Fattie Book Review: Gunn’s Golden Rules

Gunn's Golden RulesRating: ♦♦♦◊◊

I started Tim’ Gunn’s book “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work” with the highest of hopes.  After all, Tim was just recently lauded right here for his wonderfully kind words on the need for good clothing in Plus-sized ranges.  His call for more human decency in the world spurred me on and enthused me: “Yes!” I thought, “Yes!  We need more basic human kindness!  More sympathy and understanding! YES!”

I thought I was going to fall in happy reader-love when I first got to page 120:

“I’m always saying I have the greatest respect for whatever size a woman is. We can work with whatever we have.”

Great!  Wonderful!  I might just love you Gunn!

But then, I started to get a bit leery as I read on a few paragraphs further.

“Of course, I also want people to be healthy. The girth issue in America is not about the clothes. You can dress the opera divas, and they can look great. It’s about health.”

Um…tell me you just did not go there.  Do NOT tell me you are going to go further.  Tim, please don’t….and yep, there it is:

“I know how hard it is to lose weight when you drive everywhere and fast food is so cheap. For what I pay for a deli wrap sandwich across the street, I could go to McDonald’s twice, and that makes a big difference if you don’t have a huge food budget.”

Seriously?  Have you BEEN to McDonald’s in the last few years?  I think the last time I went was probably 6 months ago or more and yet even THEN the cost of one of their “meals” would have easily paid for your “Deli wrap sandwich” Tim. Unless you’re chowing down on those 49-cent hamburger Tuesdays or something, the costs are not all that disparate.  And yet you so elegantly dip into classist healthism anyway.  I am so disappointed!

Oh but it goes on my dear readers, to disappoint and make me shake my fist:

“But you have to find a way to stay healthy no matter what your budget is, whether that means exercise or cooking fresh food.”

*facepalm* Firstly, Tim?  Health is not a moral imperative.  Secondly?  You cannot judge a person’s inner health by their outward appearance.  No, really and truly.  The next time you look at another human being and even BEGIN to think you know their general state of health, tell yourself to shut the fuck up for a second and remember that you DON’T KNOW.  Then, shut up for another long second to remember that IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.

Moving on we get to the part that made me literally toss the book down* in frustrated anger.

“If a very overweight woman asks me to dress her body, I will say, “You can’t remain 450 pounds. Forget about picking the best clothes for your size; we can always help you look your prettiest, but its just not healthy to weigh that much.”

Seriously?  Tim Gunn your job is to help folks look their “prettiest”.  PERIOD.  There is no, “But WAAAAA I’m like TOTALLY concerned about your health HONEY! So you go lose weight and come back and THEN we’ll talk fashion, mmm-kay?”

Would you tell a cancer patient that they need to no longer have cancer in order to be dressed up pretty?  Would you tell a drinker or smoker that “You know, you just MUST have awfully unhealthy livers and lungs so until those are in tip-top shape, no prettiness for you!  It’s FOR YOUR HEALTH!”  Yeah.  Not likely, right?  So, if fatness is all about my HEALTH, then why the double-standard here? It’s either a HEALTH issue or it is NOT**.

Honestly, if Tim is deluded enough to think that he really and truly is concerned about my “Health” and not how my fat rear-end looks FAT in fashion, I’ve got a bit of ocean-front property in Kansas to sell him.

When I finally tried to continue the book to see where he went, I was further convinced that Tim doesn’t really give a rat’s puckered little end about my health as a “very overweight (over WHAT weight??) woman”.

“For the last three seasons, I’ve worked with finalists of The Biggest Loser, helping contestants to dress their new bodies.  They’re still not small, but they’re certainly half the size they were.  And they are so much healthier.”

Full stop.  Let’s look at that again: “They’re half the size they were.  And they are so much healthier.”

I call: “Shenanigans!”

I guess Tim doesn’t actually read about the incredibly unhealthy means that these winners took in order to win the Biggest Loser competitions.  Or, the fact that none of the medical stats they might have had by the end were measured by medical professionals. Well, why should he?  They LOOKED the image of what Healthy has been marketed to us as being for so long, right?

As Spilt Milk to succinctly sums up that show: “What The Biggest Loser and actually the media in general does is conflate thinness with health. … Success is judged by appearance rather than a health check.”

Need a quick refresher of just how “healthy” these winners and their habits were?  Need a quick memory jiggle to bring back to mind just how sustainable these half-sized bodies were?

  • Ryan Benson, the winner of the first season has admitted he’s regained to a higher weight than his original weight but he thinks he has been shunned by the show because he publicly admitted that he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.
  • One contestant told the press that the week before the finale, she had lived on diet jello all week.
  • Finalist Kai Hibbard talks frankly about the pre weigh-in dehydration, trainers overruling doctor’s advice, the emotional abuse, the eating disorder she developed, and the edits designed to make the contestants look lazy.
  • On the first episode of the eighth season, two contestants were sent to the hospital, one by airlift after collapsing from heat stroke during a one-mile race.
  • The waiver that contestants have to SIGN clearly states: “no warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals who examine me or perform any procedures on me in connection with my participation in the series, or their ability to diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series.”

All emphasis in bold is my own

So, as far as I’m concerned, having a bunch of half-sized people who are entirely dehydrated, not even examined by certified medical professionals, who have spent weeks endlessly exercising, subsisting on diet jello and PISSING BLOOD, does NOT sound at ALL like a healthier person than a full-sized human being who is hydrated, gets regular check-ups, eats food and urinates only urine.

So, Tim?  Take your healthism preaching elsewhere, okay?  If you WERE concerned about the health of those finishing the Biggest Loser competitions and coming to you for fashion advice (which, I guess they then finally deserved because they passed your personal size-based litmus test of approval to proceed to wear clothing?) maybe you would have offered them a glass of water.  And a cookie.

Tim, why do you sugar-coat it?  Why not come right out and barefacedly admit to what you’re hedging at.  Be brazen like Maura Kelly why don’t you and just tell your readers: “Fat people are ICKY! I don’t WANNA have to ‘make it work’ for such fleshy people!!”  You complain often enough about designers who can’t seem to think outside of the “dressing a coat-hanger” mentality.  Well, your coat-hanger might be a few sizes larger, but Tim you’ve just exposed that you too have a dark nougat center, in which your limits of acceptable human size still persist.

Quite frankly, after this point in the book it felt that Tim was really derailed into raging against one fashion quirk or another, taking strange meandering trips over into gossip-mongering and denouncing various parental habits (though admittedly not a parent himself). By the end it really seemed to me that Tim had taken the vast majority of the book to decry all the many ways that he felt human beings were just mean, foolish creatures….by becoming a rather mean and spiteful writer himself.

A quote that sticks out to me is on page 232 when he rails against the way that high schools do not generally rank students because “ranks made students feel bad.”  Time lashes back with, “Well, if they’re in the bottom 5 percent of their graduating class, maybe they should feel bad!”

Indeed.  You’re RIGHT Tim!  All we need to do in this world to ensure we’re all nice to each other and living the golden rule mantra… is SHAME everyone else into being the golden stars you want us to be!  THAT’S the ticket!  Heaven knows that shame is ever-so-effective at making people want to better themselves!  All we need is a good enough dose of scorn-filled admonishment from everyone around us and we’ll all be thin, smart, rich, famous, well-dressed, go-getters!


I DID finish the book.  I was at turns intrigued and appalled by his call for more kindness in the world, followed immediately by some snarky story about how somebody was *snicker* Faux-Pas-ing.

I still just can’t get over how crushed I feel to find out that Tim isn’t the cheer-leader for all sizes that I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was inevitable for him to come crashing down from the delicate pedestal upon which I wanted to place him after his positive comments.  I guess it is too much to hope for in this world that a person could be CONSISTENTLY kind to ALL human beings?

Nah.  I still have hope.  It’s why I’m still here after all!  Dancing, living, loving, making love and rocking this Fat Life as an ENTIRELY Over Weight Woman.

Over Weight?

Yeah.  I’m over it.

Tim, and all you fellow Maura Kellys out there too, I think YOU should get over it too.

My weight (and largely unrelated: my health) is MY business.  YOUR weight and (again, largely unrelated: your health) is YOUR business.  Let’s stop judging each other and finding each other wanting. Learn to accept what IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS, treat EVERYONE with kindness and decency and understanding and move on.

That’s MY set of “Golden Rules”. And after reading this book, I have to say that I like my set better than Tim Gunn’s limited version.

Sword resting gently on my side while standing

Remaining graceful in the face of hatred? THAT is classy. And rather difficult actually. You have no idea how much swearing I culled from this to remain firm but calm!


*Okay so I didn’t toss it far or hard.  I AM still first and foremost a librarian after-all!

**Psst.  Here’s a hint.  It is NOT.


10 thoughts on “Fattie Book Review: Gunn’s Golden Rules

  1. you are so BEAUTIFUL in that picture….you have really inspired me to try and take a dance class, espically belly dancing. I have been a hand drummer drumming for dancers for years and never put myself out there for fear of being called a hippo. My mom used to literally tell me to quit dancing lest i look like a hippo from disney’s fantasia.

    • Aww but those hippos were beautiful!! 😀 And thank you for the kind words.

      Drumming is fun but I just totally brighten right up when I get to dance! ^.^ Happy drumming and happy dancing!

    • I took ballet as a little girl and my dad would tell me that instead of getting a tutu, I need a four-four, which of course ruined dancing for me, I can’t imagine why he would ever think I needed to hear that.

      As for Tim Gunn, I’m very disappointed. As a society we have been programmed to believe that thin = healthy, full stop, no further analysis needed and if that’s what you believe and no one has forced you to look beyond that belief, why would you when it’s pretty easy for yourself to remain a relatively stable and low-weight. Of course that’s no excuse for continued willful ignorance when you write a book.

  2. “You cannot judge a person’s inner health by their outward appearance.”

    Yes, yes, and yes! This is so basic and yet so commonly the point where seemingly-fat accepting people FAIL. So sorry to see Tim Gunn join their ranks.

    When I struggled with anorexia I was constantly complimented on my appearance AND my health. So depressingly ironic, as I was so sick–zero energy, no period, a weakened heart, a total mess. Now that I’m truly, joyfully healthy and loving life again, I get only concern and pity about my “health” because I’m slightly “overweight.” (Yeah, I’m over it too!) You are so correct that this kind of concern-trolling has nothing to do with health and everything to do with insecurity, shame and fat-hatred.

    At least Maura Kelly called it like it is.

  3. What a freaking fabulous post! I just read Tim Gunn’s book too and enjoyed it up to that point. I think you should email him this post, since he allegedly reads all his emails!

    • Golda I was considering that and KNOW I shouldn’t be intimidated by the thought of doing it but…well I won’t lie: I’m intimidated by confrontation!! >.< I also wonder if maybe his co-author wanted that part in there…but then figure I'm giving Tim too much of an "out" by even offering that up as an option. It was his book and he should stand by it.

  4. This is why I don’t watch shows like “The Biggest Loser”. They’re unrealistic and they over look the fact that 90% of people who lose weight gain it back (and then some). It’s wasted effort, but for some reason, people never get tired of seeing fatties huff it up the hills and cry when the scale drops a couple of pounds.

    And no matter what the tv shows, it never yields a positive thought. You can look at those folks and go, “oh, poor fatty…look how big she is…” or “Wow, thank God I don’t look like THAT” or “Egad, if I don’t start eating better, *I’ll* look like that…!” I think they’re meant to be inspiring, but they tend to bring out the worst in people, not the best.

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