We think we've found the worst book of the year

Author Jessica Porter says the book is 'not about getting laid.'

Author Jessica Porter says the book is 'not about getting laid.' Photo: The Telegraph

There are so many things wrong with the new book The MILF Diet by former Whole Foods chef Jessica Porter it’s difficult to know where to begin. But its name is probably the most glaring so let’s dive in there.

The deliberately gimmicky, provocative title has already generated a certain amount of buzz in the US, if you define being banned from certain US bookstores and flamed on blogs as ‘buzz’. The acronym MILF, for anyone who fell into a deep and restful coma before the American Pie franchise descended into cinemas in 1999, stands for Mum I’d Like to F--.

And one might argue, if one was feeling particularly snarky, that the acronym is so old as to be considered passé.

The book, which actually looks quite clean.

The book, which actually looks quite clean.

Now, I don’t want to get all Intervention on you here but research shows if you try to lose weight for any person other than yourself it’s unlikely to work.  Real change starts and ends with you.

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Yet judging this book by its cover, you’re not slimming down for the sake of your own health, (nevermind the fact that the two countries in which its being sold, the US and Australia, are leading the world in obesity). Uh-uh, you’re doing it to garner the sexual attention of boys who, if we’re going to employ this term in its strictest sense, are roughly the same age as your offspring. So what’s that-- any age between zero and 40? Just as long as they’re younger, honey! Can I get a high five from Susan Sarandon? Susan?

This retrogressive, sexualised ideal of weight loss - through the prism of the male gaze – has a rich and terrible history. But I gotta wonder, is the male gaze now so narrow that even adult men are excluded from it?

The logic of such a title truly escapes me but let’s see if I can break it down. So we inhabit a culture that conflates thinness with sexual attractiveness. And sexual attractiveness with youth. So then ... let’s see if I’ve got this, we now want to elicit desire from youth? That’s kind of a gross, muddled  point to arrive at isn’t it?

Did I mention that there’s no corresponding DILF diet, so far as I know. Because that would be creepy, right? Indeed it would. But somehow when we reverse the genders it’s not just normal it’s aspirational.

But wait just a macrobiotic second here! Jessica Porter isn’t saying that you have to be literally alluring to teenage boys! She just wants you to know that as a mother you’re also sexy, as she spells out in the book -

'A true milf is confident, sexy, and radiates natural femininity.'

God help those who do not naturally radiate femininity, (whatever that means).

What becomes of those imposter MILFs?

But Porter's conveniently sanitised definition is all we mean when we toss around the word MILF! As if the burden to look hot at any age for any age was a desirable outcome, as she points out in this defence of the title -

‘Like other politically incorrect words have been co-opted, or re-purposed, over time by the groups they describe, I have also found that many, many women I have met over the last ten years have actually liked the term.  Yes, it’s naughty, but I believe that’s part of its appeal.  It has been used in mainstream media quite a bit over the last few years—on Weeds and 30 Rock, both shows with strong female protagonists who employ it with a wink.' 

Well, on 30 Rock at least, it was used to mock the dark, guttural levels that reality TV has sunk to in the fictitious reality series MILF Island. If you haven't seen it I recommend watching it immediately, below.

 

Porter is right when she says that politically incorrect terms have been co-opted. Her last diet book, the frankly ridiculous Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics (ie, the MILF diet for childless ladies who don't like delicious food) is proof of this. Remember when ‘chick’ was considered a derisive term?

But even if ‘many, many women’ like being called a MILF, surely we know that just because such a term is normalised doesn’t mean it should be. I’m going to bet that had she asked a different group of women they may have balked at the acronym, not because it’s offensive so much as laughably, despicably trashy. And just because it has become normalised, (for some, not all women) doesn’t mean it should then  be monetised – for women’s weight loss no less.

And just on that topic – we know that up to 80 per cent of all diets fail, making books like these challenging to sell. Book publishers know this too, hence the provocative titles. But it’s even harder to sell an eating plan that cuts out not only sugar but dairy and meat as well, which is what the MILF diet requires you to do.

 It’s difficult too, to market something so restrictive without slapping Gwyneth Paltrow’s face in front of it. Hence, the more restrictive, (read: boring) the diet, the hotter the title. The message is clear: don’t look at the bland food – look at your sexay bod!

Did you know that the best-selling diet book, Skinny Bitches, (another co-opted term) promoted veganism? Not that there’s anything wrong with veganism, just that the majority of the populous find vegan eating a tad boring. It’s better to focus on the pep talks, like this one on their website,

‘If you can't take one more day of self-loathing, you're ready to hear the truth: You cannot keep shoveling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight.’

Maybe I’m overestimating the intelligence of the average woman but I think that most overweight people know this ‘truth’ and that hearing the ‘truth’ is not really the issue.

 Let’s examine last year’s success story, the Dukan Diet, aka The Princess Diet. You know what the Princess diet is, don’t you? A sexed up version of the Atkins diet. Because if it’s one thing Princesses can’t abide it’s carbs. Or originality it seems.

Which brings us back around to an earlier  point – according to these books, losing weight for the female - because the female should always be losing weight - is never about good health. It’s about either generating envy, (so everyone calls you a bitch behind your back – holla!) or being elevated to the status of passive royalty, or being viewed as a sexual prize. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and any other obesity-related illness – these all fade into irrelevance when you catch that 13-year-old in all his awkward pubescent glory glance up from his smart phone to check you out. And us sexy ladies know what that look means, don’t we?

‘Why the hell is Max’s mum staring at me like that? Do I have sh-t on my face or something?’

 

86 comments

  • Points for your excellent feminist rant, Natalie Reilly, but you didn't tell us what the diet was all about. Maybe if we knew that, we could overlook all that hand wringing and moral outrage and actually drill down into the, well, the actual diet itself. Then we could base Porter's book on it's merits and not all the silly fluff filling the pages around it.

    I'm quite happy to ignore the filler if the diet is nutritionally sound. Which we don't know because we are too busy being outraged by Porter's language.

    It's Monday and I had a busy weekend and I'm tired so can we please leave the moral outrage until at least lunch time when I've had something to eat?

    Commenter
    Audra Blue
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    June 03, 2013, 9:11AM
    • Thanks Audra Blue but I did provide a link and I did mention that the diet was macrobiotic and that it cut out sugar, dairy and meat. If you're after more detail perhaps you can google it?

      Commenter
      Natalie Reilly
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Ummm... it is the title that offends, the book is no more offensive than any other diet book which works on the vanities of the readers....

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 10:03AM
    • If you're really interested in a diet which is nutritionally sound you should *shock horror* go see a nutritionist who will develop something that is tailored to you.

      We are all different and as a result of our genetics and different cultural backgrounds are pre-disposed to certain kinds of foods.

      Any book like this is not going to be helpful at all. It's just a waste of space with a purposely obscene title to try and help it sell.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 10:25AM
    • Natalie Reilly, I stand corrected. Now that I've had my coffee, the world actually makes more sense.

      Commenter
      Audra Blue
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 10:59AM
    • And that, my friends, is one of the pitfalls of legal drug addiction.

      Commenter
      jokes inc.
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 1:18PM
    • @Audra, I think you missed the point completely. Sure the diet may be as good as any other (and diets in themselves have the wrong message re healthy eating patterns but that is another problem) but the message is really offensive to women in general as it demeans their attractiveness to be just how thin they are. If you don't see why this a completely wrong message to women of any age then you really don't have a clue. The book is targeted the way it is purely to generate sales, not promote healthy eating.

      Commenter
      Lance
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 1:23PM
    • Audra Blue
      Agree. the article seems to take offence at the concept of making yourself sexually attractive for your own reasons (even if not politically correct!), and fails to see the detail of the diet.
      Carstendog - yes it's the title!
      What I would love is for Natalie to promote the lack of need to ever read any such diet book

      Commenter
      david
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 2:59PM
    • Lance, people are usually attracted to healthy people. Sorry, but that's reality. If it were a book advocating breast implants, plastic surgery, etc., or unhealthy practices like binging and purging, or about how to best pack on the pounds to appeal to people with feeding fetishes, fine, I'd back up your objections (in that last case because it can cause seriously bad health). But your objection is, seriously, that a diet might cause a woman to be thinner? We live in one seriously screwed up world if people start objecting to healthy diets (and I note this review doesn't suggest the diet is NOT healthy) because it might make a woman look more attractive, or because someone might dare suggest there's nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive to others. Maybe attractiveness is not the best motivation for being healthy, but does that make it bad? Who are we to judge when we do so many things (listening to music, walking in parks, whatever) to feel happy?

      Is the objection in this case due to the sexual connotations of the term? Yes, some women like sex. And, yes, the term MILF plays up to the idea that an older woman who combines youthful healthiness with maturity is sexy. Should women feel ashamed of that? Here I thought we were living in a society getting over the fact that sometimes people like having sex with people of the same gender, or people from different races. Here I thought feminists objected to the idea that only men become sexy with age. God forbid that a modern woman like sex, or having her sexuality respected despite (or, more accurately, partly because of) her maturity, and embrace both and still think of herself as liberated. Lets lock them up.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Location
      reality
      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 3:14PM
  • We get it, you're resentful and jealous of the many women who try to better themselves, or who are already refered to as 'MILFs' because it highlights your own insecurities. If you can't be bothered losing weight, then that's your OWN problem. If another woman wants to write a book and use the cheeky term 'MILF', then good luck to them. This article reeks of bitterness.

    Commenter
    Sam
    Date and time
    June 03, 2013, 9:26AM

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