REVIEW: ‘Eat and Love Yourself,’ Original Graphic Novel

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Content Warning: This article contains description and discussion about eating disorders

BOOM! Studios announce that it would be publishing the original graphic novel, Eat, And Love Yourself, from cartoonist Sweeney Boo,  with colors by Joana Lafuente and letters by D.C. Hopkins under its BOOM! Box imprint last year. The graphic novel is about a young woman who struggles with society’s image of her body and finds a magical item that takes her on an incredible journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Originally scheduled to debut in April of this year, its release was pushed back, but its finally here and I’ve never felt so seen.

In Eat, And Love Yourself, Mindy is a young woman living with an eating disorder and trapped in a battle for her own self-worth. When she accidentally discovers something that will give her a chance to revisit her past—the relationships she’s lost, the mistakes she’s made, all of it— she thinks she has a chance to undo every wrong turn, to put her life back on track. But the ultimate question of the book is: will she be able to find a way back to her present, and just as important, a way to treat herself with love and kindness, at any size?

Eating disorders are highly stereotyped. They’re gendered as feminine and racialized as white, many of those who don’t fit the preconceived idea of what someone with an eating disorder looks like can struggle on their own for years before seeking treatment if they do at all. I’ve been open about my own struggles with recovery, after 13 years of living with Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa. I’m a brown woman and come from a culture where mental illness is already heavily ignored. For the longest time the only times, I saw eating disorders depicted in media, the survivors didn’t look like me, their storylines were thin (no pun intended) and the largest representation came in the form of female protagonists attempting to lose weight one or two episodes before realizing the “error of her ways” and finding her “inner beauty” and all the other cliches.

But in reality, eating disorders are complex mental illnesses often tied to severe anxiety and depression. For me, like many, food was control. My body’s size was something I could control in my life no matter what anyone else said. As someone who pushed to perfection, my anxiety and obsessive disorders were triggers for my eating disorder and while I strived for a number on the scale, the root of my disorder was far beyond wanting to look a certain way. In order to recover and heal, I needed to unpack my trauma and expectations and learn how to manage my need for control by other means. This type of nuance and recovery isn’t shown in media, that is, until Eat, And Love Yourself. 

Sweeney Boo captures the complexity of eating disorders and the way our lives can trigger them and how finding a path to recovery means discovering how to manage our triggers and isn’t solved by a magic piece of food a friend convinces us to eat like depictions on TV would have us believe. The graphic novel begins with Mindy’s narration and walks us through her frustration with life as she explains how she doesn’t feel like herself no matter what. In this opening we learn that she’s the responsible one, looking out for a drunk friend, and we also learn that she’s bulimic. For a few panels we see her binging and then we see her move to the restroom, her cat looks through the door, and then Sweeney Boo cuts to Mindy showering and brushing her teeth. We all know what happened, and the story begins.

After binging and being confronted by her best friend for doing so, Mindy eats a chocolate bar from a small company,”Eat, and Love Yourself Chocolate.” After a run to the bathroom, Mindy is snapped back to childhood and we see a moment that shows that her issues with binging and her weight began there. For those pages, I saw my family, my mother calling me a blob, pointing out my weight like Mindy’s father did to her.  In the next trip to the past we see that Mindy’s purging began early as well and when I saw young Mindy in the bathroom, I saw myself again. This continues and with each bite of the chocolate, Mindy explores her past and learns more about her triggers and begins to realize how to manage them.

The best part about the story is that Mindy isn’t thin, because not all those struggling are. While I dropped to a dangerous weight, for years I was not thin, which meant that many people in my life saw a problem and ignored it or assured teachers and coaches who brought up the possibility that I was healthy. Everything about Eat, And Love Yourself is authentic. It’s a story I know because it’s a story I lived and Sweeney Boo writes it with the utmost care.

We see Mindy binging and purgin throughout the story but never is glorified nor is it minimized. We see the struggle and the pain of each run to the bathroom and we even get the chance to understand how people shouldn’t react in those situations. This graphic novel is extremely necessary because it is accurate, and because it is all about getting help. This story isn’t about sensationalizing eating disorders, it’s about unpacking them and because of this Eat, And Love Yourself does valuable work.

Eat, And Love Yourself represents a story that will not only help those currently struggling with an eating disorder or those who have survived one, but it even offers a valuable window into the experience for people looking to help their friends or relatives in a meaningful way. I was moved by the care and love that goes into every scene of this graphic novel. There isn’t a title out there like this, and I recommend everyone add it to their reading lists.

Eat, And Love Yourself is available now where comic books are sold.

Eat, And Love Yourself
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TL;DR

Eat, And Love Yourself represents a story that will not only help those currently struggling with an eating disorder or those who have survived one, but it even offers a valuable window into the experience for people looking to help their friends or relatives in a meaningful way. I was moved by the care and love that goes into every scene of this graphic novel. There isn’t a title out there like this, and I recommend everyone add it to their reading lists.