Review: Designated Fat Girl

Name of Book: Designated Fat Girl: A Memoir

By: Jennifer Joyner

Publisher: Globe Pequot Press

Copyright Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 189 (Nook Edition)

Format: Memoirs

Reason for Reading: I’m writing a couple’s memoirs, plus I am avidly and personally interested in the subject matter

Rating: A+

And because I’m walking first thing in the morning, I will set the tone for the rest of the day. I will eat well because I won’t want to mess up what I’ve done. I rip open the Hershey’s bar. But maybe you should start now. You don’t need that candy. Throw it away. Prove to yourself that you know you are worth it. The little voice is annoying me now, and I push it deep inside my subconscious. No, I have to eat this now, I tell myself. If I don’t, I’ll feel deprived all day tomorrow, and that will mess me up. Go ahead and get it over with and then make a fresh start.

I lie in bed and eat the Hershey’s bar, and then the Reese’s cups. I stuff the wrappers between the two mattresses, vowing to get rid of them the next morning. My tears are long gone. I’m back to feeling nothing. The back-and-forth has stopped, at least for now, and I’m ready to let sleep come and get me. Take me away. Take me to thin, pretty, happy Jennifer. I miss her. So much.

 I fall asleep.

The beast smiles.

What I liked: I can identify so much with Joyner. While I never got quite as large as she did, I was damned close, and while I seldom ate the quantities of food at one sitting that she describes, I ate enough to virtually put myself into a food coma. I remember once when I was staying up all night baking rolls for a friend’s party the next day. While the rolls were going in and out of the oven, I ate my way through an entire loaf of Texas toast smeared with butter and garlic, until I lay on the couch like a beached whale, so sick and wishing I could throw up, wondering why I did that to myself, and wondering if I would ever be “normal.”

What I did not like: There was nothing, for me, not to like. Joyner is brutally honest as she describes binges, how she was feeling and what she was thinking, the interactions with her family and friends. I’ve been there. I am there, with the exception that I had lap band surgery instead of gastric bypass. Like Joyner, I toyed with the idea of it long before I actually had the surgery, and like Joyner, I felt vaguely guilty over “taking the easy way out.” I’d see the magazine stories in People about all these people who lost weight the good old-fashioned way, watching what they eat and exercising, and wondering why that wasn’t working so well for me. Joyner points out clearly and distinctly that anyone who thinks having weight loss surgery is taking the easy way out is full of it. It’s just as hard as anything else, and, as Joyner’s sister-in-law gently tells her when Joyner says she just needs to find a way to do it on her own, doing it on her own has never worked.

If you’re a binge-eater, you will recognize yourself in the pages of this book. If you have other eating disorders, you will recognize perhaps not the binge eating episodes Joyner shares, but you will recognize the feelings of complete self-loathing. If you have never had any eating disorders of any kind, you will understand how some people deal with things, and you will find compassion for them as a result of reading this open and gut-wrenching memoir.

About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
This entry was posted in Memoir, Nonfiction, Posts by Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Review: Designated Fat Girl

  1. izzybella says:

    I also can empathize with this, much more than I wish! I think I would like to borrow this from you if it’s lendable.

  2. Bumbles says:

    I am glad to see a book that allows people to relate to something they have no connection to. I have read many such books on other afflictions, addictions and conditions and feel better for knowing a small piece of what folks go through and have a better understanding of where they are coming from. I think it is a true gift to be able to plant people firmly in another person’s shoes.

    I have a co-worker who had lap-band surgery last year. It has made a tremendous difference in how she looks and therefore feels. However, she has not yet addressed the emotional side to her eating and continues to make poor health choices with the food she does eat. She was also surprised to learn that she really did need to exercise and change her diet anyway in order to get her heart healthy. I do think she was trying to “take the easy way out” because she freely admitted to not having tried the traditional approach herself. But the process has forced her hand and she is more conscious of food and exercise in her life than ever before. I applaud her efforts and hope that she reaches the best level of health and happiness for her – not the level that society makes her feel that she should be.

    • Bumbles, good points, all. I’m a member of an online support group for people who are considering or have had lap band surgery. There was a painful post last week by someone who has had the surgery, and was completely unprepared for the grief she felt afterward, since she couldn’t swallow her grief by eating. Everyone really reached out to her, and I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to start finding productive ways to deal.

      That’s something that I’ve had to deal with as well, although I think to a lesser extent. What has really surprised me is that a lot of my anxiety has vanished. I have had agoraphobia to the extent that I wouldn’t go on dates with my husband if he wanted to go see a concert (he’s a musician–please, he always wants to go to concerts) or had panic attacks in a slightly overcrowded Barnes & Noble cafe. So when I voluntarily went with him to Dallas House of Blues, he was delighted. Yesterday we went to the museum and afterward we were just driving around, and he commented that he feels like we’re dating again instead of being an old married couple. So that has made me feel fantastic.

      I hope your co-worker is able to progress. If you think it would help, please feel free to give her my email address. I find that getting support from people who have “been there, done that” makes a huge difference.

      • Bumbles says:

        That’s very thoughtful of you. I’ll try to feel her out – she seems to be very secure outwardly and in control and I know she has a friend who went through it before she did that she talks to about it. But she might appreciate a detached ear who relates more closely to what she is experiencing.

  3. Margot says:

    I loudly celebrate you and everyone who takes control of something in their life that needs fixing. It takes so much courage to take the initial step. But, it also takes a lot of courage and hard work to make it day be day and sometimes moment by moment. It’s those tough decisions, reflected in the quote by the author, that come up in moments that can derail a person.

    I’ve experienced the food struggles myself and witnessed it in my family. I’ve also seen the struggles my son-in-law goes through with cigarettes. I know how tough it is to deal with these types of addictions. What’s even tougher is that society treats everyone who is not “normal” in such a negative manner. It’s as if the person who smokes or is overweight has leprosy. I’ve witnessed very cruel behavior as well as the subtle behavior of looking through those people as if they were invisible. It’s an aspect of our culture that bothers me a lot. I’m a big people-watcher and I see it everywhere. I’m concerned that, as a nation, we have lost our compassion for others.

    • Thank you, Margot. I think you’re right–it does take a lot of courage to work to overcome your weaknesses/addictions/what-have-you, no matter what they are. I’ve heard comments stating that the last acceptable form of discrimination is (whatever), but I think anyone who treats another person as less than acceptable for any reason is the one with the problem.

  4. Heather says:

    Sounds like an amazing book. I have a couple of friends who did gastric bypass and it has not been easy. Thanks for your heart felt review. I need to pick this one up.

  5. Thanks for highlighting the book. The binge scenes you describe are unfortunately very familiar to me. It is easy to feel very alone with an eating disorder but reading stories that are similar to yours does help.

  6. Colleen, thank you so much for visiting. You’re right–it does help when you are able to find other people with whom to identify. I recently read Fighting Weight, by Khaliah Ali, and it was another fantastic book about someone who’s struggled with weight all of her life. You might want to give it a read. Hope to see you here again!

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