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Will Americans Accept 'Obsessed,' a Tale of Food Addiction, from a 'Skinny Girl?'

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Mika Brzezinski says she may not look like a food addict, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to one's personal ongoing battles with food.

Although Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” admits she has never had a weight problem, she insists that she can relate to the ongoing need to eat to excess, thus the title of her new book with Diane Smith, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and My Own.

One would expect someone with an admitted food addiction would also have a companion weight problem, but not so with Brzezinski. And, she realizes that many people may be skeptical of her ability to truly relate to the problems of those who DO have weight issues they blame on what they perceive as “food addictions.” But, Brzezinski insists that, despite her small dress size, she knows the everyday struggle food addicts go through because, in fact, she IS a food addict.

Confessions of a 'Skinny Girl'

Although she is thin—and thanks good genes for much of that particular success—she also insists that her relationship with food has been destructive since her teenage years. In an excerpt of her book on the Today Show website, Brzezinski writes:

This is the book I have been afraid to write . . . terrified actually. It deals with an issue that is radioactive for me. How I eat, diet, and look has tied me up in knots my entire life, and I know I am not alone. I have been held hostage by food since I was thirteen years old. My body started filling out more than the figures of other girls in my class, and that set off what has become a thirty-year battle with my body image. Food has been my enemy. My determination to be thin has led me to extremes, and I’ve done damage to my body and my mind in the process.

Brzezinski relates issues she has had with food throughout those 30 years, and even shares a particularly illustrative--and recent--incident when, while taking the sleeping drug Ambien, her husband watched her devour an entire jar of Nutella, apparently acting out her longings in her sleeping-pill-induced trance. In high school, she told USA Today, she would eat two or three Big Macs at once, and in college she could—and would—order and consume and entire large pizza, followed by a three to five day period of starvation and punishing 10-mile runs. The Nutella incident, however, is particularly illustrative of the grip food has on her, considering it happened only months ago—not in high school, not in college, but at age 46.

Still, many people, she realizes, will not be interested in hearing about food addiction from a “skinny girl,” and may even be nasty about it. But, she says she is willing to go there for the good of the cause that she feels needs to be approached vigorously.

"I know I'm not going to be a likable character to everybody,” she told USA Today honestly. “I can tell by the way people are responding, but if it gets the conversation going about food obsessions, I'll take the hit.”

Dealing with their Obsessed Lives

Brzezinski wrote the book with her friend and fellow TV journalist Diane Smith, who weighed 250 pounds at 5’8” when Brzezinski got the courage to approach her about the issue. Smith, she said, appeared “stunned” when Brzezinski used the words “fat” and “obese” to describe her, almost as if she was unaware of the excess weight she had gained over the years. But, although it seemed at first that the friendship might be over, a conversation was opened, and a new endeavor started for both journalists: Smith, to lose 75 pounds; Brzezinski, to gain 10 pounds; and to write Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—And My Own as a team.

Both women are grateful for the opportunity to approach their separate issues with food in one book. Smith says Brzezinski’s honesty woke her up; Brzezinski says the project has led to her having her diet evaluated by a nutritionist, and finding that she was not eating enough in her efforts to fight her addictions. She also was motivated to see a psychologist, and feels she is making progress. Not only has she made a break from weighing herself every night before bed, she hopes she is going to be a better role model for her own teenage daughters, 14 and 17, she told USA Today.

"I would love for them not to have an obsessed life. I'd like them to be as happy and healthy as they are right now. I want them to enjoy their lives more than anything else."

For more of Brzezinski’s interview with USA Today, click here; to read the excerpt from Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—And My Own, go to the Today Show website.

Read more about food addiction on Huliq: "Just Who Is a Food Addict and Is There Help?"

Image: Weinstein Books, Publisher

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