“Sugar is the devil, you know.”
Janey Sweet finds herself in the midst of a strange midlife crisis. Strange because rather than developing on it’s own, her crisis is thrust upon her by her boss and business partner. Over breakfast Beau breaks the news that Janey is fat: the mother of all F*words to Beau, and most of New York City. As the face of their company, she is ordered to take time off to get herself back together.
And so we begin this hilarious romp into the obsession with weight and fitness.
We’ve all read the blog posts, and the magazine articles, and the Facebook links promising us the newest superfood, or the best new workout, or the most effective way to lose weight and feel great! They’re everywhere. And, it’s easy to have fallen for it, once or two dozen times.
So when Janey enlists the help of her friend CJ, purveyor of all new diet and workout trends, along with Ivy, her fitness instructor cousin, I expected hilarious results. I was not disappointed!
The thing about these women is how relatable they are. Janey doesn’t want to be “one of those women”. Always talking and thinking and concentrating on what she looks like. She wants to eat the fries and feel satisfied after a meal. Isn’t that the point in life? Meanwhile, Ivy, a kind-hearted fitness instructor paid to yell at the same women she’s instructing can’t help but feel lost and disappointed with her current career situation. CJ is that friend who is always dieting, always working out, no matter the cost.
Intermixed between the chapters are blog posts and Facebook articles touting the latest and greatest in health. “Coffee Pooped Out Of Brazilian Bird Selling Big In States” and “Free The Nipple Yoga Will Change Your Life” are two of my personal favorites. The best thing about these blurbs isn’t how ridiculous they are. And they are ridiculous. It’s that I had to pause and Google which ones were real. Because let’s face it, they are just ridiculous enough to be real.
Everything from the “motivation tax” to “sober raves”, these details all bring a level of hilarity to our obsession with health and fitness. They are presented as fiction, yet the brands and trends are all pulled from reality. The result is a story you want to brush off as pure fiction, but can’t. The reality we find ourselves in is much stranger than fiction. Or at least just as strange.
I really loved the discussion this book raises on how we treat each other as women. We tout ourselves as progressive and feminist, and yet we can be vicious to each other by belittling imperfect bodies and unfiltered lives.
“It amazed her that someone she didn’t even know was telling her she had a big bum and that person was also wearing a necklace that said FEMINIST in bright gold letters.”
The irony is, we do this all the time. We see scandals from women leading “empowered” companies being charged with sexist and decidedly unfeminist policies more and more in the news. We think that anyone wanting to be healthier, also wants to be criticized in the disguise of helpfulness. We talk about being real while we also speculate on every celebrity showing a tiny tummy bump as a possible fetus. Our hypocrisy is glaring and real.
“Wow. Forty, getting divorced and out of a job. It’s like you’re the poster girl for sadness.”
Fitness Junkies takes these extremes, these outright falsities of our society and shows us the lunacy of them. It helps us laugh at ourselves.
The plot is somewhat predictable, but the joy of the journey make up for that. I also think that the plot isn’t exactly the point. Which sounds crazy to say about a book, but hear me out. This book is so real it’s uncomfortable. You don’t need to live in size obsessed New York to recognize these trends. They’re everywhere. The bigger point of the book isn’t whether Janey finds herself, or how she resolves her conflict with Beau. It’s a larger look at the lengths women often go to in the name of appearance.
It’s also a look at the role society plays. Sykes & Piazza tackle this conversation both with the blog posts and social media articles, but also in Janey’s business. B a wedding dress company that prides itself on how tiny their sizes are, is couture to the extreme. She is aware of her own hypocrisy of being CEO of a company that creates products she herself couldn’t wear. The impact this has on the everyday woman is made all the more real to Janey through her own journey.
“She’d known they were wading into ridiculous territory with their ever-shrinking dresses, but she’d been so focused on growing the business, she hadn’t thought about any of the consequences.”
This is also a deeper examination of the friendships we find ourselves in, both men and women. There are many times we find ourselves in friendships that stopped being healthy long ago. Yet, we can’t let them go. Janey finds herself surrounded by friends, both new and old, and has to decide who is real and who is not.
“Some friendships were transactional.”
This book made me laugh, but it also reminded me that the more important thing in life is to try and love yourself. Sometimes we need a fun story and a good laugh to remind us of that. Fitness Junkie is a great beach or pool read! It’s perfect for anyone who has struggled with diets and exercise regimes, or has ever agonized over which superfood is REALLY the best for your family.
Fitness Junkie is a fictional story about fictional people. But the very real issues and ideas that they explore aren’t as funny even if they are just as ridiculous. It’s good to laugh at ourselves. It’s good to recognize insanity when we see it. Honestly, as Janey says, “No woman should have to live in a world without French fries.”
Thank you Booksparks and Doubleday books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.