Saturday, April 26, 2008

review: Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir

I discovered Jennette's blog not long after I started blogging. I read once in a while, posted a comment here and there. One day I noticed that my blog traffic had multiplied to about ten times its usual level, and figured out that most of them were coming from her blog from one of my comments. That's when I realized how just many people out there were reading along with me about PastaQueen's weight ups and downs (mostly downs). I was astonished at the time that not only was she willing to use her real name on the blog, but that she provided spinning photos of herself so that we could judge her progress from all angles. Clearly this was a gutsy blogger, and one with a good sense of humor.

Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir is like that: honest, gutsy, but playful: "Being fat was traumatic, but the food was amazing. I ate like most people would dare to only if an asteroid were scheduled to demolish the planet tomorrow afternoon." Jennette shares some of her difficult moments as funny-because-they're-in-the-past stories , like shopping for her graduation dress with her mother and running into not one, but two of her teachers. "At this point my memory goes blank. I can't recall the ordeal of trying on several white dresses for half of the English faculty at Everett High School. I've read that the mind blocks out traumatic memories for its own protection."

The book is serious where it needs to be. Jennette writes: "Once past the 300-pound mark, I avoided seeing old friends and relatives so they wouldn't know how out of control my problem had become." When a group of relatives visits from out of town, she greets them to be polite but then hid from them, first in the den and then by sneaking away in her car:
After an hour browsing the dollar bin at Target, I struggled across the parking lot and headed home. I slowed down at the stop sign three lawns from our house. I turned my head left and peered down the street. My mother was talking to my aunt, who was smoking a cigarette in the front yard. They caught a glimpse of my maroon car and started waving at me.
I took my foot off the brake and kept driving. I'd been made, but I couldn't go back there. They'd invaded my safe zone, my land of denial, the place I felt comfortable being fat. But I had no where else to go. I drove and drove. I think I stopped at a Starbucks. Time passed. I drove by our front yard again, and finally all their cars were gone.
I entered our house through the garage so the neighbors wouldn't see me.
"Are you okay?" my mom asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"Where did you go? Didn't you see us waving at you?" she asked. "We were worried."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I just had to get away." Too bad it never worked.
Jennette takes us through her visits to Fat Acceptance websites, where she found that her status as a weight-loss blogger meant she couldn't join the conversation. "Just because I'd accepted who I was didn't mean I had to cryogenically freeze myself as that person for the rest of my life," she writes. "When I finally accepted myself, I accepted that I didn't want to be fat. And that was okay." She chronicles her weight loss progress, including a false start after gallbladder surgery and a doctor's warning that if she didn't lose weight, she would continue to have serious health problems. She started her latest, successful attempt to lose the weight on January 1, 2005.

Much of the territory in the book will be familiar to regular readers of Half of Me, but the narrative develops in a more linear way and she has time to pause and reflect on her experiences. She shares how her blog both kept her going and annoyed her when a small weight gain yielded dozens of comments offering unsolicited advice or reassurances that everything would be okay. "I felt like they were swarming me with full medical attention over a small paper cut." She spends some time talking about how and why she gained the weight, and what she has learned about herself since losing it. She revels in her newfound athleticism and her hard-won cooking skills. I don't get the impression there was much elaborate home cooking in the Fulda household, considering that her mother calls her a "culinary genius" for being able to make chicken breasts, green beans, and couscous.

The book is a great, quick read. At times Jennette gets a little carried away with her metaphors. When discussing a blogger who had accidentally launched a firestorm with an ill-conceived post, Jennette writes, "The Internet eviscerated her. They dragged her into the public square, plucked the keys off their keyboards, and stoned her to death with F11 buttons. Then they strung her up with their mouse cords to hang." It gets a little silly here and there, but I enjoyed it because she was obviously having fun with her writing.

I got to meet Jennette at BlogHer last year, and I remember being struck by how witty, fun, and shy she was. This comes out in the book at times, like when she would make up stories about a birthday cake for her thin sister at the grocery store, just so she would be ready if the cashier asked her about buying a can of frosting. Jennette jokes that she hasn't completely changed: "I got LASIK and I lost the weight, so I'm no longer a blind, fat homebody, just a seeing, thin homebody." But she's a smoking hot homebody, who looks better in person than she does in her spinning progress photos. It's interesting that you get a different perspective of the same person from a blog, a book, and in person. I am happy that I've had a chance to get to know all three versions. After you trot on over to her separate book blog to buy your own copy, look at the list of events. If she's coming to your town, you might just get to decide which version is the real PastaQueen.

4 comments:

  1. i can't wait to read this! i think i'm going to go order it right now!

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  2. fab review Jen! i always love your reviews. i am waiting by the mailbox (well, mail slot thingo in our door) for my copy... i think it's coming across the atlatic by carrier pigeon :)

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to write such an in-depth review, Jen! I'm glad you liked it.

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  4. This book seems very interesting and i would like to order it right now.Although i already have carb rotation diet but it is not bad to get more information to lose weight ASAP.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07