There are so many health, diet and recipe books out there today, and it can truly be overwhelming knowing which one to pick or follow for best results.
The latest book of this nature that I have been introduced to is The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life by Bethenny Frankel. I was drawn to this book for several reasons. One of them was Bethenny’s reputation for her previous book being a New York Times Bestseller. Secondly, was that Bethenny is known as a “natural foods chef” and this book was acclaimed to be applicable to “parents, vegans, vegetarians, and people with food allergies.”
This book features over 60 recipes and claims to approach cooking in a “fast, practical and economical” way. The fact that nowhere on the front or back cover does it say “healthy” should have been a bit of a hint of what to expect from this book for me.
However, I wanted to give it a fair chance and so today I share with you my thoughts on this book, highlighting some of its strong and weak areas, to help you make the best informed decision where it is concerned.
The Skinnygirl Dish: The Origin
The Skinnygirl Dish was just published this past January 2010, and is written by Bethenny Frankel with Eve Adamson. It is a follow-up to Bethenny’s previous book and New York Times bestseller Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting.
Bethenny is a celebrity natural food chef and star of Bravo’s hit series “The Real Housewives of New York City.” She also has a monthly column in Health magazine. Eve Adamson is a freelance writer and co-author of various books.
This book is intended to get you in touch with your “inner chef”, take basic cooking skills to the next level, offer practical tips and de-stress the cooking routine.
The Skinnygirl Dish: The Structure
The Skinnygirl Dish is a paperback with over 280 pages. It includes over 60 recipes without any pictures of them, as it states that this is not meant to be a cookbook.
It begins with an introduction explaining “What’s the Skinnygirl Dish?” and than is divided into 3 parts of the following 15 chapters:
Part 1: The Skinny
Chapter 1 – How I Cook and How to Make it Yours
Chapter 2 – Show Me Your Kitchen and I’ll Show You Mine
Chapter 3 – The Skinnygirl Chef’s Essential Kitchen Rules
Chapter 4 – Use What You Have: Core Concepts
Chapter 5 – Learn From My Kitchen Blunders
Chapter 6 – Channeling Your Inner Chef
Part 2: What To Make: Recipes, Conversations, and Inspiration
Chapter 7 – Breakfast Breakthroughs
Chapter 8 – Light Lunches
Chapter 9 – Delicious Dinners
Chapter 10 – Snacking Simplified
Chapter 11 – Skinnygirl Drinks and Cocktails
Chapter 12 – Skinnygirl Deserts to Die For
Part 3: Skinnygirl Special Features
Chapter 13 – Lightened-Up Holidays and Special Occasions
Chapter 14 – How to Throw a Skinnygirl Party
Chapter 15 – Top Chefs, Skinnygirl Recipes
The book closes with a short epilogue from the author.
The Skinnygirl Dish: The Content and Personal Commentary
I have to tell you right off the start that I am normally very good at selecting the types of books that I read, and give my time and attention to. This is one of the reasons why I normally never have any negative reviews of material. I choose not to waste my time or energy on material that does not resonate with me, and also not have to put down the work of another person. Not giving our attention to that which we do not want or like has little to do with ignoring it or living in denial, and everything to do with creating the life, happiness and reality that we choose to attract to ourselves.
So when it came to this book, I have to tell you that I was sort of “unpleasantly” surprised by what it turned out to be. I mean do not get me wrong, there are many people who are going to love this book, and there are many parts of it that are fine. But on a greater scale, there are several “problem” areas with this book that I will explain below.
The first and most important short coming of this book is the emphasis in this book is just way too much on “being skinny“, and way to little, on “being healthy“. In fact, the word healthy is barely mentioned throughout the book. In today’s society where we have a challenge of balancing how we can deal with people with eating disorders and an obese population, I think this is not helpful to many. We have been there and done that, where the emphasis on “skinny” is concerned and it hasn’t worked because that whole time, we neglected the important part of where “healthy” fits into the equation.
Secondly, I do not find the book as empowering as it claims to be. I find it to be more along the lines of “you have a hard and busy life, and so just take the easy way out” kind of message. This is our health and our body that we are talking about. If our life is too busy to eat properly, we have some bigger issues to deal with. People today need to be taught how to have the time to make proper, natural meals, not how to take short cuts – we already have enough of those. And so along these lines, there is just too much fall back on processed foods throughout the book.
When I started reading this book, the introduction was fantastic. It drew me in as a reader instantly and the excuses Bethenny gave for not eating properly were all too common in our society. She said something very fantastic too, that “cooking is easy” – I couldn’t agree more.
Cooking can be stressful if you make it stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
I also agreed wholeheartedly when the author states that dieting is a trap. This is why we have the population health problems we have. However, as long as we also look at food for comfort, we are going to keep falling back into other traps that sabotage our health, weight and emotions.
The author also states that she went “to culinary school that specialized in food and healing, with health as a priority”. To me hearing that, and having read this book is a perfect example of why the word “healthy” has really lost its credibility, as it means so many things to different people.
I did like how the author believes a meal can be made in any kitchen. That is very true. All too often people open up refrigerators that are half-full only to exclaim that “there is nothing to eat.” There were many similar great points that she had throughout the book and I definitely don’t dismiss those.
However, then I would come across a section like that on nonstick cookware where the author highly recommends its use. To add to that she states herself that she is not a doctor or scientist and doesn’t know if it is really bad. Well, I have to say, it only takes a little research to find out. I personally find recommending nonstick cookware in this day and age really irresponsible. Not only is it a proven health hazard, but it is also an environmental disaster.
Finally, this book mentioned being friendly for vegans and vegetarians, and as a vegan, I can tell you I hardly found it so. There is a small section saying how to substitute tofu for meat, etc., and some small references for other substitutes in several places, other than that, the book is meat and dairy focused. I also found it sort of odd that meat (and tofu) were referred to solely as protein, like in the section “How to Prepare a Protein.” I feel this is misleading as it makes people think there is no protein in all the others foods, which there is, not to mention that most meat is 20 – 50% fat and hardly just a “protein“. In one instance too the author ponders if she got enough protein the night before. In a society where we are almost all eating too much protein, that is pretty much impossible.
In terms of the recipes, they are fine. Some of them are quite good and can really be used with a feeling that one is eating something healthy and I am sure delicious. Some of them are typical and based on questionable ingredients like lots of soy products, sugar and animal products. And there is also a section of alcoholic recipes, which have no place in our health altogether.
As for this book helping you get or stay skinny? Well based on the recipes and ingredients used, that all depends on how much of this food you eat. As with almost all food, it really comes down to portion sizes ingested and amount of food taken in throughout the day.
In conclusion, I really do applaud Bethenny for writing this book, as I know it is not easy, and give her the benefit of the doubt that she really wants to help people, but in my opinion, today it needs to be done in a different way. It is all too easy to tell people what they want to hear, and quite another to tell them what they need to hear. Statements like, “you can eat everything” may sound so freeing. Sure we can eat everything, but should we? Today’s health statistics tell us clearly not.
I also respect that for most chefs the priority lies in taste and presentation, not in optimal health, and so my way of looking at this book is very different from how she and others may see it.
In my opinion, this book is best suited for audiences that perhaps right now rely mostly on fast food and processed food, and want to take the next step towards healthier living. This book will definitely explain how to set up one’s kitchen, the basics to have whether food and materials, and where to go from there to make some meals. However, if someone is really health conscious, this is not the book for them.