Saturday, October 27, 2007

( hungry ) lessons learned on the journey from fat to thin

I just polished off this delightul morsel by Allen Zadoff. Dear reader, it kicks ass. This is my first book review here, what a great one to start!
Full disclosure: the author, Allen, is what I would consider a Friendly Acquaintance. We haven't been out for coffee, but we've been to many of the same gatherings and chatted at length. I respected him before I read his book. Make of it what you will!
I haven't written about eating disorders before either, because I (luckily) don't have one. However, I think it's hard to be a person in America~ let alone a lady in Los Angeles!~ and not struggle with some body image issues. I have difficulty accepting my juicy thighs, for example (see below) and know many friends who hate their breasts, or are ashamed not to have six-pack abs.

Zadoff's book is the best sort of memoir: he gives up the juicy stuff most people don't divulge, is brutally honest and bitingly funny at the same time. We never drown in a puddle of pity or despair because he doesn't either. He's shockingly compassionate as he reflects on his lowest moments (an example I appreciate!), and explains complex emotional processes and motivations in simple, clear ways that helped me identify my own.
He takes an unflinching survey of his relationship to food and overeating: from his delicious discovery of Devil Dogs at age six through teenage loneliness compensated by large pizzas and Doritos, his frantic run through a zillion failed diets and a mid-twenties full of misery and isolation (with its steady companion, fantasy), until his scale tipped way over 300 pounds. At 28 he finally surrendered and reached out for help; the meatiest cuts of the book follow. His words are best here,
Over the course of a year, more than 100 pounds fell from my body, and my thin life, the one I'd been waiting nearly 30 years for, finally began. It was nothing like I expected. For starters, Calvin Klein did not call with a modeling offer. The gifts of the thin life, which I'd always assumed included a beautiful wife, gorgeous house, and handsome Labrador retriever, did not materialize. My life was not suddenly perfect. It was a lot more interesting than that. It turned out that losing weight was only the first step in a much larger and more amazing journey.
I've read a lot of literature on eating disorders; Zadoff doesn't offer elaborate food plans, "tricks" for cutting calories, or grand theories as to why so many over (or under!) indulge. He does something far more shocking: he gives us a spiritual perspective on the journey "from fat to thin," with humilty and humor. And he admits his slim tome is not a self-help book, "because I cannot help myself." What a delight to hear from someone who admits he needs the wisdom and guidance of others, whether it be the community of overeaters he discovers or his "personal connection to a power greater than myself." His lack of ego and gentle tone actually made me listen a little closer.
I picked it up last night and couldn't put it down until I finished it this afternoon. Please check it out if you're so inclined, what a thrilling ride through a tempestuous Devil Dog sea!

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