I love books, which is why I was so attracted to work in publishing when I left university, and one of my favourite ever memories was the first time I walked through the warehouse at Penguin, seeing row upon row of stacks of shiny new books. The colours of the covers, the potential enjoyment, I was in heaven.
This has led me to buy pretty much every image book out there, one of the most recent purchases was the new Charla Krupp, How To Never Look Fat Again.
What I liked – there are lots of useful and practical ‘rules’ to follow for each body part that many women wish to conceal. It’s easy to read and there are some good before and after pictures that show the difference. She pictures High Fat vs No Fat clothing options which give you a quick and easy guide to flattering each body part.
Krupp has chapters on figuring out if it’s just your clothes making you look fat and then moves onto various body parts: big bust, wide face (who knew that was a problem?), arm flap (I kid you not), muffin top and back fat, buddah belly, wide hips and thighs, big booty (considered a plus by many), heavy calves, wide feet & ankles, thick neck and broad shoulders. Then moves onto what to wear to never look ifat in summer, winter, working out and evening wear.
What I didn’t like – the language – open the front cover to reveal a litany of negativity: moon face, fire-hydrant neck, claw foot, hulky legs, chipmunk cheeks, saggy boobs, back boobs, melon calves, arm dangle, thunder thighs, grandma flab ….. it goes on and on and on.
The book is arranged into chapters each focusing on a body part. At the start of each is a list of possible negative terms to use for that body part. I was horrified to find that I was learning new ways to mentally abuse my body and tell it how terrible it is and that someone there is something more wrong with me than I thought! There was no positive reinforcement of how beautiful every woman’s body is, just that view that you are flawed and it must be fixed and hidden.
If you are sensitive, instead opt to get Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked (he’s the English presenter of the show). Wouldn’t you rather be called a Bellyssimo Babe than a Buddah Belly?
One of the things I’ve become very aware of as an image consultant is being careful with the language I use about bodies and body parts. NLP practitioners will all agree that negative language is very damaging and should be avoided.
So to sum up, lots of great ideas Charla, but a pity about the execution. Can we please stop attacking women’s bodies just to make a buck?
Just the title of that woman's book offends me. Seriously, has she been conscious for any of the "fat abuser" debates? How will we ever move towards accepting all people when books like this get mainstream attention? I think it's very interesting, what you wrote about finding new terms with which to mentally abuse yourself…
On the other hand, I love that Feel Good Naked guy. I've only ever seen the show once but I was blown away by how loving he was – and seemingly truly attracted to the women he's trying to help to feel wonderful about themselves.
Until we see people laud bodies of larger (and different) shapes than the media standard, how will that standard change?
The other day I was imagining how I might feel if my stomach (which I was touching and not feeling very good about) was the absolute standard of attractiveness. Would I love it and feel "genetically" blessed?
I agree with you. I read the book and was immediately struck by how everything is a problem to be concealed. Her attitude was in direct contrast to the book "The Triumph of Individual Style" which celebrates all shapes and types of women's bodies.
Thank you for writing about the importance of language. From terms like big butt to bootylicious, what a difference it makes in how we view our strengths and weaknesses and how we can even turn a negative into a positive.
Thank you for steering me away from this (I had read her how not to look old book & found the 'before' photos mostly ridiculously schlumpakinka). I gave up one of my favorite women's mags years ago when it seemed every issue had an article about how to hide unacceptable body parts (like older upper arms, knees, etc.). We boomers are changing that whole attitude despite the media's best efforts at hiding us. (Just looked down & saw how far down it is to step off this soapbox!) et
A great post and some great comments. I especially love et's about boomers challenging the media's portrayal of us.
Initially I was all set to go and buy Krupp's book but certainly don't need any more negative language in my head!
Interesting. And I agree, the language is offensive. Although I've always kind of liked the term "moon face" ever since I found out that it was Blondie's nickname in high school.
Interesting take on Krupp's choice of adjectives. I don't want to look fat but we DO abuse ourselves way too much when critiquing our bodies.
I recently bought the book on Amazon and I was pretty disappointed. To sum it up if you were to follow the book especially the last page on the 100 most fattening things you can wear…….seriously I don't think there is anything left you can wear might as well stay home woman lol!! In general I just found too many what you shouldn't wear and not enough what you can wear….and can we please realise that we all can't walk around in high heels all day with our hair down….sometimes flats and headbands are a necessity!
I agree, we don't need to learn cruel words to apply to ourselves. On the other hand, some of us look fat because we are. I considered her book, but decided if I do need to lose weight, her book is useless. If she does have good ideas, though, might you be sharing them with us? I've learned so much from your blog already, it's completely amazing. Thank you so much for all the inspiration you provide.
I didn't like Charla's first book and I liked it less when I saw her in person giving a talk on the book. I think, my friend, you need to write the book that combines your INCREDIBLE image consultant skills with your knowledge of how to make a great book. xx+pbc
Well said. You SHOULD write a book, Imogen. Really. I can't stand any type of negative body comments. When I was growing up, I was called a Skinny Sheila by an Oz boy in my class at school. Then it was boys yelling "lucky legs! Lucky they don't snap." Then the boy opposite, with whom I was madly in love, said something like "the girl across the street's shoulder blades stick out more than her t*ts." (Which they did, haha.) I've never lived that one down in my mind. Ugh! So anything negative abou the physical being is a big no-no for me. In a book, it's unforgivable.
Wow, and I thought my mother had cornered the market on body disparagement language! Looks like Charla takes it to a whole 'nother level. Imogen, I've already learned so much about flattering dressing from both you and Karen; I doubt Charla's advice is any better.
Hi Imogen! It's gracious that you started off with positive remarks about the book…as I was advised to do in college about giving feedback on research papers!
I read this author's first book (from the library, glad I didn't buy it) and also found her tone demeaning and not funny. And just the overall idea that we're all about hiding and creating this deception. I mean, I'm all for accentuating the positive, and truthfully, I've learned more from you (Imogen) than I learned from many of the books out there.
I think I need that Feel Good Naked book. I constantly stream a feed of negative body talk to myself; I'd love some help with that.
p.s. I agree with Belette. YOU write the definitive book.
Charla irritates me because she's so anti-gray, and her own hair is a cry for help. That said, she has had good fashion advice in the past. I bought the new book, and it was worth the money just to walk away feeling smug. I was like, wow, I didn't know I looked this good, because I certainly can't be as bad as all that!
Yeah, I can't imagine it would be good for your business if you used such language! Ugh.
"If you are sensitive"? How about, "if you have a brain in your head"?
Charla Krupp makes money by amplifying women's insecurities about their bodies. Don't pull your punches, Imogen.
I hate Charla's new book. Very negative. Wouldn't buy it.
I find your blog very informative and useful. Keep it up!
Sheesh, Charla! I noticed every derogatory term was geared toward those with "more fluff", not less! How would the skinny b's like their bodies referred to like this:
flat butt, stick legs, raisin boobs, knobby knees, emaciated, anorexic, skeletal…