Book Review: "Locker Room Diaries"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - 11:12am

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

While some readers could find fault with the writing style of Locker Room Diaries, no one can argue with the message: Women feel terrible about their bodies. Author Leslie Goldman set out to investigate why. She spent five years observing locker room behavior, listening in on conversations, and interviewing women young and old. The result is a book chock full of anecdotes, intimate stories, and her own personal musings on how culture and perhaps women themselves have conspired to create an "epidemic of distorted body image."

Introspection and Observation

Goldman herself admits to a past eating disorder, and her own heightened sense of body consciousness is central to her writing. A less personally involved author couldn't have written this book. In a way, Goldman is sorting through her own conflicted feelings about the cultural mess that is female body image. The first chapter deals with the dreaded scale, the ultimate source of anxiety and self-loathing for too many women. Goldman observes women weighing themselves, ritualistically shedding everything that might add weight (i.e., jewelry, flip-flops, towels, etc.). The resulting number can make or break the day. Why, she asks, is a mere scale given such power? There are other appliances more worthy of our attention, like iPods and espresso machines. She's certainly right about that.

An Uncensored, Raw Look into the Locker Room

If you're looking for juicy dish on locker room activity, you won't be disappointed. Breasts, butts, cellulite, lotions, shampoos, designer underwear and make-up--it's all there, in abundance. Goldman does not hesitate to describe any of it. There are slim and fit exercise junkies in bikinis who hate their bodies, and overweight women who hide behind towels or stall doors, assuming everyone is judging them. There are women who seem to be deliberately flaunting their figures by parading around in the nude. Bra size, implants, breast reduction, and surgical scars are also observed in detail.

Moving Accounts of Real Women

Readers looking for an academic-style research report on women's body image problems will not find it in this book. Locker Room Diaries isn't about statistics, and it certainly isn't dry reading. Goldman chronicles the effect of this problem in the real world, in an informal writing style that includes the occasional coarse language. Particularly poignant are stories of overweight women or women who incorrectly perceive themselves to be overweight. They hide their bodies behind towels, thinking everyone else is staring at them. Whether the thinner women are actually staring and judging is open to question, since they're apparently very busy obsessing in front of the mirror about their own flaws. It seems no one is happy with the body they have.

Where Does Self-Loathing Begin and Where Does It End?

Goldman suggests that this destructive process starts for all women in school locker rooms. The stares and comments of their thinner classmates set the stage for a lifetime of self-consciousness and self-loathing. In the end, the women who seem to have conquered bad body image are the older women, who have seen and done it all and don't care. Instead of envy, they express admiration for the fit young women they see in the locker room. Goldman wishes we could all feel that way about each other.

If you feel less-than-confident about your own body image, read this book. You'll realize that most everyone else is in the same boat, regardless of size, weight, shape, fitness, or age. That alone should make you feel better.