Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Angry Fat Girls

I’m reviewing this book for Turbo Jennie, who was sweet enough to let me borrow it before she even got a chance to read it herself. (Shoot, I think I’m not supposed to tell people she’s sweet. I meant to say she’s one tough cookie.)

Angry Fat Girls started with a blog. (See, Charlotte? It’s just that easy. What’s the hold up? Kidding!) Frances Kuffel lost 188 pounds, gained more than half of it back, and blogged her way through the trials of trying to lose it again. Through her blog, she met other women in similar situations (including one woman who had gained over 200 pounds in just three years) and several of her readers became friends. Angry Fat Girls is about Frances and four of these women—Wendy, Mimi, Lindsey, and Katie—and follows a year of their journeys to lose weight and change their lives.

The stories of these women really hit home for me. Their relationships with their mothers made me take a look at how I grew up with my mother. I remember nights of eating baked chicken breast and getting “the look” if I reached for seconds of something…the steamed vegetables and the “do you really need that” conversations we had. When I looked for someone to blame for my weight, I blamed her because I felt deprived of things so when I actually got the chance to eat forbidden foods, I went at them with abandon, resulting in uncontrollable binges that grew more and more frequent as I gained independence. As much as my mother tried to help, she was nowhere near as controlling as the mothers of the Angry Fat Girls. One mother was so distressed at her daughter’s weight that she refused to let her go on a trip unless she lost ten pounds. The poor girl nearly starved herself trying to meet her mother’s expectations.

So many of the AFGs suffered from one eating disorder or another and their combined list of failed weight loss plans was extensive and daunting…especially since my own list is fairly comparable. Reviewing the statistics of their yo-yoing numbers on the scale was a familiar experience, as was the negative self-image each of the AFGs felt.

Angry Fat Girls revealed a formula of which I was not previously aware. For every 25 pounds a woman loses, it takes her brain a year to adjust. Twelve months for her brain to catch up and actually see the thinner woman she’s becoming. It makes sense. It’s why I still browse sale racks that contain clothing four sizes too big for me. Why it never occurs to me to try on a smaller size and I end up buying pants that hang down to my crotch because they’re too big. It’s why I just can’t fathom a man smiling at me when there are so many other women to choose from. In my head, I’m still the Fat Lady I was when my journey began. And, while I’m starting to gain confidence and actually see the changes between who I was and who I am, it’s a difficult passage.

Perhaps the most startling breakthrough I had while reading this book came late last night as I struggled to keep my eyes open, knowing I was just pages away from finishing the book. Frances and three of the AFGs were planning a get-together and trying to decide where to go and who wanted to see what. Inevitably, the answer was, “Whatever we do is fine.”

Whatever we do is fine. I hate those words. It’s a fat thing: I need people I’m traveling with or entertaining to have a good time so that they’ll a)forget what I look like, b)forget the weakness and slothfulness that I am, and c)be in debt to me, a fat person’s approximation of love. To make it all worse, I, a fat woman, was in charge of three fat women. The Fat Code would be in complete effect. No one would voice an opinion, a desire, a dislike, an objection. We’d look like a collection of bobble-head dolls, always deferring, always listening for the subtle code of disagreement: “If that’s what you want to do…” “Whatever you say…” “I’m just along for the ride…”

It’s a fat thing. I knew that there were perils of being a Fat Lady, but I didn’t realize how deeply it had affected me. The Fat Code completely applies to me. I don’t like to be the decision-maker. I don’t want to decide where to eat for dinner, what movie we should see, or what book our book club should read next. I don’t want to pick something that someone won’t like…don’t want anyone to remember that I’m the one who made a bad choice. Will knowing this change the way I feel about making decisions? Probably not, but I will certainly be more aware…and I will attempt an effort to voice my opinions more often.

Angry Fat Girls was a great read and I certainly recommend it. In being a voyeur of these five women, it really made me look at how I see myself and how others see me. Whether you’ve been an Angry Fat Girl, you are one, or you know one, it will definitely give some insight into the minds and hopes of Fat Ladies everywhere.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

GREAT review Michelle! It made me look at this book in a whole new way. I gotta say tho - the deferring to others' wishes over one's own is not, in my opinion, just the territory of "fat chicks." I think people pleasing (which is what that boils down to) is rampant in women in our current culture. I know I suffer from that same "Whatever you say is fine" syndrome!