Book review : Born Round

August 23, 2010

When we travel on vacation, we often have long drives, and this year was no exception.  I regularly listen to podcasts and sometimes listen to audiobooks, and I find the long car rides are a great opportunity to do both, but especially the audiobooks that I don’t think will stand up well to my usual dip in and out approach to them that I use when I travel for work.

This trip, one of my first listens was been “Born Round” by Frank Bruni.  It’s a personal memoir about a guy struggling with his weight.  I actually read very few weight memoirs, but I do like food writing, and I bought this audiobook a long time ago – it’s just been edged out by other listens, in particular a period earlier this year when I listened to work-related books (interspersed with This American Life) for weeks on end.

What I like about the book is that it’s quite slice-of-life, normal life stuff, revealing real human failings and struggles. I also like that it’s by someone who likes to eat, and who has spent his whole life struggling to control his appetite and weight.  Late in the book the author goes on to become the New York Times restaurant critic – taking on eating in restaurants in one of the world’s top food cities while managing his weight.

A lot of the book he’s just a guy who’s slightly or severely obsessed with his body and his weight.  Sometimes he’s just a few pounds overweight and clearly over the top with his body dysmorphia and behaviors, at other times he’s caved in and is busting out of the largest clothes he can find, and heading towards 275 pounds.

I liked that the way he comes across he’s pretty much just a normal guy – a bright, hard-working guy, but not a nuclear physicist or other unreachable intellectual, and not a celebrity, so I found him accessible and human.  The neurosis he displays in talking about his romantic life and avoidance of relationships during his fat years I can definitely relate to.  The food obsession and eating and hunger I can relate to as well.  I’ve never been a real “binge eater” and never went into the purge territory that he flirts with, but as the girl who was always the fat one in the family I definitely related to a lot of what he went through in his younger years.  Of course, I also like the title, “Born Round”, especially since I blogged under the name “Round” for 3 years.

Overall, what struck me about his story is that in a lot of ways it’s similar to mine.  A few glaring differences (exercise!) but the expat finally getting to a point of balance fits me perfectly, and although I’m not a restaurant critic (thank goodness) life with my husband has meant life with regular forays in fine dining & real French “foodie” culture, which can bring food temptations & eating to a whole other level.  Frank lives that in the book to the nth degree.

I pulled out several lessons for myself about managing weight from this book – look for them in another post later this week.

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