Book Review: Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel



Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel
Release Date: 16th June 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
Buy: Paperback  Kindle

4hwts2 What does it mean to be a sporty woman in the 21st century? From the launch of Net-A-Sporter, serving up sports clothing for fashionistas, to the introduction of #plankie as the new Instagram selfie for yoga bunnies; exercise for women has finally gone mainstream.

But if sweating has never been so hot for female celebrities, then why are there still so many obstacles for girls and women when it comes to sport? Why do girls still hate school sports lessons? Why is sport consistently defined as male territory, with TV cameras replicating the male gaze as they search out the most beautiful women in the crowd? Will women ever flock to watch football, rugby and boxing in their millions? Or turn up to the park with friends for a Sunday morning kickabout? How long do we have to wait to see the first multi-millionaire female footballer or basketball player?

Eat Sweat Play is an engaging and inspirational work by sports writer Anna Kessel.


As someone who hated PE at school and goes through stages of both loving and then hating physical exercise, I was hugely intrigued when I discovered Eat Sweat Play. One of my blogging resolutions was to read more non-fiction and I also hoped that this book might just force my lazy backside off the sofa and help me to re-discover my love of sport and exercise.
Who better to write this inspiring eye-opener of a book than Anna Kessel? Not only is Anna a sports writer from the Guardian and Observer but she is also the co-founder of Women in Football, which is a network of professional women working in and around the football industry. Anna has been there and seen it all, right through from bunking off PE lessons herself when she was at school, to navigating her way through the minefield that is partaking in sport whilst pregnant, along with the sexism and degradation she has faced as a female sports journalist in a predominately male environment.

Undoubtedly this book really is something special and it opened my eyes on so many levels. With the image-obsessed world that we’re living in, I will freely admit to being one of those people who mainly have always seen exercise as something which must be endured in order to either lose weight or help to eradicate those flabby bits. However, Anna’s message in Eat Sweat Play is that we need to completely change the way in which we view exercise. Why not get out of breath in order to make ourselves feel good? Why not get sweaty in order to make our bodies stronger? Why not appreciate the incredible bodies that we have – and use them to the best of our abilities? Our bodies were made to move and the difference being active can make to our lives is phenomenal. I really liked the fact that this book completely tips the ‘exercise to be skinny’ idea on its head and feel as though this book made me see that there is so, SO much more to physical exercise than getting rid of your bingo wings…
The other aspect of this book, as well as being hugely supportive and encouraging to its readers, details the shocking prejudice that women face in sport. This part of the book both shocked and enraged me. I had to question which century we were living in. A place where women aren’t seen to be qualified to write about sport? To even be a fan of sport, let alone play sport on a professional level. The lack of female presence in sport is horrifying (The camera zooming in on any pretty young women in the crowd at football matches-  THAT is pretty much the extent of female presence in most cases.) So I’m sure I’m not alone when I say THANK GOODNESS for women like Anna Kessel. For women like Judy Murray. For women like Jess Ennis-Hill. For women like Serena Williams. For any strong female that proves that women have just as much right to be successful in the world of sport as men.
As a reader who is interested in anything to do with feminism this book appealed to me in so many ways. I love how Anna exposes the gender equality, stereotyping and ideology of women in sport. She is also unafraid to challenge exactly where we’re going wrong as a nation, including how ‘physical literature’ should be taught in schools and PE lessons overhauled. What she says is very true in so far as if you are put off sport as a child for whatever reason, then it is highly unlikely that you will ever engage in that particular sport again. Once adolescents are lost to sport, very rarely do they return. How many women do you know who decide to take up football or any other sport in their twenties? Thirties? Forties?
So many fascinating themes are discussed within these pages. Alongside Anna Kessel’s stand on womens appalling treatment within sports she also discusses many other taboo subjects. Can you be muscular and feminine? How do periods impact upon athletes (this subject matter particularly shocked me; the degrading way in which female athletes would be made to take drug tests by providing a urine sample in front of (often male) drugs testers.) What can women do to avoid falling off the exercise wagon? How does pregnancy impact exercise? Anna has it all covered. I love how Eat Sweat Play is a form of ‘how-to’ providing advice, encouragement and very importantly – the facts.
I think this book would appeal to pretty much everyone, but especially exercise-phobics (like me!) Whilst there was a little too much advice & information on exercising through pregnancy for me (but this will undoubtedly be perfect for many other women) it has definitely got through to me on so many levels. I now have even more admiration for the strong women we are lucky enough to have in sport, along with all the fearless women that aren’t afraid to fight the anti-women stereotypes that are so prevalent in sport.
I am in awe of Anna Kessel. I think she is utterly amazing and the research and dedication she has put into this book really shines through the pages. She is so passionate about sport and the role that women play. She comes across as feisty, down-to-earth and hugely relatable. The part where she talks about losing her second child broke my heart and her euphoric descriptions of taking up running have encouraged me to dig out my trainers and get my body moving.
Running is something that I have always wanted to have a go at and Eat Sweat Play has firmly encouraged me to give it a go for so many reasons. (I’ll let you know how I get on! Gulp!)

With 2016 looking to be such a big year for sport Eat, Sweat, Play is essential reading for the sporty and non-sporty alike. It will remind you exactly how important sport is in our lives and I guarantee that by the end you’ll be digging out your trainers and wanting to get sweaty…


A huge thank you to Laura at Pan Macmillan for allowing me to take part in the blog tour ‘de france’!


You can find out more about Anna Kessel’s writing here and check out the Women in Football website here.



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