Book Review: Born Round by Frank Bruni

by | Nov 1, 2010

Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Born Round, the latest manifesto in weight loss from the prominent New York Times food critic, Frank Bruni. Maybe it is because the last two health books I read from Times writers, Food Matters by Mark Bittman and Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, were both so vacuous and uninspiring. Or maybe it’s because it’s been years since I’ve been inspired by any diet book at all.

But whatever the reason for my skepticism, it was quickly put to rest with Bruni’s brutally honest tale of personal struggle and slow, determined road to health and self-confidence. Born Round is a far cry from the self-righteous, superficially researched works that normally come from dieters and journalists. His story is deeply personal and, though he goes into the scientific theories behind all the popular (and unpopular) diets he’s tried, he never pretends his experiences amount to anything more than his own reality.

It is this honesty that makes Bruni’s work great. It doesn’t take a clinical diagnosis to realize that Bruni struggled with an eating disorder from birth. He chronicles bouts of binging, extreme exercising, drug use, bulimia, excessive weight gain and occasional weight loss. His heart-felt narrative conveys the glaring truth of what it means to live in a perpetual loop of failure flecked with glimses of dietary “success,” and the subsequent torment and self-doubt that comes with each turn of the cycle.

Yet despite the extreme forms Bruni’s misadventures take, anyone who has experimented with diets or struggled with weight can relate to Born Round. We all have weakness, but few are as psychologically destructive as those surrounding physical appearance and body size. Intellectual or personality defects are relatively easy to hide or obscure, but extra body weight must be worn like a badge for all to see.

The insecurity bred by constant feelings of physical inadequacy can easily turn into obsessive thinking and occasionally to dangerous behavior. Born Round shows us how deep this lack of confidence can reach, even while Bruni himself achieves great success in other aspects of his life. Arguably the most glaring emotional paradox in Born Round is when Bruni describes the insecurity he feels over his physical appearance during his years as a championship swimmer in high school. But despite the irony, most ballerinas, gymnists and figure skaters probably understand what he was going through.

Ultimately, however, Bruni’s mind conquers both his emotions and his body. As with many chronic dieters, Bruni’s affliction was cured with a lesson in food culture he experienced after a move to Europe–Italy, to be specific. While living abroad Bruni learned to eat mindfully, value quality over quantity and develop a relationship with food that isn’t at odds with either his appetite or his appearance. In short, he found his healthstyle.

Even more remarkable is what happened next. Rather than shrinking from his former self, Bruni embraces it completely. Armed with his new skills and confidence, Bruni accepts a job as the New York Times restaurant critic, an occupation that sometimes demands 5-6 multicourse meals per day at some of the best restaurants in the world. Throughout this time, not only does Bruni avoid regaining any weight, he actually continues to lose a few pounds in the first months.

Bruni’s story is an inspiration and stands as a beacon of hope to anyone who battles with food and body weight. By training himself to develop new habits and thoughts about food and health, he was able to transform into a fit, healthy and confident man that trusts himself to eat in any situation.

What did you think of Born Round?

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6 Responses to “Book Review: Born Round by Frank Bruni”

  1. I just got a kindle and this book will be ordered. You have intrigued me.

  2. Joey Quinton says:

    Darya, thanks for this wonderful review. I think this book will inspire me in adopting my own health style.

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