Food and Loathing

A Life Measured Out in Calories

Food and Loathing

With warmth, wit, and not a trace of self-pity" (Entertainment Weekly), Betsy Lerner details her twenty-year struggle with depression and compulsive eating in Food and Loathing, a book that dares to expose the insidious nature of women's secret life with food.
"Alternating between hilarious and heartbreaking" (People), Food and Loathing gives voice to one of the last taboo subjects and greatest stigmas of our time: being overweight. Lerner's revelations on the cult of thinness -- from the dreaded weigh-in at junior high gym class to the effects of inhaling Pepperidge Farm Goldfish at Olympic speeds -- are universally resonant, as is her belief that this is one battle no one should fight alone.
Essential reading for anyone who has ever wielded a fork in despair or calculated her self-worth on the morning scale, "Lerner's lament is a triumph" (Publishers Weekly).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743255509 | 
  • February 2004
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Reading Group Guide

Food and Loathing
Reading Group Guide
1. In Food and Loathing, Betsy Lerner copes with her fear of rejection by compromising her integrity with hopes that others will befriend her, like her, or not subject her to verbal abuse. "I was funny, I was generous, I was reliable...I was becoming your standard-issue fat friend." How does that coping mechanism prevent her from learning how to define her boundaries? Recall moments when she finds herself mute or succumbs to peer pressure out of fear of rejection. How does that coping mechanism undermine her ability to gain control over her eating disorder?
2. When visiting Dr. Mizner, Betsy felt as though Bob the Doorman should remember her. Betsy says, "it irritated me beyond reason that he refused to recognize me." What was Dr. Mizner's interpretation of why Betsy was so frustrated by Bob's lack of recognition? Why do you think Betsy felt so strongly about her interactions with Bob the Doorman?
3. Betsy found it difficult to hide her depression from her mother. She says, "She knew from the first syllable I muttered over the phone whether I was up or down." What is it about Betsy's relationship with her mother that makes it difficult for her to be of help to Betsy? What kind of mother does Betsy seem to desire?"
4. Throughout the book she continuously creates metaphors that compare her body to food. "I imagined myself a piece of meat at the butcher's, ready to be weighed and wrapped u see more

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Sometimes you have to go all the way down the road in order tocome back up and sometimes that journey leads to a really excellent book. Each of these memoirstells a story that is as universal as it isuniquely personal.

About the Author

Betsy Lerner
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Betsy Lerner

Betsy Lerner holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She is the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize and an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was selected as one of PEN's Emerging Writers in 1987. She is the author of The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.