‘Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm’ Is Our March SELF Well-Read Book Club Pick

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Each month, the SELF Well-Read Book Club highlights a timely, delightful, and crucial book on a subject that helps readers live better lives. So far, we’ve covered everything from the politics of running to the state of modern motherhood.

It’s more likely than not that you know someone—if not yourself—who has lived with an eating disorder; almost one out of every 10 people in the United States will have one in their lifetime. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 22% of children and adolescents around the world show symptoms of disordered eating, and eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These statistics are jarring, though to many of us, not so shocking. But there are other facts, stories, and histories that are given far less space in the discourse—and that’s exactly what author Emmeline Clein works to untangle in Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm, SELF’s March Well-Read Book Club pick.

In each chapter, Clein takes a close, empathetic look at the cultural frameworks that destroyed nearly any possibility of a positive body image for people alive in the early 2000s. If you were a young person with a TV or Internet connection at that time, you’re probably very familiar: The “pro-ana” Tumblrs, the trajectories of it-girls like Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, and dangerous monoliths like Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal. Clein tackles these topics in a sensitive and conscientious way, which is both extremely rare and extremely important, as a lot of eating disorder coverage can operate as a manual rather than a warning. By the end of the book, you’ll be left with a better understanding of how society at large failed you—and not the other way around.

Other notable parts of the book include a close look at binge eating disorder (and, more broadly, the types of EDs that are considered more socially acceptable); questions around sex, consumption, and the things women are “allowed” to devour; the genuinely shocking difficulty of getting effective treatment; and the ways disordered eating disproportionally affects underserved communities, like queer, fat, or Black people, along with those who have lived in poverty or with food insecurity.

So, on the heels of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’re eager to come together and read something that will hopefully act like a little bit of salve on a wound that runs deep for so many of us. For a few suggested reading pairings from SELF, see the list below. Grab your copy of the book here, and stay tuned for a Q&A with Clein coming soon.

‘Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm’ by Emmeline Clein

Suggested reading:

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