Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Half-Assed: a weight-loss memoir" by Jennette Fulda

Think the last 20 pounds are the hardest? Try the last 200. At age 24 and 372 pounds, Jennette Fulda thought maybe the best way to lost weight was to have her gallbladder removed. Then she decided to work her ass off - literally. In her journey from full-figured to half-assed, she stops only to knock her cat off the treadmill.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who has ever struggled with their weight. Fulda was in her early 20s when she had gall bladder attacks so bad they landed her in a doctor's office discussing surgery. He was the first person to address the "elephant" in the room - her weight. He told her honestly and frankly that her size made removing her gall bladder riskier, and that she was also more at risk for complications. He then suggested that she consider having bariatric surgery after she healed from the gall bladder surgery because it might be her only chance to reach a "normal" weight and have any sort of quality of life.

Fulda luckily did her homework on the weight-loss surgery procedure, and in doing so, she realized that she would be trading one set of medical problems for another. She decided that the only way she would lose weight would be to do it the old-fashioned way - with diet and exercise. She wisely chose to change her eating habits rather than "diet", knowing that she would have to do this for the rest of her life. As for exercise, she chose something simple - walking on the treadmill. Except at almost 400 pounds, nothing was simple.

It never really is, regardless of whether you have 20 pounds or 200 pounds to lose. You have to decide to make the change, and then deciding what to do is even harder - should you severely limit your calories? Should you cut carbs out, a la The Atkins Diet? Should you go with the healthy fats, a la the Mediterranean diet? And just how much exercise do you really need? 30 minutes? 60 minutes? All at once or in small doses? And how strenuous does it need to be? The options are limitless, but also confusing and sometimes downright maddening. Fulda never really states what diet she followed, just that she did read a few books and picked one that she thought she could stick with (having perused her website, I now realize it was the South Beach Diet).

One of the neatest things about reading this book has absolutely nothing to do with Jen's story: it's the setting. While she was on her weight-loss journey, she was living in Indianapolis, and I recognized several locations that she vaguely mentions. For example, she talks about moving into her own apartment and how it was right next to "the trail" where she was able to walk with other walkers, joggers, bike riders, skateboarders, and the like. I know this trail! It's the Monon Trail, named after the old Monon railroad, and it runs for many, many miles - from the far northside of Indianapolis all the way into downtown and I do believe out the south end. I've walked on that very trail, which really helped me relate to Fulda as a person.

Another great thing about the book is that it's not just a chronicle of weight loss; it's about Jen's changing attitudes as well. At times she struggles not to see/think of herself as a "fat" person anymore, and at other times she finds herself starting to judge someone for their size - meaning she's about to cross the dreaded hypocrite line (or zealously reformed, take your pick). There are more and more studies that point to weight problems being emotional, not just physical, so the metamorphoses in her mind is very interesting. Sadly, I have fallen into some of those patterns myself; when I read on Fulda's website about her new book, I saw that she gained back 50 of the 200+ pounds that she had lost. My first thought was, "Oh, that's sad - she didn't make it". I know - as if she had died! I was mortified at my own thought as soon as I had it, trust me.

A very good read, and one that I highly recommend.

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