Friday, June 23, 2006


REVIEW
The Incredible Shrinking Critic. 75 Pounds and Counting: My Excellent Adventure in Weight-Loss (hardback)
Author: Jami Bernard
Publisher: Avery/$22.95 (304 pages)
Date of Publication: September 7, 2006
Reviewed by: James J. Gormley (member, National Book Critics Circle)

In March 1999, I wrote an article in Better Nutrition magazine called, “Giving Barbie the ‘boot’,” in which I criticized American society’s pressures on young girls to emulate the nearly impossible Barbie body type, an article that I was pleased to see cited by Michelle Varat in her illuminating paper, “Life in Plastic: The Truth Behind Barbie.” What was the focus of my article? Responsible (and realistic) weight-loss strategies for lasting change. And strategies are exactly what award-winning film critic, author and social commentator, Jami Bernard, focuses on in her wonderful new book, The Incredible Shrinking Critic. She writes: “Lasting weight loss is about strategy, not willpower.” True enough. Bernard guides us through a deeply personal journey of discovery and body emancipation starting when she opened her eyes to the fact that she weighed 230 pounds and she resolved to lose 100 of them. Originally covering her weight-loss quest in a New York Daily News column called “Our Incredible Shrinking Critic,” she ultimately loses 75—carefully, realistically and consciously. To lose the unwanted weight, Bernard had to first gain insights (sometimes painfully) into the whys and wherefores of how the extra fat got there in the first place, at one point leading her to write: “I want my body back.” To get it back, Bernard uncovered many of the ways she—and we—often wrongly use food: as a punishment, as a salve for emotional pain and need, as a crutch, as an excuse, and as a way of physically erecting a buffer zone between ourselves and the world which increasingly marginalizes, ignores and resents those of us who are far from the Ken or Barbie physiques. Ms. Bernard is as generous in sharing her often intimate self-revelations as she is at providing common-sense observations of startling insight and simplicity, such as “To lose weight, you have to cook for yourself.” Although holistic health approaches are not necessarily given their due here, this book is truly a must for anyone who wants to shed not only weight but baggage as well. Uproariously funny and yet also profoundly personal, film guru Bernard has come out with a real-life look at weight goals and how to achieve them, one so fascinating that I’ll buy my own “ticket” right now and suggest you do likewise.

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