Everyone Should Read This Book About Diet Culture

Published on 7/4/2022

I’m a big Alex Light fan, to put it mildly. I discovered her Instagram during Lockdown, and her body-positive content was exactly what I needed. She draws upon a lot of her experiences with disordered eating and is very open about how she’s still learning herself. But what I love most is her tone, she is always stripped back and open, sharing both her goofy humour and anxieties.

So when I heard she was releasing a book, I was more than excited. I pre-ordered my copy and waited for it to *finally* reach the Netherlands. At the back of my mind was the fear that 'You Are Not a Before Picture' wouldn’t live up to my excitement. I loved her Instagram, podcast and articles, but what if this book wasn’t done well? What if it was just another influencer publishing a book?

This book didn’t live up to my expectations… it surpassed them!

Personal and professional

Alex has years of journalistic experience, and still regularly writes for publications like Glamour UK, and you can really see this influence in her book. She seamlessly weaves together scientific research with her own experiences and that of others, to create a cohesive narrative throughout the book. This isn’t an influencer memoir, it’s a wake-up call to how we view eating and bodies as a society, and the damage this is wreaking.

‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ manages to come across as highly personal, as Alex shares the best and worst of herself. She is also careful to acknowledge her own privilege and limitations, calling upon other experts when necessary. She acknowledges the difference between being fat as a white woman rather than a black woman, as well as being straight-sized. This allows her to cover more ground and stay aware, while also showing that diet culture impacts everyone.

Non-fiction and a negative

I’m usually less keen on non-fiction as I find it to be repetitive. Writers will often oversimplify issues and repeat the same advice, repackaged with some anecdote that’s a little too coincidental to be real. I find that their advice is usually little more than common sense. But Alex gives exact steps for working towards body acceptance, and focuses much more on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ of the matter.

My only ‘negative’ would be the format. While I find the pink cover and style to be beautiful, I almost wish it looked more like a traditional book. This book holds so much valuable information, regarding the history of diet culture and nutritional information, input from doctors and painstaking truths about life with an eating disorder, and I almost worry that the format detracts from that. I worry someone wouldn’t believe in it for this reason. And yet, that’s also ridiculous, as we shouldn’t dismiss books for being pretty!

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder since the age of 15, I haven’t often felt hopeful about it. You can reach a point where you eat normally, have a larger size, and yet the thoughts will usually remain. But ‘You Are Not a Before Picture’ gave me the hope I’ve been missing for so long. It not only painted the possibility of a future where I feel at home in my body, but showed clear steps towards that goal. Alex manages to be an inspirational figure while also being relatable enough that you hold hope in following her steps and feel less alone doing so.

I wish everyone would read this book, whether or not you struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia, because you surely know someone who does. This book made me think that society could actually work towards a future without inherent fatphobia. I’ve already found myself dropping things I learned into conversations, trying to spread Alex’s wisdom further.

I’ll be recommending 'You Are Not a Before Picture' until everyone is sick of hearing about it, because I feel changed after reading it.

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Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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