"Waisted" by Randy Susan Meyers
As a child, and throughout high school, I was the fat girl.
Not marginally chunky.
Not a bit overweight.
Legitimately and unarguably fat.
Probably the fattest girl in my high school.
Definitely the fattest girl in my circle of friends.
When I headed off to college, though, something... clicked.
My freshman year I all but gave up food. #NotDietAdviceToBeReplicated
As a result, while those around me packed on the freshman 15, I shed 100 pounds.
And I maintained this weight loss — even wriggling lower, at times — for several years.
But, somewhere in my soul, I knew it wouldn’t be forever.
I knew I would fall in love and be willing to watch the number on the scale tick up a pound or two so I could enjoy popcorn and candy binges with my boyfriend.
And I knew — or hoped — that I would, one day, get pregnant and gain the weight that you must gain in order to successfully grow a new human.
So I was …. careful... in selecting a mate. I actively sought to pick a person who I felt would love fat me just as much as he loved not-so-fat me. Because I knew that, having spent the majority of my life shopping in the plus-size section, I could not, in good conscience, promise not to return.
Alice, one of the two dual protagonists in this Randy Susan Meyers novel, was not so careful.
Though she was probably never as really, truly fat as I was, Alice, like me, struggled with her weight throughout her youth. But, as luck would have it, she’d just ended one relationship — and, in her sorrow, starved herself skinny #NotTheWayIReactToHeartbreak #HelloBenAndJerrys — when she met the man she would go on to marry. Now, she’s regained the weight, much to the dissatisfaction of her husband and to the detriment of both their marriage and their sex life.
Like Alice, our second protagonist, Daphne, has always had a weight issue. But that’s where the similarity between these two women ends.
Daphne is married a man who loves her unconditionally — as all husbands should.
But despite the fact that her husband is content with a chubby albeit happy Daphne, her mother is not. As long as Daphne can remember, her mother has been dissatisfied with Daphne’s size, commenting on it all too frequently and looking on with judgment when Daphne so much as nibbles on a Cheez-It at a family gathering.
These two protagonists are thrust together when they both decide to leave their lives behind and participate in a month-long weight loss experience — during which the organizers will be recording footage that will later be turned into a documentary (you know… just to make it ever so slightly more excruciating)
Though the retreat as billed as luxurious — spa like, even — when Alice and Daphne arrive they find that there is a serious truth-in-advertising issue.
Almost immediately, they are subjected to verbal — and, at times, physical — abuse.
They are made to eat almost nothing and exercise almost constantly — think “The Biggest Loser” but on steroids.
To top it off, while their bodies are being molded, their spirits are being broken. The production crew forces them to wear ill-fitting garments that hug every bump and dimple and participate in daily weigh-ins while scantily clad or, at times, completely nude.
All of this they can put up with — do put up with for quite some time, authentically willing to do anything to leave the retreat several sizes smaller than they were on arrival.
But then, something happens that leaves them questioning everything, including their safety.
Suddenly, they know they have to escape.
Because, if they don’t, they worry they might pay the ultimate price for what they now fear might have just been an exercise in vanity.
It might surprise you that I, someone who:
Is a reader and
Has struggled with her weight since… idk… toddlerhood
avoid books focusing on weight or weight-loss almost as a rule.
Because novels about weight never fucking get it right.
Almost always these books are inaccurate.
They are, too often, written by people who have no idea what it means to struggle with your weight.
By the same people who troll internet comments sections, pretending to give a shit about the health of a plus-sized model when in fact they are simply berating her because they don’t find her aesthetically pleasing.
Oddly, though, despite my swearing off of weight-related books, promotional materials for this novel called out to me.
And I’m glad.
Because Waisted was so different from every weight-related novel I have ever read.
It was powerful.
And so fucking accurate.
Meyers built characters with authentic backstories and realistic struggles who you absolutely had to root for.
She managed to walk that figurative tightrope, realistically depicting women of size who are aware of — and, often, dissatisfied with — the fullness of their bodies without portraying being fat as so disgusting, so distasteful, so aberrant as to almost make the carrier of extra pounds less than human.
I think, really, we are all always looking for books in which we can see ourselves.
And I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen myself in a book more than I see myself in this one.
The absolute only weakness that I perceived in this book was the ending.
And let me preface this by saying it's not that the ending was horrible. It just wasn't as exceptional as the 11/12ths of the book that preceded it.
Admittedly, the author used the ending of the book to drive home — or sometimes teach for the first time — some important life lessons.
She provided commentary on how we judge others, how we judge ourselves, and the impact that these judgments have on our overall happiness.
I absolutely agree with the points she made and think she expressed them beautifully.
But even with this unreserved agreement, I still wanted... more.
At the end of the day, this book went out with a whimper... not a bang... and if there is one book I've read this year that deserves a deafening BANG of an ending, it's this one.
All said and done, though, this book resonated with me in a way that no other book centering on weight ever has. I will absolutely recommend it and advocate for it well into the future.
It earns 4 out of 5 (full-sugar) cocktails.
Having read — and *spoiler-alert-though-is-it-really-a-spoiler-if-it-comes-at-the-end-of-the-review* loved it — I’m now wondering if I should give weight-focused novels another chance. Have you ever read a novel focusing on weight that you feel got it right? Tell me about it in the comments, below.
Here we go… next book, please.
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