You’re probably already reading Dietgirl, aka the amazing Shauna Reid, who lost half her weight and has been blogging about it since 2001. So you probably already know that she wrote a book called The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, and you probably already know that you should buy it and read it before the end of the year. (It’s available in the UK right now and will be out in Australia and New Zealand on February 1st. North Americans can order it from Amazon Canada. If you don’t live in any of those places, swallow the postage and packing fees to import it and make it the first book you read next year like I have.)
However, there must be some things you don’t know about Dietgirl, so I set out to discover them. Once we figured out the time difference, I pretended to be a journalist and chatted it up with DG on instant messenger about the book, the blog, and the possibilities of Lycra.
Thanks for agreeing to answer my stupid questions.
Hehe my pleasure!
I wanted to start out by telling you I was watching a mini-series adapted from The Wizard of Oz last week called Tin Man in which Dorothy Gale goes by the nickname DG. Every time someone said her name I thought, “DG? They know Dietgirl in Oz? Wow, she’s really famous!”
Ha ha! Those ruby slippers would have been handy while losing weight… “there’s no meal like salad… there’s no meal like salad.”
So, congrats on the book! It’s finally coming out after all your hard work. A couple years ago I read in your blog that you were writing the Dietgirl story as a book before you even had a contract. I thought that was really awesome and I admired your determination to pursue your dreams. Can you give us a summary of how Dietgirl: The Blog became Dietgirl: The Book?
I think even when I started the blog way back in 2001 I had a vague idea in the back of my head that it might make a good book some day… IF i could actually lose the weight. When I started out I felt frustrated by the weight loss books out there – there wasn’t anything in the way of Real Life Stories, just bossy nutritionists or celebrities telling you what to do or how their personal trainers told them to do it.
I started blogging about my lard busting purely because I felt lonely and needed some sort of outlet for what was a very overwhelming task – but when people responded so positively, I began to think that maybe I could make it work as a book. I kept putting off starting – thinking I had to be at goal before I could write it. Which is just typical of my old fat girl thinking – waiting for that elusive Skinny Day to really start getting stuck into life. But I just got over that last year and started writing in April. By October I was halfway through an extremely crappy first draft when I started putting together a proposal for the book. I ended up finding my publisher and they offered me the deal and it’s just taken off from there!
That’s so cool. Did the process of writing a book about weight loss have an impact on your weight? Any late night writing sessions fueled by chocolate bars?
I have to say quite honestly the book writing process totally messed with my head. It is a strange thing to write a book about yourself, especially when you’re still in the middle of the process. As if writing a BLOG about yourself isn’t navel gazing enough, writing a book about yourself as well, at the same time… I just got so tired of myself! Writing about me all day long, then realising the blog needed updating… then looking in the mirror at the end of the day and thinking, “Not you again!” And of course I felt extra pressure to keep the weight off, so I wouldn’t be a fraud to have a book about my so-called amazing weight loss :)
Writing a book is a lot of work. Hopefully people won’t think you just copied and pasted your blog into a Word document and hit the print button. How is the book different from the blog?
Well I have been blogging at Dietgirl since 2001, and at my non-fat blog What’s New Pussycat since 2000 – so I had almost 300,000 words of raw material – which means it couldn’t be a cut and paste job. So the book is a refined beast – it has plot and structure and consistency and reads more like a novel whereas my blog is more of a brain dump :) I had to fill in a lot of plot holes – like in 2002 when I’d regained 40 pounds and ran away from my blog with shame – I had to confront that period which I’d just pretended hadn’t happened on the blog!
I wish my real life had plot and structure and consistency. Less plot holes too :)
Oh yes! So many holes.
It’s hard to write something without reliving it. Were there any parts of your life that were particularly hard to go back to? Was there anything you really enjoyed reliving?
In the acknowledgements of the book I thank my husband for putting up with me while I relived every mood and moment of the last seven years while writing. There were times when I’d be typing away sobbing my eyes out, particularly the early parts of the book and thinking about why I got so big. I’ve been so focused on losing the weight and moving forward that it was quite painful to think about, but I had to, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to the reader why I got into such a mess in the first place. I just wanted to get to the good fun parts, like when I moved to Scotland and went travelling through Europe. I loved writing about meeting my husband and our elopement in Vegas, I’d be sitting in front of the laptop laughing as I wrote. So overall, it was an emotional process!
Was there anything you were tempted to censor or leave out because it was too private? (Like red, hot sex scenes?)
There is one scene where I’m talking about red hot sex – mostly about my fear of wobbling flesh while having red hot sex – and I dithered about whether to include it, knowing my mother-in-law would read it. But I’m just hoping she won’t notice it amongst all the other scenes in the book… fingers crossed, eh?
Maybe you can send her a copy of the book with those pages ripped out.
I was totally going to do some strategic page-gluing, but in the end decided to be brave!
I know a lot of people admire your bravery and find your story inspiring. Who are some of the people who inspire you?
I’m a sucker for anyone who overcomes obstacles. This is why I watch marathons on the telly and bawl my eyes out, knowing that everyone has overcome personal challenges to get to the finish line. You’ve got your elite athletes, people who overcame physical disabilities, then just Mrs. Blogs from down the street who somehow fit in her training while raising six kids and working two jobs… you know… just people going after their dreams, no matter how big or small.
Matt Sinclair is a guy who went to my high school in Australia and who also now lives in Scotland. In 2005 at the age of 27 he was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. He’s been writing a blog ever since and it’s frank, hilarious and incredible positive and inspiring. He once wrote, “I’m not dying of cancer, I’m living with it”. He’s never wallowed in self-pity but instead is just throwing himself into life as well as working hard to raise awareness about CML and bone marrow donation. Visiting his blog always gives me a great sense of perspective. http://www.matthewsinclair.blogspot.com/
Although you are well-known for writing about weight, I know there must be so much more to your life than just that. What is one thing you’d like people to know about you that has nothing to do with the size of your “arse”? Or two things. Or three.
I love music, I’m obsessed with Radiohead and I flew to Amsterdam to see them last year and the show got cancelled. So I flew back for the rescheduled show! Which is not good for my carbon footprint, but I’m more passionate about music than I’ve ever been about the size of my arse. I also love cooking and travelling. That said, a lot of things I love now have stemmed from my fat fighting adventures – I love kickboxing and I’m getting into hill walking and canoeing. I think overall I am just plain more interested in the world these days – I want to get stuck in to everything!
Your life has changed a lot in the past decade. You lost half your weight, moved to another country, got married, and wrote a book. If you could send a message back in time to your pre-weight-loss self, what would you tell her?
I wish I could tell her that the fat doesn’t matter. To give herself a break and appreciate herself and her body. That she was okay just as she was, right then and there. That she didn’t have to wait ’til she was skinny to start living. Which luckily is what I ended up figuring out anyway. I remember sitting on the plane to Edinburgh in my size 22 jeans and thinking, “I’m so glad I didn’t put this off another moment.”
Your book should be on a plane right now on its way to my apartment. So, what’s it like knowing there are people are out there reading your book RIGHT NOW?
It’s terrifying but thrilling! I worry about how raw and personal the book is in places, but then last night I got an email from a stranger who said she’d stayed up all Christmas night reading it and how it made her positive and happy and got her thinking about what she wanted to change in her own life… then it just felt like rambling on for 400 pages was worth it :)
It’s cool to know you’re making an impact on people’s lives. Do people keep asking you when you’re going to be on Oprah and think they’re the first person to ask you that?
Yes! They also seem surprised when I tell them I’m still working full time. It breaks their heart when you tell them a book deal doesn’t mean a truck pulls up to your house and dumps a pile of bills into your front yard!
Well, that would be a pain in the “arse” to clean up anyway. Have you decided what’s next? Will there be another book? An animated series? A line of whole-grain cereal with your picture on the box? :)
I’m thinking Lycra Dietgirl costumes for Halloween, like on the book cover! My husband has suggested I gain all the weight back and lose it again for a sequel, but I think I’ll pass on that one! I’m still figuring out what’s next but it will definitely involve more writing.
My final question: are you going to appear at book signings in the superhero costume you’re wearing on the book cover? Because you totally should. My mom is a professional seamstress (hint, hint).
That’s a great idea, as long as nobody expects me to leap any tall buildings in a single bound!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. Was there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that it’s been an honour to be interviewed by the QUEEN!
Awww, you can be in my royal court.
Thanks again to Shauna for chatting with me on a Saturday morning/afternoon. Now, go buy her book already so she can retire and do some hill walking and write more books!