Elizabeth Taylor's Self-Help Book: Elizabeth Takes Off [Book Review]

Even Hollywood legends have tough times. Personal problems become public news, whether you like it or not. Actor Elizabeth Taylor most certainly did not like becoming the butt of jokes for her weight gain during the latter part of the 20th century. Comedian Joan Rivers practically made a name for herself on late night talk shows ribbing the actor's size. Elizabeth Taylor's measurements would sometimes take precedence in the news over floods, Wall Street scandals and national politics.

Things were getting ridiculous.

In 1987, Ms. Taylor threw herself into the conversation, shaping the narrative with a self-help book- Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image, and Self-Esteem.

The author distinguishes image and self-image, saying,
" Image refers to our appearance. Self-image deals with who we really are.We all know heavy people whose emotional lives are in good order who have an excellent sense of self-worth. And Hollywood is filled with thin...women who are unhappy and unfulfilled, with little self-esteem."

The author goes on to mention that she "learned to divorce my self-image from my public persona," answering for her actions only to those to whom she was directly responsible, not to the general public. "After spending so many years being some movie mogul's idea of an ideal, it's a relief  to present myself as I am," she says.

Despite this strength, the author admits that she is an emotional eater. Delicious, highly-caloric foods were not nearly as enticing when she was content with life, active and busy. When her personal or professional life took a nosedive so did her self-esteem; she would then make a beeline for the double-chocolate fudge in the freezer.

After a while, with inactivity and feelings of purposelessness, food "became my only consuming interest. The first thing I thought when I got up in the morning was, 'What am I going to eat?' After breakfast I began the countdown to lunch...." She considers overeating another addiction that she used to comfort herself.

After trying every diet under the sun, the author found permanent weight loss in simple procedures. "I heard what I call the 'click,'", says the actress,"that little bell that goes off in your mind and says, 'Enough, time to stop.'" The Click is a reference to a line in one of her movies - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. When an alcoholic in the film is satiated, he describes that turn from rabid restlessness to contented state as a Click. Ms. Taylor spins this negative word into a positive for her eating control. She says the switch must be clicked in your own mind first, before you can succeed at your goal.

Takes Off includes a chapter on why the star gained weight, another chapter with tips on weight loss  (included how to dine with non-dieters) and recipes to use at home. Another chapter includes suggested exercise routines. Sprinkled throughout this book are photos of the star at home or at public functions before, during and after weight loss. The captions on the photos are raw and honest.

In Elizabeth Takes Off, Ms.Taylor shapes the narrative surrounding her appearance and creates something positive for other people. "This book," she says, "is not just to set the record straight as to why I gained weight and how I lost it. I also want to pass on some of the ways I was able to shed my own false ideas about being fat." One marvels at her vulnerability.  

This post is part 5 of 6 book reviews for  Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge Blogathon.

Read more at the Out of the Past website.


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