Obsessed: America's Food Addiction--And My Own

OBSESSED

A
LSO BY
M
IKA
B
RZEZINSKI

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money,
and Getting What You’re Worth

All Things at Once

OBSESSED

America’s Food Addiction—and My Own

Mika Brzezinski

with Diane Smith

W
EINSTEIN
B
OOKS

Copyright © 2013 by Mika Brzezinski

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher. For information address Weinstein Books, 250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

Editorial production by
Marra
thon Production Services,
www.marrathon.net

Design by Ellen E Rosenblatt/SD Designs, LLC.

Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN: 978-1-60286-177-0 (e-book)

Published by Weinstein Books

A member of the Perseus Books Group

www.weinsteinbooks.com

Weinstein Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

First edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my daughters Emilie and Carlie

This book is about making good decisions
by yourself and for yourself

CONTENTS

     
Acknowledgments

     
Introduction

     
Chapter 1: Mika’s Story

     
Chapter 2: The Value of a Healthy Thin

     
Chapter 3: Diane’s Story

     
Chapter 4: Fat: Whose Fault?

     
Chapter 5: Fighting the Food Demons

     
Chapter 6: Mika and Diane: Making Progress, Still Struggling

     
Chapter 7: It’s How You Think

     
Chapter 8: It’s What You Eat, and How You Eat It

     
Chapter 9: It’s How You Move

     
Chapter 10: Leading the Conversation

     
Chapter 11: Teach Your Children Well

     
Onward: What I’ve Learned Today

     
Notes

     
Index

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

W
riting this book has been both wrenching and rewarding as I faced deep truths about both food and friendship . . . so first of all I would like to thank Diane for being a real friend and letting me say what I had to say, and taking it and running with it.

Thanks to all our other friends who took part in what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about this very real public health crisis.

Thank you to Harvey Weinstein, David Steinberger, Amanda Murray, and Georgina Levitt, the wonderful people at Weinstein Books who jumped at the concept for this book.

Special thanks to our wider circle of friends who supported us every step of the way, especially Joe Scarborough, my co-host on
Morning Joe
and wingman on the issue of obesity. Joe takes constant beatings from me on the air, but he truly stands by me in the fight to make our food environment healthy.

I want to thank my boss Phil Griffin for always encouraging me to be transparent and real, despite the consequences. My thanks to Alex Korson, our executive producer on
Morning Joe
, for helping us get everything done.

To all the extraordinary women and men we interviewed, a heartfelt thanks for sharing your insights with us. Thank you for inspiring us.

Karyn Feiden, thanks for your deft touch and vision. Paula Brisco, thanks for your clearheaded thinking and practical wisdom. To Dan Tully and Emily Cassidy, thanks for focusing on the details. Lauren Skowronski, you are always right with me.

Diane and I want to thank our husbands. Tom Woodruff supported Diane’s health challenge and pitched in with research, shedding light on subjects from science to public health policy. Thank you to my husband, Jim Hoffer, who worried about me taking on one more project, but who embraced this one when he saw that it would help make Diane and me healthier and happier people. Jim and Tom encouraged us to tell the truth and try to make a difference.

To my daughters, Emilie and Carlie, when the going got rough and putting these words on paper felt a little too raw and too personal for me, you were my constant inspiration to try to get better.

OBSESSED

INTRODUCTION

A
s I have moved through the process of writing this book—drafts, edits, revisions, etc.—I’ve sought the unvarnished opinions of friends, colleagues, and family members to answer a question that has troubled me from the beginning: How does a person who is not overweight write about her lifelong obsession with overeating without sounding like a narcissistic, woe-is-me skinny girl with an overinflated image of herself, particularly to those who share her obsession with food but happen to be overweight, or even obese?

I can report back to you that the answer to my question was almost unanimous: you can’t. No matter what you say or how you say it, you’re going to sound like a privileged skinny bitch with food issues. Oh yeah, and a TV show. And a woman who was born into a wonderful, prominent family and has a blessed life.

None of that suggests any kinship with the legion of suffering women whose debilitating relationship with food actually shows when they stand in front of the mirror in their closet. Yours doesn’t, so your opinion is not necessarily welcome here.

So here’s the deal. I get it. I am acutely aware of the eye-rolling derision with which many may view my role in this book. I stipulate up front that a good degree of my success in life was gained through my appearance. I did not
earn
my genetic makeup, any more than I chose the family I was born into.

I am a lucky woman, and I know it.

On the other hand, I have worked hard, taken risks, and experienced as many failures as I have successes. I’ve been hired and fired more times than I would like to recall, have struggled for two decades to bring balance to my professional and family life, have been paid less because I am a woman, and have struggled through one eating disorder after another. But each challenge taught me a lesson I would not have learned otherwise.

The experiences I relate in this book would be no different had I weighed 115 pounds or 215, and the fact that I am closer to the former does not negate the fact that, but for fortunate genetics and the will to change my life, I would be closer to the latter. But if that were the case, I would not be working in television, a visual industry that demands a certain look. It may seem harsh, but, as I wrote in my last book, in order to know your value you must have a clear-eyed understanding of what people are buying. To the extent that I may currently have that look, I am grateful.

So the question is how do I make my point—that absent a fundamental change in the way we consume, prepare, and market
food to our children and all citizens, we will never be able to attack the myriad eating disorders that affect millions of Americans today—without coming out and addressing my own internal food issues, despite an external appearance to the contrary?

I’ll tell you how. It’s too important an issue to ignore. I’ll just do it.

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.

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