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Thin Is the New Happy Hardcover – September 2, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific author Frankel (most recently, I Take This Man) was only 11 when her mother put her on a diet. She went from 100 to 88 pounds in six weeks, making her mother ecstatic, although she gained back four pounds right away. Frankel learned a basic lesson: she could enjoy eating or have approval, but not both. Although she blamed her mother's fatphobia for her unhappy childhood, from middle school on her peers were her cruelest tormenters. As she got older, her bad body image translated to anorgasmia; research shows that women who feel unattractive often develop sexual dysfunction. Later, working at Mademoiselle, where so many co-workers had eating disorders, she realized that an obsession with diet was one way of avoiding life's thornier issues. In her 40s, Frankel decided to jettison all the emotional baggage she was carrying about her weight, to free herself, finally, from dieting. After hiring a photographer to shoot a portfolio of her nude, having a friend help her find her personal style in clothing and coming to terms with her husband and her mother over fat issues, Frankel finally got rid of her body-image negativity. (Sept.)
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"Rueful, zestful, surprisingly funny."
--The New York Times
"Infused with humor and refreshing candor, the book will resonate with anyone who’s counted carbs or tried to subsist on rice cakes and grapefruit. A self-aware, witty exploration of a woman’s body issues."
--Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312373929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312373924
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,890,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was really disappointed by this book. I am a eating disorder psychologist and I thought this book would offer some perspective, as in, the title is ironic and thin really is not the new happy. Instead this superficial book means exactly what the title says. Thin does equal happiness for her. As a child she was teased and abused, mostly by her mother, for being chubby. As an adult, she abuses herself in every way possible - diets, body hatred, drugs, alcohol. It seems her only redemption was losing a small amound of weight as an adult (appox 15 pounds) and becoming "thin enough" to like herself. The ultimate low in this book is a revenge fantasy where she imagines a former high school tormenter as now obese and stupid. For this author fat = stupid and a whole range of other negative stereotypes. I wish this woman had therapy instead of writing this book.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who has struggled with my weight, dieted, and mainly, worried about my appearance, I've read plenty of weight loss memoirs, and will continue to do so, I'm sure. I can safely say that while Frankel's overall message (don't diet, eat what you want) isn't new, her approach, humor, frankness and willingness to dig deep are something unexpected.

Frankel starts with her mom pressuring her to lose weight as a child (sadly a very common scenario). She does, and immediately reaps the social benefits, but of course once she goes off her diet, the weight comes right back. This started her on her lifelong path of going up and down with her weight, something she only vows to stop when she realizes that her two daughters are approaching the age she was when weight became a central issue in her life.

It's in talking about her first husband's death that Frankel really shines here, not overdramatizing her story but sharing the real issues she dealt with. "Weight loss became my Vicodin, my Prozac. The red jeans were my delivery system. It took the edge off my pain. Shrinking calmed me, pleased me, gave me something to feel good about."

The other chapter that truly stands out is the third one about her mother, where she confronts her with the revelations Frankel's had about the roots of her behavior. The final exchange with her mom about her weight issues is illuminating. Far from seeing herself as part of the problem, her mother feels that she was protecting Valerie from a world that hates the overweight.
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Format: Hardcover
I mostly liked this book. It was funny, entertaining, and at times, sad. Frankel writes well. This is a book you can breeze through. I could relate to Frankel's body image and self-esteem issues. Her obsession with her weight is something many women can relate to.

While Frankel uses a lot of self-deprecating humor, she also gets a tad preachy at times. Preachy may not be the correct word. Long-winded may be a better term. There is a section where she goes on about how she is a "striver" and has "dreams" (unlike some people she once knew)! I think that's something readers can deduce on their own: She went to Dartmouth, she worked for years at a major woman's magazine, she has written many published novels.

It seemed that Frankel was/is on a quest for self-actualization. For most of the book she seems open, forgiving, and willing to admit her flaws, but she is a tad snobby and self-righteous. When she meets, Z, an acquaintance from junior high that used to tease her unmercifully about her extra poundage, she speaks about him in such a mean-spirited way. She claims that she isn't any better than Z, but you get the overwhelming feeling that she does think she's better. She snottily proclaims him as "just a bundle of skin, a thoughtless consumer of earth's oxygen." I lost all respect for Frankel at this moment. (I wanted to drop the book, but I kept reading.) I can't help to view her as mean-spirited and unforgiving at the moment she trash-talks Z, who is now a 40- something year-old man. This entire section where she speaks about Z was a huge turn-off. Her views of a certain "soulless state", her snobby views that Paris and London are "predictable destinations".
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Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because I felt I could relate to the story, and hopefully learn something. I could relate to the events in this book, but I did not learn much of anything. My impression is that the author wrote this book to expose her mother's harsh judgment about her weight as a child. I can understand her anger, it very frustrating when someone will not even validate your feelings. However, the author is equally harsh to her mother in this book. In fact, it seems she even lost interest in the material when she found out her mother would not read it. The only bright spots are others advice, for example Stacy London. This book is not for women struggling with weight, it is for Valerie Frankel. It was interesting to me that others (her sister, her husband) would make comments to hint that she should get over herself. It did not appear that the author really got this message. Perhaps the only enlightenment this book offers is how unattractive self-absorption and bitterness is--even a size 6 can't help that.
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