A few weeks ago I had lunch with Jennifer Joyner, author of the recently released Designated Fat Girl: A Memoir. It turns out she lives in Fayetteville and I live in Chapel Hill, which means we’re only ninety-something miles apart, or 1 hour and 36 minutes according to Google Maps.
We had a good chat about the publishing industry, weight, and incompetent medical workers. (While I related to many of the fat-girl experiences she writes about in the book, it was her encounter with bumbling Nurse Bob before surgery that really hit home for me. He must be the same guy who assisted with a CT scan I had last year that I’m amazed didn’t turn me into a mutant superhero.)
Joyner’s book is a memoir about her life as a food addict. After years of morbid obesity, encroaching health problems like gestational diabetes, and lack of success with other weight-loss options, she decides to go through with gastric bypass surgery. This comes with its own complications and leads to a battle with dependence on painkillers in which she switches one addiction for another.
The book is very frank about the embarrassing moments and low self-esteem Joyner’s weight problem caused her throughout her life. She’s also honest about the fact that weight-loss surgery didn’t solve all her problems, and actually gave her ones she didn’t have before. So, it’s not necessarily a happy-feel-good book, but it does revel the emotional truth of Joyner’s life well. If you’ve ever felt bad about being overweight, you’ll probably relate to a lot of what she went through.
It also provides insight into how food can be an addiction for some people. After her surgery, she has a craving for Doritos and ends up eating an entire bag, causing her intense pain, heart palpitations, dizziness and sweating. Then, the next day, she eats another bag, despite the experience the day before. This behavior leads her to the revelation that she has an urge to abuse food that goes beyond normal hunger.
It’s also good to see a memoir that talks about weight-loss surgery, and covers both the good and bad aspects of the procedure. There are lots of weight-loss memoirs in stores, but so few of them are based on experiences with gastric surgery, which seems odd considering how many people are having that procedure these days.
You can find out more about the book on Jennifer Joyner’s web site. You can also read a Salon.com personal essay she wrote recently in which she shares how food addiction has shaped her life. And despite the negative self-image she writes about having for so many years, she came across as a positively nice lady! You can buy her book on Amazon.com here.
Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, Jennifer was going to buy me lunch, but I used a coupon for a free meal instead, so she didn’t end up buying me anything. Which was sort of stupid of me in retrospect because I could have gotten a free lunch then and used the coupon later. I am a foolish girl, but at least that means there is no ethical shadiness about this review.