Geez Louise. The humor and good sense of Shanker’s The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life is a marked contrast to the neuroticism of Carol Lay’s The Big Skinny. Seriously? They both talk about bananas – Shanker’s all like, “Isn’t it messed up that one banana is two servings? Who only eats half a banana at a time?” Well. Carol Lay.
This graphic novel focuses on Lay’s weight management techniques. While it’s helpful in terms of really making clear the benefits of calorie counting, Lay’s constant self-righteous pinioning of fat people and weight gain really distracted me from much of the book’s usefulness. When she calls herself a former fattie, she’s not reclaiming the term like Shanker. She’s maligning herself and others for their laziness, refusal to do math, and all around sloth. The obese people she knows binge, are emotional over eaters, and are flaky, “stupefied” food addicts.
As I read on, I wondered if she would ever eat the other half of that banana since she seemed so anti-food. Her attitudes towards food and body image both really turned me off, since she basically started losing weight out of self-disgust. She got tired of men saying stuff like, “No fat chicks,” and wanted a more active lifestyle. This is actually the crux of why I found The Big Skinny useful but not enjoyable. Like, her pictorial imagery of a more active lifestyle? An image of herself going swimming. What did my fat self do yesterday? Smoke everyone at swimming. She’s arguing that there’s a certain amount of physical enjoyment and desirability fat people simply don’t have access to, just because they’re fat. That’s not really my experience. I find this attitude fatphobic and very jarring. There’s this idea that fat women must lie around in a puddle of their own grease all day, and that they must be TOO LAZY to take the OBVIOUS steps necessary to bettering themselves. Lay seems like she endorses this idea of “fattitude” to an outrageous extent.
At the same time, her method worked for her, and I could see why it would work for others. Most of the stuff she writes I agree with – simple, organic foods are way better for you than processed, chemical-laden ones. You have the right to be assertive about your food needs, even in the work place. The steps you take to be helpful shouldn’t have to change because of the office climate. Making a goal list and keeping it accessible will remind you of your resolve. Her frank tone is an asset here, especially since in these sections she stops dogging her “hefty” friends. Plus, she includes really useful pictures of the exercises she does as part of her daily routine. There are some useful calorie charts, a couple good menu plans, and a pretty thorough checklist of what you might want to do to get started on your life-style change. I’d take the rest with a grain of salt.