Tough-love diet book in the spotlight

Emily Dugan

For two years, it was a little-known diet handbook with a small handlist. But some time back, lifestyle guide Skinny Bitch rose to giddy heights on the Amazon website’s sales charts - 209th place in the US and 10th in the UK. And writers of the food manual had an unlikely literary heroine to thank: it took just one photograph of Victoria Beckham buying the book in an LA boutique this week for online sales to soar by 37,000 per cent.

Just 24 hours after the 33-year-old singer was seen reading it, Skinny Bitch was the book of choice for every discerning girl who was looking to get thin quick. The diet guide - which describes itself as a "no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous" - had been relatively unknown before Beckham, who once admitted she’d never finished a book in her life, plucked it from obscurity. First published in 2005, the handbook, written by former model Kim Barnouin and ex model-agent Rory Freedman. Barnouin, who says she has a degree in holistic nutrition, teamed up with Freedman to produce a book based on the novel premise that eating healthily stops you becoming fat.

The skinny gurus’ sage advice on how to avoid what they call "fat-pig syndrome" includes "beer is for frat boys not skinny bitches", "soda is liquid Satan" and ‘coffee is for pussies." Victoria Beckham, who has admitted to suffering from anorexia in her autobiography, is seen by many fashionistas as the ultimate pin-up for the skinny wannabe.

But the former Spice Girl has often been criticised for setting a poor example to young girls, and has previously tried dieting techniques such as taking liquid meal substitutes. Celebrity endorsements of diets are increasingly common. Kylie Minogue publicly said her svelte figure was down to the GI Diet, which involves carefully selecting foods that rate low on the Glycemic Index. The Atkins diet gained huge popularity in 2003 when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston said they shunned carboyhydrates to stay trim. Miss Beckham’s every move is currently being filmed by US channel NBC, in a `A310m fly-on-the-wall documentary. As many celebrities, however, Ms Beckham is not known as a great reader; in 2005, a Spanish journalist quoted her as saying "I’ve never read a book in my life", although she later claimed that she had actually told him she had never finished one.

However that did not prevent her autobiography, Learning to Fly, from performing magnificently on the bestseller lists. Its total sales are over 500,000, and it came third in the non-fiction best-seller list in 2001. Miss Beckham’s every move is currently being filmed by the American channel NBC, in a (pounds sterling)10m fly-on-the-wall documentary.

—By arrangement with The Independent