Being overweight for many starts when they are very young. I was myself a chubby baby, a round toddler and shopped in the husky section when I was in grade school (see my post Fighting Childhood Obesity Starts at Home).
So did Frank Bruni, the author of Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite. What makes Frank, however, particularly interesting is that after struggling with his weight most of life and then finding some healthy balance, he becomes the restaurant critic for the New York Times.
What was he thinking?
While he shares his insights into what allowed him to make that decision, and how he was successful at reconciling his desire for a healthy weight and a dream job that required him to eat in some of the world’s finest restaurants 7 days a week, he also shares his journey from “baby bulimic” to an adult who understands the value of exercise, portion control and quality instead of quantity.
It wasn’t an easy road for him. Coming from a large Italian family were food is love and security, there was always lots of food and lots of pressure to eat. But he also describes his own body as working against him, having an appetite that far outpaced his 2 brothers (although his sister seemed to be more a kindred spirit in the food and weight department).
Did I mention he also had to live on the campaign trail for awhile, writing about George W. Bush for the Times? When you’re already fighting food demons, it doesn’t help to have 3 buffets placed before you each day plus many cocktail hours and late nights in the hotel bar.
What I find most special about this book is the period when he finally starts to get it.
First, he learned how to push himself with the help of a personal trainer. He learned that when he didn’t eat the way he was supposed to or didn’t work out on his own as hard as he should have, those extra calories had to be made up in minutes on the StairMaster. Calories in had to balance with calories going out.
Second, he learned the beauty of quality food. Living in Rome, wonderful food was ever where. He was perplexed, as are many, of how Italians could eat such creamy and fatty foods without gaining weight the same way Americans do. The difference, he learned, was in portion and quality. His exploration of the differences in the standard US diet and those of his neighbors in Rome tells us a lot about why we as a nation keep getting bigger.
His early attempts at weight loss I found a bit sad and disturbing, yet he finds his way in the end. His exploits as a food critic are also quite entertaining. His next job could very well be as a secret agent.
If you like a good biography with some inspiration and humor, I suggest you pick up Born Roundby Frank Bruni.