Image Credit: Laura Thomas, PhD
It was always going to be tricky to write and market a book that dispels diet culture and countenance that with another “way” of approaching our eating habits.
It’s paradoxical in its nature.
But Laura Thomas navigates it mindfully, intelligently and emphatically in her book ‘Just Eat It’. With the current body positive movement and a rejection (albeit on a minor scale) of ‘wellness/clean-eating/body shaming’ culture, now more than ever, we need a considered voice guiding us through the haze.
Early on, Laura raises some interesting theories that perpetuate diet culture, one being ‘self objectification’. The idea that women ‘tend to see themselves through a veil of sexism, measuring their self-worth by evaluating their physical appearance against our culture’s sexually objectifying and unrealistic standards of beauty’. In our post ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ society this can still be a confusing concept to wrap our heads around. Many of us can understand this idea intellectually, but putting it into practice is much more challenging, even for the more conscious among us. We need to acknowledge and confront this destructive pattern of behaviour that is draining us mentally and financially and taking ownership of our eating patterns is one way of doing this.
You soon get behind the concept that this book is so much more than assessing and changing the way you eat. It's a thorough investigation into modern society and the pressures facing (mainly) women.
You could argue the book in itself is in danger of becoming another ideal to live up to. However, Laura writes with reassuring and encouraging language. The self compassion chapter arrives early on to remind the reader to be easy on themselves as they work through the book. Mindfulness, as you would imagine, features heavily, but again in a relatable and helpful way. I particularly love her simple description of mindfulness ‘for me it just means deliberately, but gently, focusing my awareness in the present moment, not ruminating on things that have happened in the past, or what may or may not happen in the future.’ Very straight-forward and simple.
At times you would be forgiven for feeling like you’re going deeper into a rabbit hole, as you introspect your emotional toolkit. You will forget you are reading a book about mindful eating. And that is the beauty of this book. It dares to link up the complexities around our attitude towards food, dieting and self image with society. Sounds overwhelming right? For a book about ‘diets’. But sadly this is the stark reality of diet culture and Laura is there to help you to navigate it. Giving you permission to “can it” if something doesn’t work for you. A real ‘go easy on yourself approach’ is repeated throughout using refreshing and honest language.
If you can approach it with a sense of curiosity as Laura invites you to, there is so much to be gained. Compassion towards your eating and your hunger helps you be more compassionate towards yourself in other areas of your life.
Laura is aware of her privilege both economically and socially and doesn’t just pay lip service to it in the introduction but consistently throughout the book. She goes deeper into topics and issues we face as a wider society including fat phobia. Hands up who genuinely understands and appreciates the nuances and complexities of this? I applaud Laura for offering this up into the mainstream.
It’s a breath of fresh of air to hear an academic citing some revelatory health truths. A favourite being on the trend of Instagram wellness bloggers (who she refers to as wellness wankers!) putting way too much emphasis on nutrition in relation to our health, stating that ‘nutrition is important, I’m not saying it isn’t, but relative to social determinants of health, it’s small-time in terms of its influence over health at a population level’
It’s an intelligent, thought provoking book that makes you think more widely about how eating and diet culture play out in our society. It’s not to be read once and forgotten about. You could keep coming back to it and use it like a work book. Laura is always there to hold your hand through any of her recommended exercises. It’s for those who have already started to question and safely dismantle warped diet culture. If you’re in recovery from an eating disorder then this book is for later on in your recovery. And if you do pick it up and feel overwhelmed, know that it’s completely understandable. It’s packed with information and credible research about the many lies we have been fed about our bodies and our worth. Be kind to yourself and try it again when you’re feeling stronger. This book contains timeless and powerful messages that are meant to aid and help you, not panic and overwhelm. The messages will stand the test of time and it will still be there for you when you feel ready to explore it.
By the end of the book I felt as though I’d really gotten to know Laura. She’s honest and shares personal experiences. It’s a gentle journey you take with her and the closing sentiment sums it all up…
‘Make no mistake, food and body hang-ups are intentional and deliberate distractions engineered by a capitalist patriarchal society that thrives on insecurity, fabricated inadequacies and keeping women from realising their full power.’
There is a sense of empowerment and a rallying call to arms to all women and we need more of this right now.
Meet Our Contributor
Tuesday Hope is an actress and writer.
Her first short film Same Mistakes, is about a woman confronting her anxiety issues for the first time, whilst also dealing with the intricacies of modern day booty calls. Tuesday starred in it along with actress Kelby Keenan. The short is currently in post production.
Originally from Yorkshire, Tuesday moved to London after gaining a place at The Arts Educational School of Acting and has been working across commercials and voiceovers since graduating.
Newcastle United supporter, semi-dedicated book club attendee, occasional brow model, currently living in East London contemplating the commitments that come with adopting a house rabbit.