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Book review: Designated Fat Girl by Jennifer Joyner

Designated Fat Girl

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.

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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.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Tabitha @ Just Weighing In • November 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

sounds like an interesting book… thanks for the review


Karen • November 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

That sounds like a very interesting book. I have been toying with gastric surgery ideas, but I have come to realize my problems are beyond just obesity. I think I will check out the psychiatric help that is required anyway. There is something more than just overeating and lack of exercise. I think I will look into this book. Thanks for the review.


Karen • November 5, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Me again. I just read the post at Salon, and then a few of the comments. Most of them broke my heart. Most people just don’t get it. Their answer is “just quit eating.” Wouldn’t that be great – so simple. We wouldn’t be where we are if that were the case. So sad.


Julia • November 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for the review, sounds like an interesting book, is she going to review your book?


Debby • November 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I like that you’re an ethical person, especially since not many people are these days. Good post.


monica • November 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I too have also toyed with the idea of gastric bypass, so i might have to get this book to gain some persepective and insight on life after surgery, and issues that come up that don’t necessarily deal with drastic weight loss. seems like more and more people i know are having the surgery, but because i know how addicted i am to food i just don’t think i ever will have it. thanks for the review!


MaNiC MoMMy • November 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

SOunds like another fabulous book! And with or without gastric bypass, a whole bag of Doritos would make me sick, but how bout this one? In college, my roommate used to eat her Doritos with mayonniase?!?!?!? EWWWWW!

And I cannot WAIT for CHocolate and vicodin, but if I could have a choice between the two, I’d pick the vicodin!



Ninjutsu Training • November 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Looking forward to reading this. Do you know if there are ebook formats, perhaps for the Kindle or for the iPad iBooks app?


Glorianne • November 8, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the review. I got the book on my Kindle and I’m halfway through it. Though I don’t see gastric bypass as a reasonable solution in my future (I could be wrong), I completely identify with the food obsession, bingeing and hiding eating. Sometimes it’s enough to know that someone else goes through what you do as well — one reason I’m such a fan of your blog. Keep up the good work!


Thealogian • November 9, 2010 at 10:23 am

Never read Salon’s comments–after reading that painfully poignant piece, I clicked on the comments (& I should know better considering that I like to read Broadsheet and Salon in general and they have the worst trolls on the interwebs).

Anyway, thanks for the review and the links…btw, Chocolate and Vicodin is in my Amazon shopping cart :)


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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