While I was reading Khloé Kardashian’s book Strong Looks Better Naked in a Brooklyn café, the person sitting across from me gingerly asked, “What genre is that?” I had no answer.
Before I opened the interestingly titled Strong Looks Better Naked, I had some vague expectations of vapid, salacious anecdotes and recycled yet humorous enlightenment. Khloé is, after all, the wittiest and most self-aware member of a family whose only job is to be gratingly open to the world. I assumed she’d be good for a few laughs, even if none of the Kardashians have much to reveal in a book that hasn’t already been excavated to death by themselves, tabloids, or their numerous reality shows and interviews. Self-help books are supposed to be all about revelations. But wait, is this a self-help book? A memoir? How-to? First question: What exactly is this?
What does Strong Looks Better Naked even mean?
In one chapter, Khloé writes about hitting the gym again after letting herself go in the Hamptons, amid marital issues with her still-husband Lamar Odom. On the next page is a gigantic inspirational quote from Colin Powell. In the next section are recipes (i.e. Koko’s Kale), and peppered throughout are selfies, journal-like musings and semi-advice.
It’s a How To. It’s a photo book. It’s an autobiography. It’s a series of Instagram affirmations mixed with memories. It’s boring to death. It’s all those things and absolutely nothing, and people are going to buy it, because nothing is all anyone would expect.
The book’s format is broken into three sections—Body (which includes fitness and food), Mind and Soul. Extremely important things.
The first half is primarily a diary of Khloé’s workout routine, written in the tone of that person who speaks with a dull chirpiness about what they do before the gym, at the gym and after the gym, with corresponding photos of her workouts plucked from her Instagram page. Body part by body part, Khloé runs down her full workout routine, with specific focus on the ass. Working out, she says, was always more of a coping mechanism than for sheer vanity.
“I would get there early and start out with some stretching exercises, and then do thirty minutes on the elliptical...” she writes. (Imagine me happily frolicking down the middle of a railroad track as a train approaches.) The paragraph ends: “...ready to seize the day.”
In this deeply unsuccessful attempt at writing self-help, Khloé shares suggestions and to-do lists on how to deal with body issues and working out (i.e. not looking at that scale), mostly by breaking down methods that worked for her. Throughout, she hast he mind-numbing, obvious approach of a fitness magazine. I suppose a Kardashian enthusiast (the book’s target audience) might appreciate these faux lessons and mantras. Literally no one else would.
Khloé makes the keen observation, for example, that bad food tastes good and encourages making “intelligent sacrifices” for your health. She opens up about her arm and jawline insecurity, her experiences with yo-yo dieting and trying the Master Cleanse. She reveals that, as a kid, she wasn’t aware she was “bigger” than the other kids and, as a result, embraced her natural charisma.
Beneath the fitness fanaticism, there’s potential for depth that’s only mildly explored, creating a watered-down version of the Khloé we know. But there’s no use being upset about the cavern of emptiness in a Kardashian book. It is what it is.
In place of the blunt testimonies she’s known for, Khloé offers her version of tips, which are really just empty platitudes:
Remember the only person you need to be better than is the you of yesterday.
You are responsible for your own happiness.
Believe in yourself and the dreams will come true.
Here’s a particularly helpful one:
Khloé writes a lot about finding solace at the gym as a way to stave off loneliness, and about developing social anxiety over the thought of leaving her home to face paps (she claims she’s more closed off about her personal life, especially relationships, than her family members, which is probably true). Describing a visit to a couple’s therapist during her marriage to Lamar, she recalls this exchange with her therapist:
“It takes a big person to revisit tough moments without reliving the emotion. How do you manage it?”
And I said, “Cardio!”
Real inner turmoil is rarely mined in a meaty way and reads as surface expressions that any Kardashian viewer already knows. In over-preaching the positive, there’s a net loss of honesty and facts. Not to mention: a book that’s largely about fitness needs a heavy dose of research.
To make up for the poppycock non-advice are sections written by Khloé’s celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (Body), her nutritionist Dr. Philip Goglia (Mind) and her pastor Brad Johnson (Soul). Khloé recalls bringing a photo of Beyoncé into a workout session and being told by Peterson: “There are certain anatomical differences between you and Beyoncé, so we’re not going to create an exact duplicate. Still, I promise we will get as close as we can.”
What follows is a list of things that Khloé loves:
- Weight machines
- Green tea, water
- Pita chips and hummus
- Food with texture
You can tell that she loves these things because she writes “I love” followed by the thing she loves, sometimes followed by what she loves about it.
Is this book good for anything?
There’s a part where Khloé breaks down the differences in body types among her family. After consulting her nutritionist, she realized that eating carbs after 4 p.m. was ill-advised—she says her brother Rob has the same body type and that Kim and Kanye are “Ferrari body types,” with high metabolisms. Why not more of this insight that’s drawn from actual experts and resources?
Health and fitness tips, in general, are so distilled and vague that fresh, helpful advice is rare. Instead of potentially making something like Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance—which benefits greatly from studies, field research and real-person surveys and sounds informed as a result—Khloé took a poorly advised shortcut to the self-help aisle. It’s not at all surprising. The true disappointment is that it’s not even entertaining.
Image via Getty/Regan Arts