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Book review: Gorgeously Full Fat by Sarah Clark

September 20, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthDiet TalkEating Disorders

Gorgeously Full Fat CoverA couple of weeks ago, a colleague shared about a new book on Facebook. The book was called ‘Gorgeously Full Fat — Live like you love yourself!’ by plus-size body-image blogger Sarah Clark. So I checked it out on Amazon (available in paperback and Kindle) and had a look through the free preview. It looked promising. The preview made me chuckle, and when I wasn’t allowed to read any more, I was a little disappointed. But with a shelf full of unread books (seriously, a whole shelf), a pile of half-read books, and around 300 scientific papers in my backlog, I didn’t buy it.

But when I saw on Sarah’s blog that she was offering a free copy for bloggers to review, I decided fate wanted me to read this book. And today I have.

Sarah is about my age, and reading the story of her teenage years was quite a blast from the past. Those of you in the UK may remember Jackie, the Green Goddess, Nimble bread, and the excitement of a fourth television channel.

shed your weight problemShe starts the book as a perfectly normal, healthy adolescent. But a few snarky comments about her body from family members and frustrated teenage boys, who weren’t going to get what they came for, and the damage was done. She says, “I knew I looked OK but if I just lost a bit of weight I could have been perfect.”

Ah yes, that definitely sounds familiar. What follows is an autobiography of Sarah’s own journey into and out of body loathing, following her travels down an increasingly wacky (read “desperate”) diet slope, with an accompanying increased inability to lose any weight at all. With every diet, every regain, the high she got felt a little smaller and the desperation a little stronger.

Every time I tried to start a diet, after a while the euphoria of weight loss and the thought of being slim disappeared just a little bit faster. As I desperately tried more and more diets, often all at once, I was chasing the feeling of accomplishment that I used to get when I started a diet, and it wasn’t there anymore.

So much of her story resonated with me: the self-loathing, the depression, the inability to voice what was really bothering me (and often not even knowing what that was) and finding solace in the forbidden fruit that my dieting journey had created. We both studied nutrition to try and figure out why we were such failures, and continued to pile on the weight even as our knowledge grew. We were even exactly the same weight on our wedding days (my first, her second). But to be honest, I was growing increasingly frustrated reading about failed diets and failed relationships. I was ready to cheer when on page 54 (of 115) Sarah ditched the diets. A page or two later, though, she had relapsed. When it came to diets, she got it, about what they do to the body, but without having developed the emotional resilience necessary to stand up to the diet industry and media onslaught. When trouble struck, it was all too easy to fall off the wagon. Increased self-awareness was no protection and just added to the self-disgust.

There is a lot of self in this book. Self-esteem, self-loathing, self-expression, self-destruction. While the pattern is one that will be recognised by many, it is a very personal story. Ultimately, this book is the “Before” part of Sarah’s story and, to be honest, I would have liked more of the “After.” The final section, “After the diets,” begins on page 103. Sarah has now found love and happiness and I am absolutely delighted for her — she ruddy well deserves it. It would have been good to see more of what that looks like. There are some good resources at the end of the book, but little of Sarah’s own guidance on how to get to your own happy place. Given the book’s subtitle, “Live like you love yourself,” I felt a little cheated here. If you are looking for a self-help guide to loving your body, I’m afraid this isn’t it.

At the end of the day, I feel honoured to have read such a personal story, as if she had shared her secret innermost thoughts with me, which she really had. For many, myself included, there is some solace, albeit tinged with sadness and anger, to see our own vacillations and flailings toward self-acceptance shared by others. It helps us realise that our own “Befores” are not due to personal character flaws and are rather a product of the cultural environment in which we were raised. This is a good, if sometimes depressing, read, and I look forward to reading more of Sarah’s writing.

Never Diet Again Sigs

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 23, 2013 9:21 am

    Thank you! You’ve inspired me to work on a follow up with more of the after story – I really am still a work in progress but I’ll keep you up to date 🙂

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