"We've been called a lot worse," giggles Freedman, who, with best friend Barnouin, is co-author of "Skinny Bitch," the snappiest-titled diet book on the market.
Subtitled, "A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous," it features a drawing of a skinny young woman on the cover and a picture of the two skinny authors on the back.
Written in a flip, "hey girlfriend" style in which expletives are not spared and eating meat is denounced as the "dead, rotting, decomposing flesh diet," "Skinny Bitch" quickly became a word-of-mouth hit upon publication in December 2005. More than 200,000 copies are currently in print, according to its publisher, Running Press of Philadelphia.
It got a significant international boost in May when L.A.'s hottest skinny celebrity, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, playfully held up a copy at the trendy Kitson's boutique in Hollywood while paparazzi clicked away.
"She never bought the book — she just picked it up," Fraser Ross, the store's owner, told The Associated Press.
But no matter, "Skinny Bitch," shot up top sellers lists in Beckham's native England and broke through to the No. 3 spot on The New York Times paperback advice list of best sellers.
"It's always been a steady seller, but I would say the Posh Spice thing just gave it this extra boost," said Jennifer Kasius, the book's editor at Running Press.
Beckham was not immediately available for comment, but for Freedman, the public's post-Posh embrace is just the latest example of "one of those kind of Kismet things where the stars align."
It all began, she said, four years ago when Barnouin, who had been converted by Freedman to a vegan diet, began insisting the two had to "change the world" and get people to eat better.
Freedman's initial reaction: "What can we do?"
"And then one day I called her and I said we're going to write a book, that's what we're going to do," she recalled.
"And the rest was history," laughs Barnouin as the two sit at a window table in one of West Hollywood's hippest organic-vegetarian restaurants and share a plate of vegan pasta and a vegan club sandwich.
"I can put some of this on a plate for you to try," says Freedman, offering up a forkful of pasta as she continues with the pair's efforts to turn the world into a healthier place one eater at a time.
Freedman, dressed in a midriff-baring top, and Barnouin, wearing a short brown skirt, certainly strike effortless poses for the benefits of the "Skinny Bitch" diet. Although both are trim and proud of it, neither is so skinny as to be mistaken for one of the many young TV actresses, models or movie stars who haunt the neighborhood.
But while the two say weight was never a problem for them, eating right was. And it made their personalities, well, less than personable.
"We both used to be really negative, angry, unhappy and miserable people," the upbeat, outgoing Freedman says of their pre-vegan days when she and her friend were known to consume burger after burger, as well as a hot dog or two and plenty of French fries.
Now Freedman, who has converted her parents to a vegan diet, and Barnouin, who feeds her husband and their infant son vegan meals, are out to show the world a person can eat healthy, look good and still enjoy his or her food.
They laugh when asked about the book's title, saying it was more about getting people's attention than anything else.
"We thought, 'All right, we've got to cater to the mind-set and mentality of people now,' " says Freedman, 32. "No one cares about being healthy. No one cares that obesity and diabetes and heart disease are more rampant than ever before. People care about being thin. That's it."
"We did say, 'Can we get away that?' " Barnouin, 38, adds with a laugh.
Perhaps more than the pejorative title, though, the book has raised objections from some readers who complained they thought they were getting a diet guide and wound up with something closer to an anti-meat treatise. The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for example, is praised in the book and cited as one of its sources.
Barnouin and Freedman make no apologies.
Not just vegetarians, they are vegans, a subset that not only eschews eating meat but won't touch any fish or dairy products either, meaning no eggs or cheese. They complain that the animals used in the food industry are not treated humanely and such food is not safely prepared.
One critic, registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, doesn't object that the book promotes a vegan lifestyle but that it doesn't include information on things such as serving sizes, calories, protein, fat and vitamins that are needed to ensure that people are eating right.
"A vegan lifestyle can be healthy, but it takes more planning than most other types of diets to ensure no deficiencies, especially of protein, iron, zinc, calcium, Vitamin-D, B12 and omega-three fatty acids," said Blatner, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
But she added that there is a place in the world of diet books for "Skinny Bitch."
"If you're looking for an introduction to a couple of women who are following a vegan lifestyle, some humor throughout and maybe a couple meal ideas, this is a good read," she said. "But if you're really trying to do vegan lifestyles in a healthy way, there are other sources from the American Dietetic Association that you could feel more confident about."
Barnouin, a former model who did most of the book's research, said she did correspondence courses with Clayton College of Natural Health, a non-accredited natural health school, which gave her a degree in holistic nutrition.
Freedman, a former modeling agent who once represented Barnouin, did most of the writing, coming up with such jazzy lines as "Soda is liquid Satan" and "Beer is for frat boys, not skinny bitches."
That latter line, as well as the book's title, could give the impression "Skinny Bitch" was written for women. But that's not the case, say the authors, who have received their share of fan letters from men. One endorsement in particular that filled Freedman with pride came from a radio station interviewer who told her that "Skinny Bitch" reads "like it was written by a dude."
It was just that attitude that led her to acquire the book after other publishing houses passed on it, said Kasius, the Running Press editor.
"Most women have some kind of girlfriend that really tells it like it is or lays it on the line for them, and it's written in that voice," she said.
It's proved so popular that Barnouin and Freedman have signed a contract for two more books.
Their cookbook, "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch," is due out in December and they are currently working on "Skinny Bitch Mamma," a how-to-eat guide for pregnant women.
By JOHN ROGERS