I am horrified by how deeply these ideas have permeated our culture, and I worry about the young women who are being influenced by this nonsense.
"Getting older is amazing," Cameron writes, adding how excited she is about approaching her 41st birthday.
What sparked Cameron Diaz's body epiphany and thus this whole book? One of the greatest movies of our time with an equally great soundtrack, Charlie's Angels. Cameron writes that training for that movie's intense martial arts scenes taught her discipline and focused and changed "everything" in her life. For those who want a Charlie's Angels-worthy transformation in their life, The Body Book is probably the closest you can get for $25.99 – plus tax.
Images via Harper Collins and Columbia Pictures