Book Review: Hungry

By August 16, 2011book review

by Natalie Lynn Borton

This weekend I finally had the chance to read Crystal Renn’s book “Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves.” I’ve wanted to read it for months, so when it finally arrived in the mail (along with, as you can see, my brand new Moleskine planner) I was ecstatic. I immediately cracked it open and started reading on Friday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon I had completely finished it. Talk about devouring a book.

Crystal is a truly inspiring 25-year-old. She started modeling when she was 14 and battled anorexia for years in order to compete with other models in the industry. After accidentally gaining weight and being criticized by her agency, she finally had a breakthrough and decided to become a plus-sized model for Ford. From there, she committed to healing from her eating disorder and embraced her natural size, and her career escalated to a level she never imagined.

Although I wouldn’t put it on my list of all-time favorite books, I would definitely recommend reading it. Crystal has a powerful story that is worth hearing, especially for those of us who have struggled with getting value from the way our body looks. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the book:

On starving herself:

“I was in a constant state of panic. I had no energy, felt no joy. I was freezing all the time. I was constantly constipated; my stomach pain was so ever-present that I took its constant thrumming for granted. I had trouble sleeping. I experienced regular heart palpitations. My joints, especially those in my knees and jaw, ached terribly. My hair was breaking off and falling out. My skin developed a gray tinge. I had a perpetual headache. I often heard ringing in my ears. I sometimes had trouble breathing. My skin was Sahara-dry. My throat and joints ached badly enough that I often wanted to cry. If I stood up too quickly, I’d get so dizzy that I had to put a hand on the wall to make the room stop spinning. I was always exhausted. I needed loads of caffeine to make it through my eight-hour workouts. My legs were so covered in bruises that I looked like I had an abusive boyfriend. My pathology was my lover. I don’t know what death feels like, but this had to be the beginning. I wanted to claw off my own face.” (page 93)

On the consequences of anorexia:

“Whatever the cause, anorexia is notoriously difficult to treat. It has a depressingly high fatality rate. Up to 20 percent of people with this disease die of it, according to the nonprofit Eating Disorders Coalition. That makes it the deadliest mental illness, the one with the highest premature mortality rate.” (page 109)

On perfection and external focus:

“We’re supposed to tinker and reduce and perfect–it’s integral to the gig of being modern women. When we’re focused on our bodies, we don’t have the external focus to turn to the outside world. The ironic thing is that if we did focus on improving the world…we’d wind up healthier as a country, and perhaps thinner.” (page 123)

On dieting:

“There’s a concept called false hope syndrome, described by psychologists at the University of Toronto. Dieting is the perfect example of it. People keep trying to do something over and over, despite repeated failures. They explain away each failure and try again with renewed vigor. Overwhelming odds against success don’t deter them–hope springs eternal! Diets don’t work long-term, but people blame themselves, not the diet. The very act of embarking on yet another diet makes us feel better and more hopeful. This time it will work. This time we’ll do it right. We feel empowered. We’re finally taking control of our lives. But the ending is always the same.” (page 128)

On self-acceptance:

“One fact is constant: Self-acceptance is a choice. You live in your body every day, and I live in mine. Some days it’s difficult to live in my body, as I imagine it’s difficult for you to live in yours. I used to hear a voice in my head every day telling me to obsess about my thighs. That voice is still there, but now it whispers instead of screams. I told the voice I wouldn’t listen to it anymore. I told the voice I refuse to let you win.” (page 212)

On confidence:

“The solution is to accept that the only person you have to please is yourself. Indulge your instincts, wear what you love, and embrace your own natural size. As tired as it sounds, self-acceptance has to come from within. You simple cannot look to the wider world for a perpetual stream of affirmation. It won’t be there. And life is too short to hate yourself. Confidence is what ultimately makes us attractive, no matter what we look like.” (page 222)

What does self-acceptance look like for you? In what ways do you choose body confidence?

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