Jolene Hart * Chronicle Books * February 25, 2014 * 208 Pages
I originally posted this review almost three years ago–back before I even had this blog–but I still see Eat Pretty everwhere! It kind of baffles me, honestly. I really hated this book (for the many reasons you will read below…), but apparently a lot of people don’t agree with me. In fact, I still get comments on my Amazon review for this book ALL the time, mostly people telling me how I don’t understand good nutrition and am too critical of the author, etc., etc., blah and blah.
But gosh darnit, I’m going to repost this review, just out of principle. I still stand by my assertion that women should not be judged as “pretty” or worthy based on the food they put in their mouths. Certain foods are going to make you feel better than others, sure, but food is emotionally neutral on its own. It shouldn’t be used as a form of judgment or punishment. There’s so much emotion already wrapped up in the discussion of food, weight, health, etc., and I hate that this book regurgitates the absolutely false and unhelpful assertion that what we eat determines our value and level of attractiveness.
ORIGINAL REVIEW – September 2014
Eat Pretty, by Jolene Hart, has a very, very specific audience–an audience that doesn’t have an even basic understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet, and an audience that is younger and perhaps dealing with self-esteem issues manifested in unhealthy eating habits.
In Part 1, “Rethink Beauty,” Hart wastes a lot of time (about 40 pages) explaining why her book is so important, why it will change your life. The gist of her message is, “I will help you eat healthy foods, and then you will feel incredible!” This section gives a pretty standard introduction to carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins. It’s basic information that most of us know or have read about before.
The second section of this book is the longest. In it, Hart gives advice for what healthy habits to focus on and which foods to eat during each of the four seasons. So, for example, during spring, her advice is to fill up on cleansing fluids (i.e., drink water), plant a garden, lighten up your liver (i.e., drink lemon water), simplify supper (i.e., steam your food), and reduce toxins (i.e., don’t eat processed foods). Then she lists a “beauty basket” of foods for the season (e.g., artichoke, asparagus, dandelion greens, sprouts, etc.), and gives recipes that include those foods.
I found the third section to be the most useful and practical. Ironically, it is also the shortest. While not completely absent of dud advice (e.g., be sure to chew each bite of your food 20-30 times!), Hart at least covers some more relevant and interesting topics like food pairing, massage, and fermented foods.
There were a couple of things about this book that irritated me. First, I hated how Hart kept using the word “un-pretty.” Eating a lot of sugar is so “un-pretty.” Or sometimes we just have “un-pretty” days when we just want to eat greasy pizza. Every time I read that word, it felt like judgment. It made me think of an overbearing mother who tells her slightly uncouth, boisterous daughter to “be sweet” or “be nice.” I get what Hart was going for with the whole “eat good to look good” theme, but why does “pretty” have to be the name we give that lifestyle choice?
I also thought Hart talked about food in an unrealistic way. While I agree that healthy, organic food is much better for my body and for the environment, let’s just be real, you know? Eating a sweet potato is not going to make me feel “incredible!” And steaming some asparagus for “supper” (my God, who says that anymore?) is not going to change my life. At one point Hart says that after you taste how good real food is, you will rethink the way you define “treats.” Instead of treating yourself to sweets, you will want to treat yourself to an expensive fillet of wild salmon or a “basket brimming with organic produce.” Seriously? No one who wants a piece of chocolate cake is going to suddenly change her mind and instead want a “basket brimming with organic produce.” Just don’t say stupid things like that. Hart should emphasize balance instead of creating these odd and impractical expectations.
Unfortunately, Hart’s unrealistic ideas about food are present in the entire book. Truth be told, I’m not so sure her romanticized perspective on organic produce is much different from other diet crazes or food fads: it’s still a part of the unhelpful belief that food, whether it be a fatty cheeseburger or a bowl of organic dandelion greens, has the power to change EVERYthing, to solve all of your problems, to make life AMAZING. In reality, though, food is just food. Yes, sugar makes you feel crappy; spinach doesn’t. But neither one is an emotional panacea. Don’t ask of food what it isn’t meant to give.
Ultimately, I thought this book was disappointing, and I really wouldn’t recommend it. I think Feed Your Face, The Beauty Detox Solution, and The Beauty Detox Foods address the same subject in a better way.
Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.