Eat, Drink Run: How I Got Fit Without Going Too Mad by Bryony Gordon
Today on The Tattooed Book I review the memoir Eat, Drink, Run: How I Got Fit Without Going Too Mad by journalist Bryony Gordon, a continuation from her previous book, Mad Girl.
Where Mad Girl concentrated on Bryony’s struggle with mental health issues since childhood, Eat, Drink, Run gives an insight into what happened during and since its publication in 2016. I don’t often read memoirs but Mad Girl caught my attention and I found it an incredibly moving and refreshing read; it’s genuinely upsetting to read her description of how writing it pushed her to the brink. It’s sad to learn how a book that has helped so many people drained it’s writer so badly.
‘Unbeknownst to me, my agent and book editor were busy having high-level meetings in which the possibility of pulling Mad Girl was seriously discussed. They felt that asking me to write about my illness had turned out to be a serious dereliction of duty, and that they couldn’t allow my wellbeing to be sacrificed at the altar of book sales.’
Bryony openly admits to being plagued by dark, undermining thoughts since she was a child and refers to these thoughts as Jareth, named after the Goblin King (played by David Bowie) in the movie Labyrinth. Eat, Drink, Run focuses on the main activity that keeps Jareth under control and after years of avoiding exercise like the plague, she starts to run. In Converse shoes, ASOS leggings and her husband’s Star Wars t-shirt she takes to the streets. Although she runs slower than some people walk, struggles to breathe and generally feels herself wobbling with every step, after the huffing and puffing, she realises something life-changing; Jareth has been completely silent.
When Mad Girl is published to glowing reviews Bryony inadvertently becomes a public advocate for wellbeing. Her mental health meet-ups (Mental Health Mates) are attracting more people than ever but as her public image soars her mental health struggles. Barely keeping up with her emails, she logs in and stumbles across a chaser email that includes HRH in the title. The email invites her to Buckingham Palace for an event promoting the mental health charity Heads Together. That’s where she mentions she’s been running and accidentally agrees to run the London marathon…that’s when the story really begins. Bryony Gordon, smoker, drinker and exercise-phobe is going to run 28.1 miles.
Bryony Gordon’s light-hearted writing and honest approach to her own mental health truly wowed me in Mad Girl and continues to fill me with awe. Eat, Drink, Run could be an interesting story in the hands of many writers but in Bryony’s, it’s far more than that. Her style of writing is so friendly and easy to read that you feel like you’re peeking into your best friend’s diary (without the guilt!) rather than a carefully edited memoir.
One thing that is missing from this book, is Bryony giving herself the huge amount of credit she is due. Yes, she has professional help along the way (in the form of a man who sounds one half French Adonis, one-half warhorse) but anyone who has suffered from mental health problems will understand the incredible willpower required to get up and run.
Anyone that’s really tried to run will recognise a number of the stages she goes through; giving in to buying running clothes and shoes, chafing, adding Vaseline and nappy rash cream to her shopping list, the first injury and the inevitable moment when your stomach turns against you mid-run.
What’s more unusual is the support she received from the Royal Family, especially Prince Harry. After she meets him at the palace, he agrees to be interviewed on Bryony’s mental health podcast, Mad World (listen to the podcast here). The show gained a huge amount of positive coverage, bringing the importance of mental health to the front page of magazines and newspapers across the world.
It wasn’t Bryony’s achievement at the end of this book that had my eyes filling with water but her continual openness and welcoming attitude to the people that find themselves opening up to her since she has shared her experiences (even thinking back on it while writing my eyes start to fill). This is reflected in her founding Mental Health Mates, a gathering she organised for anyone suffering from mental health problems, and the way in which she brushes off her husband and best friend’s concern at her meeting a bunch of strangers. It’s highlighted again when she’s approached by a woman towards the end of her marathon who admits she’s been too nervous to talk to anyone and asks if they can run together; they finish hand in hand *sob*.
Eat, Drink, Run is an honest and inspiring account of one woman’s determination to raise awareness and achieve more than she ever thought she could (with an added dose of Royal Family). You don’t need to have any interest in running to enjoy this book but if you’ve never considered it before, I’m pretty sure you’ll be eyeing up some running trainers by the time you turn the final page. Even if you’re not inspired to run, you’ll have your heart stolen by a funny and inspiring lady who has written an incredible book.
For more inspirational reading, take a look at Bryony Gordon picking her own uplifting books in the video below: