If you watch her on MSNBC's Morning Joe, you know Mika Brzezinski is a strong proponent of a healthy diet.
Among Brzezinski's bully pulpit statements: that soda is "killing us." Now she's come out with a new book, Obsessed: America's Food Addiction — and My Own, that reveals her self-destructive, overwhelming preoccupation with food.
Brzezinski, 46, also describes, in one cringe-inducing scene, confronting her friend Diane Smith about her obesity. "You are fat," Brzezinski tells her, bluntly. The book follows Smith as she attempts to lose 75 pounds and, maybe even more daunting, chronicles Brzezinski's fight to gain 10.
AARP spoke with Brzezinski by phone — while she was out jogging — about the book and how she's still coming to terms with her obsession.
Q: You wrote that people have been less sensitive to your pain because you look so good on the outside. Do you hope that this book helps explain how hard it's been?
A: I'm not looking for sympathy, that's for sure. I guess what I was hoping is that overall it gives everybody, fat or thin, a greater understanding of the common battle that we all face. Women with disorders, like me, have very similar problems, fears and obsessions as women who are obese. Let me just tell you, skinny does not mean healthy.
Q: In the book you describe how you told Diane that she needs to lose weight. Should we all speak so frankly about the "f" word?
A: I think that the true meaning of friendship is the truth. And women are so often not truthful to each other. We claim to be so close; I think it's B.S.! If you can't tell your friend who is 250 pounds and [who] 10 years before was 150 — if you can't tell her along the way that you're noticing a problem, what kind of a friend are you? That's the issue I had to face with myself. Do I love this woman like a sister? Is she really a friend? Why can I not tell her this?
Q: Do you have any advice for people who might have a Diane in their lives they'd like to confront, but are unsure if they can be so bold?
A: Do whatever gets the conversation going, whatever gets the person to the doctor, or to realize where they are. I mean, Diane was really heavy, but still had no idea how heavy she was until I used the word obese. A lot of people who are skinny might stop and judge her, like, "How can she not know that?" You'd be surprised, the lies you can tell yourself. Anybody with an eating disorder lies to herself every day.
Q: And you were lying to yourself, too?
A: I was living a huge lie. Diane actually told me to get therapy for the book, and I was like, "Oh, who has time for this?" But we did a few therapy sessions and I was pretty horrified at how bad my situation was, how controlling I was with myself, and how sick I still was. You know, I was seemingly the picture of health on Morning Joe, just perfect, and that was just so far from the truth.
Q: Has Diane kept the weight off since you wrote the book?
A: Diane is gorgeous! She has a waist! She has a bust! She has a [butt]! She used to be 250 pounds! She used to be a big blob — unhealthy, but also unhappy. She's probably going to lose a little more weight, she probably needs to. But it doesn't really matter at this point [because] she's back in the world of normal, and she looks fantastic.
Q: And have you been able to keep the weight on?
A: I actually did a half marathon [recently] that I had committed to doing a long time ago. But as the date got closer I'm thinking, "How am I going to still be 130 [pounds]?" which is what I promised myself [I'd be]. And actually I got on the scale yesterday and I'm 129. And I have to tell you it is good, that I didn't become skinny again.
Q: Do you feel that the process of writing the book has helped you have a more healthy relationship with food?
A: Every day is a little bit better. Sometimes I backtrack. I truly believe it's like drug addiction or alcohol addiction or anything else that fixates on us and eats away at us. I believe that I'll never be better, and usually when I'm at peace with that concept I have better days. You know, I should look in the mirror and see a gorgeous woman. I still don't. So I can't tell you that this story has the perfect ending. But it's a lot better ending than I ever expected.
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