Self Help Books; Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh

Why do I love this book? Let me count the ways…. I can’t, there are too many, and more keep popping into my head as I write. This is one of those rare precious self-care books that makes me want to get evangelical and start preaching it to everyone I know and gifting it too, petitioning libraries to stock multiple copies and schools to teach it. I haven’t felt this enthusiastic about a book since The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy. If I had my way the government would send both to each household as a national self-care service. But I digress slightly… Eat Up is about food, but it’s not about a specific way of eating, diet, or even has that many recipes included. It’s more of a socio-political exploration of what food represents in our culture, and the myriad of ways our society moralises food and, as a result, judges the morality of people based on the food they consume. It emphasises the way our food choices (or lack thereof) indicate our class, gender presentation, sexuality, culture and ability and are often a stick with which we beat others who are different from ourselves.  It’s about the layers of feelings, meanings and judgements we place upon something so fundamental to our very existence, and ultimately is a cheery ‘fuck you’ to all of them, while kindly suggesting we put them aside to actually enjoy the food the nourishes us. Bee Wilson says it’s ‘An antidote to food anxiety.’ and I couldn’t agree more. Ruby Tandoh speaks eloquently from her personal experience as someone who has suffered with an eating disorder, who is naturally slim, with an empathy for those of us who live with fatphobia and its insidious effect on our feelings and behaviour towards food that is revolutionary and sorely needed. She is also keenly aware of the damage these kinds of dialogue about food can have on our mental health, and the difficultly of an increasingly moralised approach to food which point-blank ignores the needs of those who live with various degrees of disadvantage. This is about as intersectional a critique as it gets, and it’s wonderful. She is a gifted writer, able to describe the experience of eating with a magic that makes you want to appreciate what you put in your mouth. Above all, the impression you get from this book is that she wants us all to be kinder to ourselves, do the best we can with what we have, and be kinder to each other as a result. It left me with that warm fuzzy feeling of being cared for and understood by a complete stranger who somehow totally gets me, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Quick overview;


The magic

Hungry Human Bodies

Digested: Eating with the seasons

You are what you eat?

Emotional eating

Digested: a friendship

Sharing plates

Home cooking

Digested: food on film

Bad Taste

A good egg


This book is probably for you if;

You have a complicated relationship with food and would like some help easing that

You are troubled particularly by feelings of guilt over what you eat and health

You are troubled by feelings of guilt over where your food comes from and how much you are able to do about it

You love food and are interested in it’s role in our society and culture

You want a book that is mindful of intersectionality

You want something reassuring not moralising


This book probably isn’t for you if;

You want a prescriptive guide on how to eat or a diet (although I would gently suggest reading it anyway!)

You have very strong opinions on a particular way of eating and are not feeling open to another view right now

You are not interested in the sociology of food and may find the detail in this too much at the moment

You want something very simple and very practical



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