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Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women

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An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms women's ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg. Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions wh An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms women's ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg. Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions when it comes to beauty. They don’t want to be Barbie dolls but, like generations of women before them, are told they must look like them. They’re angry about the media’s treatment of women but hungrily consume the very outlets that belittle them. They mock modern culture’s absurd beauty ideal and make videos exposing Photoshopping tricks, but feel pressured to emulate the same images they criticize by posing with a "skinny arm." They understand that what they see isn’t real but still download apps to airbrush their selfies. Yet these same young women are fierce fighters for the issues they care about. They are ready to fight back against their beauty-sick culture and create a different world for themselves, but they need a way forward. In Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, whose TEDx talk on beauty sickness has received more than 250,000 views, reveals the shocking consequences of our obsession with girls’ appearance on their emotional and physical health and their wallets and ambitions, including depression, eating disorders, disruptions in cognitive processing, and lost money and time. Combining scientific studies with the voices of real women of all ages, she makes clear that to truly fulfill their potential, we must break free from cultural forces that feed destructive desires, attitudes, and words—from fat-shaming to denigrating commentary about other women. She provides inspiration and workable solutions to help girls and women overcome negative attitudes and embrace their whole selves, to transform their lives, claim the futures they deserve, and, ultimately, change their world. Duration: 11 hr., 45 min., 39 sec.


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An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms women's ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg. Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions wh An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms women's ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg. Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions when it comes to beauty. They don’t want to be Barbie dolls but, like generations of women before them, are told they must look like them. They’re angry about the media’s treatment of women but hungrily consume the very outlets that belittle them. They mock modern culture’s absurd beauty ideal and make videos exposing Photoshopping tricks, but feel pressured to emulate the same images they criticize by posing with a "skinny arm." They understand that what they see isn’t real but still download apps to airbrush their selfies. Yet these same young women are fierce fighters for the issues they care about. They are ready to fight back against their beauty-sick culture and create a different world for themselves, but they need a way forward. In Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, whose TEDx talk on beauty sickness has received more than 250,000 views, reveals the shocking consequences of our obsession with girls’ appearance on their emotional and physical health and their wallets and ambitions, including depression, eating disorders, disruptions in cognitive processing, and lost money and time. Combining scientific studies with the voices of real women of all ages, she makes clear that to truly fulfill their potential, we must break free from cultural forces that feed destructive desires, attitudes, and words—from fat-shaming to denigrating commentary about other women. She provides inspiration and workable solutions to help girls and women overcome negative attitudes and embrace their whole selves, to transform their lives, claim the futures they deserve, and, ultimately, change their world. Duration: 11 hr., 45 min., 39 sec.

30 review for Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I consider this book invaluable now more than ever when, despite a revitalized women’s rights movement, objectification of women shows no sign of ending. In fact, as author Renee Engeln pointed out, not only do media continue to objectify women, women self-objectify. These are the sexy selfies, the dressing for the male gaze, to name two examples. That’s proof of internalization of media objectification, sexism that very often gets a free pass. It’s a sign that modern culture is what Engeln call I consider this book invaluable now more than ever when, despite a revitalized women’s rights movement, objectification of women shows no sign of ending. In fact, as author Renee Engeln pointed out, not only do media continue to objectify women, women self-objectify. These are the sexy selfies, the dressing for the male gaze, to name two examples. That’s proof of internalization of media objectification, sexism that very often gets a free pass. It’s a sign that modern culture is what Engeln calls “beauty sick.” To illustrate her points, Engeln interviewed women of all ages and from all walks of life suffering from various degrees of beauty sickness. Most accounts are by turns shocking and sad. I was fascinated and saddened by an account of one woman who found her street harassment was reduced considerably after she shaved her head, stopped wearing makeup, and started wearing baggy clothing. My heart broke for a woman who, as a tween, was told by her mom that she had the body “of a middle-aged woman.” I was frustrated by the woman who had to be perfectly made up just to run a single errand because her father had taught her that “a woman’s beauty is her power.” Only three accounts are inspirational. These come from women who’ve managed to reject objectifying media messages. Beauty sickness is a complex topic, and Beauty Sick covers a lot. In between the interviews, Engeln zoomed out to focus on beauty sickness more widely, integrating results of research that she and her team conducted at her lab at Northwestern University, plus other research. In addition to covering the pervasiveness of objectifying media (and societal mentalities, which are informed by media), she examined extensively how shame and social media feed beauty sickness. I particularly admired Engeln’s criticism of the highly lauded Dove beauty campaign. It broke down exactly why I’ve never found the campaign empowering. Dove has good intentions, but, as Engeln explained, the company is misguided and its campaign problematic. Also enlightening is her (very needed) argument against fat shaming as motivation to lose weight and the parts on the influence of parenting and self-objectification (especially pertinent). Beauty Sick concludes with a thick section devoted to fighting beauty sickness, something unusual about this feminist book; most examine a problem but end there. Beauty Sick offers hope. This section makes a lot of sense, backed as it is by sound research--and one final inspirational interview. My only criticism is in the technical delivery, and for this I docked a star. Engeln knows her stuff for sure, but her writing swings from one tense to another constantly, going from first to second to third person. She’s a professor at Northwestern University. I’d expect she’d be a more careful writer. Nevertheless, I was acutely aware of media objectification and self-objectification prior to starting Beauty Sick yet still found this book informative and unlike other feminist material I’ve read. I’m also grateful for it, grateful to see this kind of everyday sexism truly confronted. It’s long overdue.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    I found this to be remarkably sage advice from the author's grandfather: "Never be too proud of your youth or your beauty. You did nothing to earn them and you can do nothing to keep them." And I quite liked this poem by Rupi Kaur that Dr Engeln quotes: "i want to apologize to all women i have called pretty. before i've called them intelligent or brave. i am sorry i made it sound as though something as simple as what you're born with is the most you have to be proud of" And I've observed this many times I found this to be remarkably sage advice from the author's grandfather: "Never be too proud of your youth or your beauty. You did nothing to earn them and you can do nothing to keep them." And I quite liked this poem by Rupi Kaur that Dr Engeln quotes: "i want to apologize to all women i have called pretty. before i've called them intelligent or brave. i am sorry i made it sound as though something as simple as what you're born with is the most you have to be proud of" And I've observed this many times: "A beauty-sick culture always, always finds a way to comment on a women's appearance, no matter how irrelevant it is to the matter at hand." Think of newscasters, supreme court justices, politicians, anyone who has to come before the public eye. And think of trolls and flamers who attack on social media, who think anonymity is their license to say any nasty thing they please. I was drawn to this book by its title because I have observed and experienced this 'sickness' in my own life and amongst family members, my mother, my daughters, and really believe women could accomplish so much more if they were allowed to fully be the truly awesome people they are inside rather than feeling constantly judged on their outer physical attractiveness. "[Beauty sickness] matters because it's hard to change the world when you're so busy trying to change your body, your skin, your hair, and your clothes. It's difficult to engage with the state of the economy, the state of politics, or the state of the education system if you're too busy worrying about the state of your muffin top, the state of your cellulite, or the state of your makeup. There is work to be done in this world." And we need everyone to be fully engaged. Dr Engeln, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, presents her case well, with personal classroom observation, interviews with various women and academic studies to back up her theories. She also has some suggestions: Move towards more self-acceptance by weaning yourself from digitally-enhanced, photoshopped images on tv, movies, magazines, and social media. Wean yourself from that mirror obsession and making comparisons to others! Help teach our little girls that attributes like being kind, brave, smart are more important than size and appearance. Break free from body stereotypes with deliberate intent and perseverance! Watch what you say to others. If you wouldn't say it to a guy, don't say it to a woman. "Compliments about appearance don't actually seem to make girls and women feel better about how they look. Instead, they're just reminders that looks matter." Although I feel this book has an important message, it became a bit repetitive. I wish Dr Engeln had expanded her expose to other areas of our society where beauty prejudice may be at work. And as an older reader, I was hoping she would delve into the experience of reaching old age in this youth-enamored culture. The closest she came to that subject was mentioning the fears of the young about aging, discovering a few grey hairs, etc. What will happen when these beauty-obsessed young women actually GET old and find they have nothing to fall back on? It might be interesting to have that discussion as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    “Beauty sickness turns us away from the world and drains our compassion. It leaves us stuck in our heads, bound by our reflections.” Highly recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I anticipated that this book, like most psychology books designed for the General Public, would involve summarizing a lot of research I already knew in the way that was interesting and possibly related to my life. What I didn't expect was Renee's voice and passion to reach through the pages and make me feel how beauty sickness has affected me and others on a deeper level. I was sickened by the negative way women talk about and view their own bodies. I related to the shame people felt about their I anticipated that this book, like most psychology books designed for the General Public, would involve summarizing a lot of research I already knew in the way that was interesting and possibly related to my life. What I didn't expect was Renee's voice and passion to reach through the pages and make me feel how beauty sickness has affected me and others on a deeper level. I was sickened by the negative way women talk about and view their own bodies. I related to the shame people felt about their body’s and the focus on appearance over health. I was inspired by the interventions that helped people improve their body image. The book is told through a mixture of psychology research and stories told by real women. The mix of facts and anecdotes was perfect. You got the knowledge and science behind beauty sickness. But you also heard the voices of women tell their own tales in a very human and relatable way. What is absolutely terrifying and shows how beauty sick our culture really is, is that while reading this book, I often felt like I should be engaging in the negative behaviors that were discussed. For example, hearing about how people use special software to edit their photos before posting on social media made me consider doing that before posting my next photos! But this book also changed the way I think of myself and my body in a positive way. I thought I knew about the negative effects of the media on body image, especially as a psychologist myself. I was unprepared for how little I actually knew, especially when it came to misconceptions about our bodies and how we treat them. I read the chapter on shame and started crying, because I related to so much of it. I didn't realize that I was trying to motivate myself to lose weight by shaming myself into feeling bad about my weight and what I was eating until I read this book. Beauty Sick has changed the way I think about myself and given me new strategies for cultivating a positive self-image and loving my body. I loved that the section on what we can do about beauty sickness was so extensive. It really opened my eyes to how I think about and treat my body as well as what I can do differently to improve my self-image. I've always hated exercising. I never realized that the reason I hated it was probably because I always thought the point was to lose weight. Exercising felt like a punishment to me- something I had to do so I could shave off a few pounds. I never thought about viewing through a "look what I can do!" lens or to think about what I might have fun doing instead of what I *should* be doing. I read this book ravenously- staying up late to read just one more chapter and sneaking pages in at work to devour its content. I needed to hear both how beauty sick our culture is and what I can do about it. I think every woman would personally benefit from reading this book. I hope its message becomes widespread and that we can make positive changes in our culture to decrease beauty sickness. In the meantime, we can make changes in our own lives and in the lives of the women we love by reading this book and applying it to ourselves and the people we love.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paula Fernandez

    I felt this book functioned more as an op ed than a piece of real research. I know the social sciences are pretty loose with what they accept as evidence, but the author has put about 80% of the weight of proving her points on a series of interviews of mostly young women who were directed to her precisely because they have the beauty sick characteristics she was looking for. There was very little attempt to systematically approach the topic. "Beauty sick"is never formally defined... its left as I felt this book functioned more as an op ed than a piece of real research. I know the social sciences are pretty loose with what they accept as evidence, but the author has put about 80% of the weight of proving her points on a series of interviews of mostly young women who were directed to her precisely because they have the beauty sick characteristics she was looking for. There was very little attempt to systematically approach the topic. "Beauty sick"is never formally defined... its left as a sort of "you'll know it when you see it" definition. She makes little attempt at verifying and measuring prevalence of this condition, apart from surveys in her own classrooms. She does nothing to differentiate the characteristics of "beauty sickness" for different populations , for instance, by age demographic, which I would have found quite interesting. Furthermore, I think she frequently mistakes a socioeconomically based anxiety--fear of appearing inappropriate for a social group--with her more body obsessed target group. This is clearly a different thing and far more gender neutral. I was pretty disappointed in the quality of this work as a research document.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I must admit, I hold the opinion that anyone with eyes and a brain and some time to reflect upon the Western trends and obsessions would arrive at similar conclusions as Engeln even without interviewing all the different girls and women, but perhaps I'm wrong. It was interesting enough, but neither particularly eye-opening nor really to the point but kinda all over the place.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This was a great book. I listened to it on audiobook and every day I came home with things to talk about with my wife. I have often said that there's a handbook for boys and a handbook for girls but it's unfair that the boys handbook doesn't say anything about girls while the girls handbook includes the boys handbook in its entirety. I know that's just my own silly idea, But what I enjoyed so much about this book is I feel like I really gain some insight into The pressure that women and girls fac This was a great book. I listened to it on audiobook and every day I came home with things to talk about with my wife. I have often said that there's a handbook for boys and a handbook for girls but it's unfair that the boys handbook doesn't say anything about girls while the girls handbook includes the boys handbook in its entirety. I know that's just my own silly idea, But what I enjoyed so much about this book is I feel like I really gain some insight into The pressure that women and girls face. I also gained insight into how the culture how of the world, USA particulary, can be so detrimental to women and girls. This toxic environment is sometimes self inflicted, Not always intentional and not always with malice but there is a hill to climb nonetheless. I recommend this book for anybody but as a man who is the father of daughters and who works with women and is married to one this was eye-opening.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I wish I learnt more about the author's research from this book because she hardly gives any details on her methods and mostly focuses on quoting some of the women she interviewed. I also found a few parts quite embarrassing - she literally admits that she heard about k-pop from an Asian-American woman she had talked to, then googled some info and... decided to put her opinion in the book. Considering Renee Engeln is a university professor, it's just... Yeah, I'll leave that sentence unfinished. I wish I learnt more about the author's research from this book because she hardly gives any details on her methods and mostly focuses on quoting some of the women she interviewed. I also found a few parts quite embarrassing - she literally admits that she heard about k-pop from an Asian-American woman she had talked to, then googled some info and... decided to put her opinion in the book. Considering Renee Engeln is a university professor, it's just... Yeah, I'll leave that sentence unfinished. However, I do appreciate her passion and I agree with many of her points. The terror of beauty is something we should never stop talking about and although I hardly learnt anything new from "Beauty Sick", I don't regret reading it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    If, as the author posits, the vast majority of women waste an inordinate amount of time and mental energy obsessing about whether their appearance meets an unattainable ideal, that is a true waste. Her research at Northwestern University seems to support this. And the solution, if I understand correctly, is simply not to talk to girls about their appearance. Girls are already deluged with media images of retouched, photoshopped women. Lets do our daughters and granddaughters a big favor and stop If, as the author posits, the vast majority of women waste an inordinate amount of time and mental energy obsessing about whether their appearance meets an unattainable ideal, that is a true waste. Her research at Northwestern University seems to support this. And the solution, if I understand correctly, is simply not to talk to girls about their appearance. Girls are already deluged with media images of retouched, photoshopped women. Lets do our daughters and granddaughters a big favor and stop commenting on their looks: let's talk about what they can DO instead.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Yes. Important. Ladies, the science supports some of what you already know. But! Some of what maybe you think you know isn't supported by the data. The first 75% is not too cheerful, but the last quarter is 1) really heartening and 2) really USEFUL. Share this book with your loved ones.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I've been a huge fan of Renee since I took her Intro to Psychology course way back in the day. This book is like seeing her lecture: conversationally engaging with lots of anecdotes and data. That said, this book almost felt TOO narrow in focus and too dependent on case studies. While Beauty Sickness's effect on women is a worthy research topic, I felt like the book didn't focus enough on how to navigate Beauty Sickness other than to opt out, which is not always an option. How does Beauty Sickne I've been a huge fan of Renee since I took her Intro to Psychology course way back in the day. This book is like seeing her lecture: conversationally engaging with lots of anecdotes and data. That said, this book almost felt TOO narrow in focus and too dependent on case studies. While Beauty Sickness's effect on women is a worthy research topic, I felt like the book didn't focus enough on how to navigate Beauty Sickness other than to opt out, which is not always an option. How does Beauty Sickness affect hiring? Dating? How does it interplay with race? There seemed to be another, darker, inescapable layer that Renee skims the surface of, and I think the book would have benefited from presenting the intersectionality of Beauty Sickness and privilege.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    I was introduced to Dr. Renee Engeln on Alie Ward's podcast, Ologies, where Englen was interviewed about beauty standards. Englen was smart and funny and just the right amount of angry—a lot—so I sought out her book. And it's excellent, but for obvious reasons I could only read a chapter at a time. The good news is that even though the subject matter is very difficult to read about, the prose is very easy to read—though I did immediately get sick of the term "beauty sickness." I almost feel like I was introduced to Dr. Renee Engeln on Alie Ward's podcast, Ologies, where Englen was interviewed about beauty standards. Englen was smart and funny and just the right amount of angry—a lot—so I sought out her book. And it's excellent, but for obvious reasons I could only read a chapter at a time. The good news is that even though the subject matter is very difficult to read about, the prose is very easy to read—though I did immediately get sick of the term "beauty sickness." I almost feel like it trivializes the problem; it definitely fails to get across how debilitating it can be, and what a serious impact it can have on girls and women, physically and mentally. Instead it sounds like one of those illnesses women got where they'd fall into a swoon and have to lie on a chaise lounge in a corset that made it impossible to breathe while a doctor diagnosed them with "wandering uterus" and then into an asylum they'd go. Beauty sickness isn't something that happens to a few women with low immunity. It happens to society at large and is perpetuated by society's messed up beauty standards and also capitalism. So, yes, some of us are dying from beauty poisoning, but the bigger problem is it's in the fucking water and no one's doing anything about it. My problem with the term aside—and I'm still not sure exactly what my problem with it is (too vague? too feminine? too victim blamey?)—Engeln covers all this. What beauty sickness is, how it manifests, how it's spread, why what we're doing to fight it isn't working, and, ultimately, concrete things we can do to protect girls and women and ourselves from this sickness. It's stuff we probably already knew, or at least suspected, but backed up with facts and figures and studies, all meticulously cited in the endnotes, just to make it all the more rigorous and crushingly depressing. She interviews around fifteen women who range in age from 7 to 58, though most of the women are in the 20-40 range. For all but two of her interview subjects, Engeln indicates their race or skin color, and identifies them as both white and of color (including a woman of color who "identifies as multiracial Latina, but is generally assumed to be white by those who meet her"), so we can't assume that white is the default, unspoken identity. She does an excellent job of reminding us of interview subjects from previous chapters, even citing the chapter where they were introduced. None of the people she interviewed are transgender, something she acknowledges in the introduction, and none of them identify as queer or disabled, which she doesn't acknowledge. And then she quotes Amy Schumer, and I mean, I wouldn't have, but especially not the quote she chose, which feels out of place in this book: I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, 'All right! You got it. You figured me out. I'm not pretty. I'm not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I'll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.' But then I think, fuck that. I am not laying in that freshman-year bed anymore ever again.It's from a speech Schumer gave at the 2014 Gloria Awards, and the quote definitely could have benefited from more context and a longer excerpt—but also let's not equate burqas with body shame, okay? So this book lacks some vital intersectionality and could only be improved by more diverse voices, but Engeln put out a call for volunteers and while it's not stated what kind of selection process she used, maybe she did the best she could with the volunteers she had, or maybe she should have tried harder to recruit different voices; it's not clear. Engeln speaks to women who get criticized for being too fat, and at least one woman who gets criticism for being too thin. She's kind and compassionate and never once connects fatness with being unhealthy. She breaks down all the shit the concern trolls say, and backs it up with facts and figures. The concern trolls are wrong, y'all. But we knew that. Exquisitely organized and argued. I could easily summarize each chapter for my Goodreads updates, only struggling with which piece of supporting evidence I had to leave out in order to make the 420 character limit. Engeln cites her sources either in the text or in the endnotes, so you're never left wondering where a statistic or study came from. There's also a thorough index. A hard book to read, but a very well done one. Contains: Discussion of negative body image, body shaming, eating disorders, mention of self-harm.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hiba Arrame

    This is a very self-centered review, do feel free to skip I have always struggled with my appearance and body image, I remember it started when I was around 10 or 11 and one of my sisters told me that my belly looked like I'm pregnant. She might not have meant it in a mean way but it stuck with me, and my yearning to a slim body started then. Then, in middle school, I started noticing how my eyebrows met in the middle, and I started hearing from other girls how ugly that made me look and I shoul This is a very self-centered review, do feel free to skip I have always struggled with my appearance and body image, I remember it started when I was around 10 or 11 and one of my sisters told me that my belly looked like I'm pregnant. She might not have meant it in a mean way but it stuck with me, and my yearning to a slim body started then. Then, in middle school, I started noticing how my eyebrows met in the middle, and I started hearing from other girls how ugly that made me look and I should start plucking them to look nicer. It was weird and exciting to read this because each of the stories felt awfully familiar and I hated myself for focusing so much on my appearance and putting myself in this cycle of self-loathing, although I am constantly trying to move towards a healthier mindset and self-perception. I'm glad I read this at this time when it so happens that I'm trying hard to keep myself from falling victim to eating disorders, and struggling with self-esteem like never before. However, I don't think this book will deter me from all the toxic practices I tend to engage in although I know and agree with all of what was said and realize how far it goes. I just believe that it has to be on my own, I have to ride this through and try to come out of it safely, but I fear it will go on and on for years to come.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I was intrigued by this book a couple months ago when I heard the author interviewed on NPR. Having two teenaged daughters I thought it would be beneficial to hear her advice on how to limit the influence of the ever-present pressure to be thin and beautiful that we see and feel in this society. I was disappointed to find that the majority of the book is spent discussing the problem and all the studies and research showing that there IS a problem, and very little time giving solutions on how to I was intrigued by this book a couple months ago when I heard the author interviewed on NPR. Having two teenaged daughters I thought it would be beneficial to hear her advice on how to limit the influence of the ever-present pressure to be thin and beautiful that we see and feel in this society. I was disappointed to find that the majority of the book is spent discussing the problem and all the studies and research showing that there IS a problem, and very little time giving solutions on how to help our girls experience less angst about their appearance. The section on "what do we do about this" didn't start until page 279! So the take-home messages are: - Don't talk about your own appearance or body in a disparaging way in front of your children (we knew this). - Focus on what your body can DO rather than how it LOOKS. This was actually one good piece of advice I hadn't really considered. In a study where a group of women was split and one half was encouraged to write about all the great things their body could DO, while the other half wrote about the great things about their body's appearance, the first group had a much better body image in a follow-up exercise. - When we talk about exercise in front of our kids, talk about it in terms of how it makes us feel better physically and emotionally, reduce stress, and/or connect with friends. People who exercise only to change how their body looks tend to drop off within a short time. - When you compliment girls/teens, focus on qualities like their kindness, compassion, intelligence, drive, etc. It's so easy to compliment a hairstyle or new sweater, but it is more beneficial to compliment the qualities that have nothing to do with appearance. - As a parent, let your kids know that it's OK to indulge in enjoyable food once in a while, and don't express shame about it. As a family, try to enjoy healthy food together with occasional treats, and don't make comments about how you'll have to "work it off" later. - Have discussions with your children about the impact of social media and advertising, and how prevalent filters are to make these images look flawless. Encourage them to spend more time on media that focuses on topics not related to appearance, such as learning about current events, reading a book, finding fun recipes to try, etc. Remind them to think about the images they post themselves and what message they are wanting to send to others about appearance, etc.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aurora Dimitre

    The thing is--Engeln had some good ideas, and I think her thesis as a whole is something that is worth looking in to. I wasn't as big of a fan of the execution, for a couple of reasons: 1) Just because someone does count calories does not automatically mean they have an eating disorder. Even if they count calories to lose weight. Eating disorders come from the actual feeling someone has toward food. 2) Also, CICO isn't going to not work because of your magical metabolism. You're eating less/more The thing is--Engeln had some good ideas, and I think her thesis as a whole is something that is worth looking in to. I wasn't as big of a fan of the execution, for a couple of reasons: 1) Just because someone does count calories does not automatically mean they have an eating disorder. Even if they count calories to lose weight. Eating disorders come from the actual feeling someone has toward food. 2) Also, CICO isn't going to not work because of your magical metabolism. You're eating less/more than you think, or you're a fidgeter, or you walk around a lot more, et cetera et cetera et cetera. 3) There's a lot of righteous indignation in here, and it gets pretty pretentious. Especially that bit at the end, where she's like "I mean I guess... some women... want to look pretty and they enjoy it... but THINK about it really THINK about it" really rubbed me the wrong way. Though it could just be because I am someone who likes to put effort into my appearance because I like it. 4) More writing-centered than argument centered: it was slightly repetitive and easy to skim. Overall, it was interesting, but I wasn't a huge fan of the execution or her more detailed arguments. Might be worth picking up if the subject interests you, though.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nana

    I love the idea, the message and the stories of interviewees but the writing style of this book is not my favorite. The beauty sick is a complex problem and seems to be unable to change in this society. The advice from this book is to turn down the volume of beauty sick inside your head. You can do that by loving your body for its function instead of focusing on the beauty part. Moreover, women should decrease fat talk about themselves and others. Society has put much pressure on women's appeara I love the idea, the message and the stories of interviewees but the writing style of this book is not my favorite. The beauty sick is a complex problem and seems to be unable to change in this society. The advice from this book is to turn down the volume of beauty sick inside your head. You can do that by loving your body for its function instead of focusing on the beauty part. Moreover, women should decrease fat talk about themselves and others. Society has put much pressure on women's appearance and us as women supposed to help each other rather than using mean talk to drag each other down to the hole of beauty pressure. The book is a collection of interviewees' stories and comments from the author. Many stories convey the same meaning and it's quite tiring to keep reading the same idea over and over again without anything new. I wish the author has conveyed this book in a better way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brianne

    This book was really hard to get through because it was so emotionally draining. I found myself thinking multiple times “There’s no way to get around all of this cultural obsession. It’s a never ending, but ever deepening cycle.” But the last chapter redeemed it and gave hope. This author did a LOT of really great research and had great interviews and cultural examples. I’m just rating it this way because it took such an emotional toll on me to read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I would HIGHLY recommend this. I didn't see myself as one particularly afflicted with "beauty sickness," but I am so glad I read this. It really helped me see things the way I want to, instead of how I've been conditioned to. That makes it sound like it's one of those books that makes us think we've all been brain-washed and the only cure is through reading this book, which usually means its a ridiculous book. But this was fantastic. I appreciate having a better understanding of how the every da I would HIGHLY recommend this. I didn't see myself as one particularly afflicted with "beauty sickness," but I am so glad I read this. It really helped me see things the way I want to, instead of how I've been conditioned to. That makes it sound like it's one of those books that makes us think we've all been brain-washed and the only cure is through reading this book, which usually means its a ridiculous book. But this was fantastic. I appreciate having a better understanding of how the every day things we experience really affect us. Also, a better understanding of what helps and what doesn't. I was worried she would only ever get around to pointing out the problems (a pet peeve of mine), but read to the end, because I loved the section about what we CAN do! As a woman, sister, mother, daughter, friend...I am so glad I read this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    Every woman should read this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karien

    Required reading if you are a human. Can’t recommend it highly enough!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Markie

    If you are human, have children, or are interested in bettering society in general, for the love of everyone read this book. It's message is clear, concise, and understandable. No one is perfect. We will never reach what the world perceives as an "ideal" for our bodies, but how can we combat that ideal? Time to learn how to help yourself, and help others with it as well. Pick up this book somewhere and give it a shot. You won't regret it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    Wonderful. A great follow-up to The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. The science is there in studies of how America's obsession with beauty hurts women, but the heart of the book is in the case studies -- candid and loving interviews with real women. And the ending is so positive! There is hope that we can recover and help the next generation of women learn to love their bodies for what they can do in all their infinite variety.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Pm

    I end up reading this book because my Instagram feed recommended it, but it was so tedious to read the same stories different names. The information is so repetitive, the data so meh, a lot of blaming media and parenting issues. Although it was a good idea badly executed, I wish the author would have explored other cultures, like Europe, Africa or the Middle East. Also. I won't recommend it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    jacq

    The messages in this book are important, but it was soooo repetitive that I found it hard to read. Hence why it took me 2 months to finish.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannen

    Beauty Sick is a thought provoking and illuminating read which explores the way that girls and women of all ages are affected variably by the concept of "beauty sickness". Engeln succinctly explores the various elements of beauty sickness from the need to constantly check the mirror to not being able to leave the house without make-up or the belief that as women we can only be happy and successful if we fulful the coventional beauty standard portrayed in the media. It covers topics such as objec Beauty Sick is a thought provoking and illuminating read which explores the way that girls and women of all ages are affected variably by the concept of "beauty sickness". Engeln succinctly explores the various elements of beauty sickness from the need to constantly check the mirror to not being able to leave the house without make-up or the belief that as women we can only be happy and successful if we fulful the coventional beauty standard portrayed in the media. It covers topics such as objecitfication/self-objectification, body monitoring, clothing, disordered eating, the media, finances and the general consequences that come from beauty sickness. I related to many of the experiences, emotions and thoughts discussed and appreciated the way that Engeln challenged beauty sickness and explored practical solutions for reducing its impact whilst also acknowledging that it will never truly go away. Engeln relies heavily on a series of interviews conducted with a sample of women, drawing on their experiences of beauty sickness. Initially, I appreciated hearing the voices of other women, but as the book progressed it became tiresome. Similar questions, themes and topics were discussed repeatedly with similar responses. Furthermore, despite Engeln's attempts to introduce us to each of the women, I found it difficult to personally connect to them and forgot most of their names and stories as soon as they were mentioned. I also found the sample of women to be completely lacking in diversity and hand-picked by Engeln to specifically support her argument. For example, Engeln repeatedly made the point that most women have a distorted body image. Unsurprisingly, all of the women she interviewed were "regular sized" or slim women that believed they were fat when anybody could objectively see that they weren't. It's easy for Engeln to proclaim that women have a distorted body image when drawing on case studies like this, but what about women that are overweight? Overall, Engeln's sample was unrepresentative and to my knowledge excluded LGBTQ+ women and women that identified with any religious group other than Christian. Because of this, her research cannot be applied to all women, since it's shaped primarily by being a heterosexual, American, average (or below average) sized woman. I didn't particularly learn anything new from reading Beauty Sickness, but I appreciated that the book encouraged me to actively reflect on my own behaviour, habits and attitude towards my appearance. Beauty sickness is embedded into Western culture to such an extent that many of us partake in it without being conscious of it. Engeln gives conscise and practical advise on how to tackle beauty sickness and reduce its impact on our daily lives. Going forward I'll definitley put her advice into practice and I feel like it has the potential to postiviely impact my own experiences of beauty sickness.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dyan

    I got this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Watch my video review here 'Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women' is a nonfiction book about the psychological relationship between women and their body image. The book tells us what Beauty Sickness is, what it does to women, how the media feeds it and then tells us the ways in which we're fighting beauty sickness and how we can do that even better. This set-up works really well and makes I got this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Watch my video review here 'Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women' is a nonfiction book about the psychological relationship between women and their body image. The book tells us what Beauty Sickness is, what it does to women, how the media feeds it and then tells us the ways in which we're fighting beauty sickness and how we can do that even better. This set-up works really well and makes the book feel like a well-structured whole. It also makes it a very accessible book for those who don't know anything about the topic, but are interested nonetheless. The writing style is academic, but easy enough to read: Renee explains all the terms she uses to let us understand the research better. "Beauty sickness is what happens when women's emotional energy gets so bound up with what they see in the mirror that it becomes harder for them to see other aspects of their lives." Renee uses a lot of different interviews as examples, talking to various women with different body shapes, sizes, histories, cultural and geological backgrounds and so on. This really strengthens the book's message, because it shows that this topic is not just relevant for the US or for the western world, but that the entire world is suffering from what we call beauty sickness. Renee also uses a lot of previous research on the topic to give us an overview of the facts. This book felt really complete, well-researched and well-rounded, because it talks about so many perspectives and aspects of what the author calls beauty sickness. She tells us "A beauty-sick culture cares more about an actress's nude selfie than important world events. A beauty-sick culture always, always finds a way to comment on a woman's appearance, no matter how irrelevant it is to the matter at hand." Don't tell me you weren't talking about Kim Kardashian's picture when terrorism was at an all-time-high in the Middle East. The main message of the book is this: "Perhaps without even realizing it, these women had internalized the message that women's bodies are for looking at, not for doing." This recurring point in the book is heartbreaking, but true. How many women talk about not leaving their house without make-up instead of talking about their essays for university that are due? Renee also tries to console women: "Even though you may be the one hurting, the source of the problem isn't necessarily in you." The book explains that there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, it's the idea that you have to look amazing all of the time, that you have to strive for an ideal that isn't reachable - that is the problem. When you are worrying about your body, you take precious time, energy and attention away from other things. Yes, even if you don't notice it. It also talks about dieting, binge eating, body-shaming people into dieting and gives a detailed account of the reasons why all of these things don't work long-term. It also discusses the problematic trend of young girls starting diets as early as 8 years old. Another important aspect is the message that the current beauty ideal is unattainable. Humans have always cared about beauty and appearance, but because of different advancements in media and computing (ahem Photoshop ahem), we now have created a beauty ideal that literally no one can achieve. It tells us that the models picked already have a rare body type, they get heavily modified by eating habits, make-up, fans and the most expensive clothing you can get. Hundreds of images are taken, bodies carefully posed to disguise all 'bad sides' and THEN the images that are best get photoshopped after that. Of course you can't look like a model, honey; the model can't even look the way she wants to look. A lot of groups are also 'symbolically annihilated'; omitted from the media. Think of heavier women, short women or very tall ones, older women and, maybe most striking, practically all women of color. "Media literacy is a step in the right direction, but it's never going to be enough to win the battle against beauty sickness. Knowing better is not enough to protect you from the beauty ideal, not when so many other elements of your culture promise you that your happiness is bound to achieving that ideal." One thing I missed in this book were the body positive communities that exist online: women that don't have the 'ideal body' showing they love their body nonetheless. I would be interested in how the author thinks these communities can have a positive or negative effect on beauty sickness. Another thing that wasn't really touched upon is the fact that a lot of healthy habits and lifestyles, like yoga or veganism, are being used to attain the beauty ideal. "Yoga for a flat stomach." "Be the healthiest you can be: go raw vegan (insert typically slim, beautiful woman here)" Renee does talk about how going to the gym should be a good thing and how a lot of personal trainers are taking the wrong approach by trying to motivate women by saying things like 'yes, let's get rid of those love handles' or something. Renee explains: "If we want to improve women's physical and mental health, we need to spend less time talking about beauty and more time talking about issues that matter more. We don't need to talk about beauty in a different way. We need to talk about it less." Like Dove's beauty campaign that tries to be inclusive, a lot of people and companies are trying to treat beauty differently. Research shows, however, that this still doesn't really help. We really just need to let it matter less, talk about it less, turn the volume down. It isn't really about you having a positive or negative body image, it's more about how much you think it matters, how much you think beauty influences your life, your over-all happiness. The end goal of the book is really to get people to see how much influence they have as individuals. When we tell little girls they're pretty, we're saying that pretty is more important than smart or kind or helpful. "If you want to compliment a girl or woman, compliment her on something she can actually control. Reinforce the idea that being hardworking, focused, kind, creative, and generous matter. None of these qualities require any particular body shape or hairstyle. Tell her you notice how much effort she puts into the things she cares about. Tell her that you enjoy spending time with her because she is interesting. Tell her that she inspires you and then explain why or how." For those doubting how little or how much effect it actually has on women: "Beauty sickness means different things to different women. For some, it's the equivalent of a mild cold: annoying, but not serious. Other women's lives are so thoroughly disrupted by beauty sickness that [...] their focus on how they look can cause them to lose track of who they really are. Wherever you are on that spectrum, there is room for moving closer to the person you really want to be." I thoroughly loved this book and I think it was really insightful, well-researched and accessible for a lot of women. "If all I do is tell people, 'Your dreams and desires are more important than what society's expectations of you are,' then that in itself is a radical act against society's expectations."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I found Beauty Sick both disheartening and hopeful. The book is loaded with studies and statistics on objectification and self objectification of women, the effects of a Beauty Sick culture, pertaining to physical and mental wellness, (in)equality, and doing things that matter in the world. A quarter of the way into it, I almost wanted to stop reading, because it seemed to be doing the very thing that is unhealthy.. talking too much about beauty, body size, etc. But I'm glad I kept on, because t I found Beauty Sick both disheartening and hopeful. The book is loaded with studies and statistics on objectification and self objectification of women, the effects of a Beauty Sick culture, pertaining to physical and mental wellness, (in)equality, and doing things that matter in the world. A quarter of the way into it, I almost wanted to stop reading, because it seemed to be doing the very thing that is unhealthy.. talking too much about beauty, body size, etc. But I'm glad I kept on, because the author does get around to helpful points - that we need to talk less about beauty. We need to think about things, do things, and be evaluated by things that actually matter. "The problem with having your body on your mind is that it takes your mind away from other things." "We cannot live our lives fully when our appearance is constantly under evaluation." Good things I took away from this: Be gentle with yourself. Mind your media. Watch your words. Look away from the ads, the mirrors, the selfies, look forward. Change the World. "Since 1997, the number of cosmetic surgeries obtained by women in the United States increased 538 percent." (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) As the author says in her closing sentence, "There's a lot of work to be done." Admittedly not my favorite type of reading, but this is well written, smart, non-judging, and insightful. A solid and important work. i want to apologize to all the women i have called pretty. before i've called them intelligent or brave. i am sorry i made it sound as though something as simple as what you're born with is the most you have to be proud of (Poet Rupi Kaur)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Niamh

    This is perhaps one of the more scientific books I've read concerning feminism and the endless portrayal of women and beauty. With an issue that's been tied together since the popularisation of media, Rene Engeln effectively explores the psychology behind body image and how we look, using experiments with selections of women to analyse just how modern images of women can have a negative affect on people of all ages and generations. As someone who has endlessly struggled with my body, the way it This is perhaps one of the more scientific books I've read concerning feminism and the endless portrayal of women and beauty. With an issue that's been tied together since the popularisation of media, Rene Engeln effectively explores the psychology behind body image and how we look, using experiments with selections of women to analyse just how modern images of women can have a negative affect on people of all ages and generations. As someone who has endlessly struggled with my body, the way it looks and how much of it there is, this book was a really interesting exploration of how women view themselves. Engeln interviews a number of women about their experiences and opinions, and it made me feel just a little better about my own situation. Though it's not out there to provide you with BoPo ideas and encouraging words to make you feel beautiful, it does create a scientific precedent for WHY we feel like we hate our bodies and what can make us feel this way. I will say, I found this book difficult to read on occasion, purely because I'm having a not so great week with my body. So tread lightly if you are in a similar mental state.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mindy

    Every woman (and man) NEEDS to read this book. This message is so, so important! Rather than focusing on the idea of helping every woman feel beautiful, it focuses on our need to spend less time thinking about our looks at all. Some of my favorite quotes from this book: “We have created a culture that tells women the most important thing they can be is beautiful. Then we pummel them with a standard of beauty they will never meet. After that, when they worry about beauty, we call them superficial. Every woman (and man) NEEDS to read this book. This message is so, so important! Rather than focusing on the idea of helping every woman feel beautiful, it focuses on our need to spend less time thinking about our looks at all. Some of my favorite quotes from this book: “We have created a culture that tells women the most important thing they can be is beautiful. Then we pummel them with a standard of beauty they will never meet. After that, when they worry about beauty, we call them superficial.” “Your body image isn’t just about how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with your appearance. It’s also about how much you think appearance matters. How invested you are in physical appearance as a guiding construct for your life.” “The trick isn’t avoiding beauty completely, it’s about putting beauty in its place behind the other things that matter more to you.” “Self compassion involves treating yourself with warmth and kindness, and accepting that part of being a human is having flaws and imperfections.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna Morgenstern

    3.5\, not a strong 4. I kept feeling while listening to it that it is what "The Beauty Myth" tried to achieve but failed (more about that on : my review here). Firstly, this book actually acknowledged the existence of non-white women which was nice, however, it was still lacking in more diversity; here too the LGBTQ+ community was never mentioned. Second, and I know it's not fair to compare them on the base of relevance since they were written decades apart, "Beauty Sick" is more relevant to nowada 3.5\, not a strong 4. I kept feeling while listening to it that it is what "The Beauty Myth" tried to achieve but failed (more about that on : my review here). Firstly, this book actually acknowledged the existence of non-white women which was nice, however, it was still lacking in more diversity; here too the LGBTQ+ community was never mentioned. Second, and I know it's not fair to compare them on the base of relevance since they were written decades apart, "Beauty Sick" is more relevant to nowadays society as magazines are hardly looked at asthe focus shifted towards social media. I found the author was not being judgmental and looking at the subject from a "know all" lense and shared her experiences as well. It's a good read overall, but I wouldn't say it's a "must" (for the lack of a better word).

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