Every girl carrying a wee bit more weight than the models of the world has probably heard it at some point. “Oh!” innocent acquaintances utter, taking in our cute shoes and tops (in slimming black, of course). “You have such a pretty face!”
I was a newly-minted 16-year-old the first time I heard that phrase in reference to yours truly, a woman who hasn’t been below a size 10 since middle school. At my absolute thinnest — which was probably my sophomore year of college, when I was walking five miles around campus daily — I was still 130 lbs. Nothing too husky about that — except that I’m only 5’2″. If only I were six inches taller . . .
But there’s no use wishing for impossible things — and Jen Lancaster gets that. In her third memoir, Such A Pretty Fat, Lancaster describes her struggles with diet, weight loss, exercise and an allusive sense of motivation. And considering she’s rolling-on-the-ground hilarious, it’s all done with her trademark candor and scathing humor.
What I love about Jen is that she’s a real, honest-to-God person. Flawed and funny and honest. Crazy and neurotic, yet lovable. She rants about things that I rant about. She laughs about things that I laugh at. And in this book, even more than her others, I felt implicitly understood and understanding of her. Such A Pretty Fat isn’t “OMG I’m so huge and let me whine about my weight but do nothing about it” shtick. Lancaster is actually a very confident individual — even cocky (but she owns it).
But like all of us, Jen eventually realizes her health and way of life are affected by poor eating habits and lack of movement. And in very meta fashion, she tells us that pitching a book about her struggles with weight loss — the very book we’re reading — is what finally prompts her to make a lifestyle change. And it works.
Such A Pretty Fat is at its most humorous when Jen describes her forays into the “business” of weight loss. Jenny Craig doesn’t come out looking too rosy in the portrait she paints, citing their constant “pushing” of the Craig-brand pre-packaged foods over education regarding smarter food choices. Jen’s portrayal of “food hating” seems spot on, and her story is poignant as she describes fellow attendees at Weight Watchers meetings who channel their self-hatred into a new target: the food itself. These “birthday cake haters” rage when coworkers dare to bring dessert into the workplace — without holding themselves responsible for, you know, using some self-restraint and simply not eating cake.
I work in an office, and trust me — I get it. It really does feel like we have dessert to celebrate the awesomeness of dessert, and you can’t take a step ’round these parts without tripping on a cupcake. (And I’m the one baking them.) Still, I appreciated what Jen had to say about actually backing away from the buffet yourself without trying to make everyone else miserable. Just because I’m opting to put down a doughnut doesn’t mean you have to do the same. To each her own.
Though Jen is often over-the-top, I love that about her. In terms of style, she’s pretty much my hero; girl can write and has excellent comedic timing. If you’ve ever struggled with weight (who hasn’t?) and enjoy your non-fiction heavily spiced with sarcasm and hilarity, don’t miss Lancaster. Though Bitter Is The New Black remains my favorite of her works, Such A Pretty Fat is a winner.
4 out of 5!