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“Beauty Sick” – A Book Review


Book 3 of 12

Beauty Sick by Rene Engeln,  PhD

Never be too proud of your youth or your beauty.  You did nothing to earn them, and you can do nothing to keep them. –  Beauty Sick

After several months of being told I needed to read Beauty Sick, I finally relented, and decided I would read it for my third book review of my Bucket List books.

I do not even know where to begin with my review on this book!  I can tell you, this book had a profound impact on me.

You can see by the cover of the book that this book deals with “How the Cultural Obsession With Appearance Hurts Girls and Women”,  I did not read this book from a feminist point of view, nor did I read it from any political standpoint.  That is not what this book is about.  As a girl, or a woman, have you ever stood in front of a mirror, only to point out the parts of your body that you think do not look good?  Have you  ever stood on a scale hoping the numbers would go down (or up) from the previous day?  Have you ever looked at your hair, and wished it looked a different way?  Have you ever gotten dressed in the morning, only to change several times, until you found something you thought looked “okay”?  Have you ever eaten something, only to be racked with guilt because “you shouldn’t have eaten that”?  If you can answer yes to any of those questions (and believe me, the list goes on and on and on), then I cannot recommend this book enough to you.  In fact, I really feel like every girl, mom, wife, college student, women in the work force, every woman, should read this book.

Dr. Engeln discusses how our obsession with appearance and beauty takes an emotional and physical toll on our health.  It takes up an enormous amount of our time and money.  Television, magazines, social media, Hollywood, everywhere we look, we see what the body ideal is, and we try to imitate that ideal.

Magazines are a huge contributor to a beauty sick culture, even though they claim to be promoting good health.

How many times have you looked at a photo of yourself, only to feel bad, and delete the photo?  Maybe you scroll through Facebook or Instagram, and take notice of how perfect everyone’s photos are.  What you do not see in those photos, are the amount of times they took those pictures, before settling on just the right pose, or filter.  You do not see the amount of time they spent getting ready for that picture.  As adults, we know that most images that we see, are not true reflections of what the people look like.  The photos have been touched up in some way.  As adults, we know how strict life must be to maintain a body worthy of being a top model.  But, regardless of what we know to be true, we are obsessed with it.  Beauty Sick opens your eyes to all of this, and more.  Beauty Sick shows us just how this obsession is starting at even younger ages, at an alarming rate.

Even doll manufacturers are sending our girls the  message that it is all about looks with dolls that focus solely on how they look – in this case, the doll comes complete with make up, belly shirt, belly button ring and high heels. It is marketed for 6 years and up.


Lovely Lola is actually a doll that is mentioned in Beauty Sick.

In Beauty Sick, you will read the real life interviews with many women (and girls), and the effect that a beauty sick society has had on them, and how some of them have managed to overcome it.  These interviews, though very disturbing at times, show just how damaging it is when a woman views her body as an object, where its most important function, is to look good.  In many of these interviews, the women suffered from depression, anxiety and eating disorders as a result of viewing themselves in this way.

While Beauty Sick opens our eyes to all of the ways we promote this culture, as well as the effects that it has on us, it does not leave us without answers as to how to combat it.  She makes us aware of changes we can make, both within ourselves, as well as with outside influences.  She offers suggestions on how to approach our daughters at a young age, when presented with questions of looks and weight.

This is actually a doll that was developed by one of the interviewees in Beauty Sick. The dolls are modeled after actual girls, using actual body measurements. The focus is on what girls can do, instead of what girls look like. Each doll represents a different sport or activity.

Beauty sickness is such a deep rooted problem, that change will not happen overnight.  But this book explains that by making small changes – by viewing our bodies, not for how they look for us, but for all that they can do for  us, we will begin to see ourselves for what is really important, and pass that message on instead of the messages that encourage beauty sickness.

This book really made an impression on me.  I completely related to one of the interviewees, but saw myself in almost all of them to some extent.  I think it was an excellent book.  It puts a name to something that so many people struggle with.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, young, old, female, male.  I think there is something for everyone in it.

Just a side note – the author does make the point that there is a difference between wanting to look nice, (or wanting to wear make up, do your hair, wear an outfit, etc.) because you enjoy it for you.  Beauty sickness is not the same thing.

I am giving Beauty Sickness 4 Scouts!!

4 Scouts – Loved it   3 Scouts – Liked it  2 Scouts – Disliked it  1 Scout – Hated it


  • Char

    I’m glad you found this book so meaningful! I wish everyone would read it — the message is SO important. The author was interviewed on a podcast I really like… if a person doesn’t have time (or the immediate inclination) to read the book, they can listen to the podcast here: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ologies/e/55867918 (language warning …. I think there’s some swearing).

    • Kathy

      Thank you for the link to the podcast! I hope someone is inspired to read it. The message really is important! I have been inspired by this book, as you know! Thank you for suggesting (and insisting) that I read it!!

    • Kathy

      They say to always trust your dogs judgement – so if Scout says something is good – it must be!! 🙂 Seriously though, that book should really be read by everyone. I found it very relatable, and very inspiring.

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