Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers

Glance at the magazines in the checkout aisle at the supermarket. Notice what the people on the cover look like. Read the article teasers and see how many of them refer to looks or weight loss. Now turn on the TV and note what all of the actresses look like. If you see an actress who isn't incredibly thin (this will be hard to do), do a quick internet search and note how many articles about her mention her weight. While you're at it, try to see how many articles there are out there about any actress (go ahead and pick one who is in the news a lot) who has supposedly gained weight and see how many times the speculation is whether she's pregnant or not because of something as small as 5 pounds. Now search and read articles accusing magazines of airbrushing women to conform to our often times unattainable looks (read weight) guidelines. On the internet, fat shaming is one of the last, close to universal, and least called out moments of nastiness around. When you start paying attention to these seemingly superficial things, it is easy to see that we as a society have a weight obsession. Now try being an overweight woman who is bombarded with this everyday. Fat people are told all sorts of things from the falsely concerned "you need to lose weight to be healthy" to the hurtful "you have such a pretty face" to the downright mean (and generally not said in front of a person but instead said behind their back within earshot) "she's huge." There is judgment in all of it. All of it is painful. For those of us who have battled our weight, it all hurts. And yes, we are aware of just exactly how many pounds we need to lose in order to escape the categories of overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. Don't think we aren't. But even women who aren't overweight probably have a very good idea of what they weigh and worry when they overindulge because that is the way society has programmed us. Randy Susan Meyers' newest novel, Waisted, takes on the issue of women's weight, how far people will go to lose it, the underlying emotional issues that contribute to it, and the strength it takes to love yourself no matter what size your skin.

Daphne is a former Hollywood makeup artist who owns her own business. She is absolutely amazing at her job and can transform anyone. But while she can make herself "painted pretty," she can't seem to transform her body into something she isn't ashamed of. Her lovely husband Sam loves her just the way she is but she has absorbed a lifetime of her mother's comments about her weight, especially in contrast to her thin sisters, that have wounded her to the core.

Alice successfully runs a large community center in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood while her husband is a handsome and talented documentary filmmaker. Alice met him when she was at her thinnest, right after a breakup, but now she's gained a lot of weight and he makes no secret of the fact that he prefers her thin. Her mother tells her that she should own herself, be big, black, and bold but it's hard for Alice to take that advice when it's coming from her slight, white mother who has no idea what it's like to be mixed race, belonging fully to neither culture that forms her.

Daphne and Alice meet each other when they sign up to participate in an intensive weight loss boot camp experience. But the minute they walk in the door to the farm, their experience is nothing like it was billed. It is humiliating, unhealthy, abusive, and frankly misogynistic. The women are shamed, kept on an unsafe calorie restriction and exercised for hours, while a cameraman documents everything. Do they lose weight? Yes, and the joy they feel as they step on the scale every day and see lower numbers fuels their ability to endure the hatefulness of the place even as they know that this life isn't right or sustainable. But when they finally question something in private, they discover that this "fat camp" is far more than they ever imagined and they vow to fight back and expose the unethical seediness.

I had to suck in my breath many times as I read this, recognizing myself in these characters and the self-destructive things they said and did. Each woman chose food as a way to salve her emotions, as a way to avoid addressing the emotional baggage they each carried, and then chose it again to deal with her unhappiness about her burgeoning size. While this may not represent all overweight women, it certainly does capture the shame and powerlessness of many. It was hard to read about women so beaten down, so full of self-hatred, that they would accept all manner of abuse but this does forcefully point out how deeply internalized our societal beliefs go and how much power they have over us in so many ways. As the women work towards acceptance of themselves, whether without the weight or with it, the story slows down and dips more fully into their lives in the outside world. In some ways this change made it feel like two different books, not always entirely comfortable together. But even once released from Privation Farm, the women have to hear comments and speculation about whether the weight will stay off, have to acknowledge and address their wounds, and have to ultimately live in their bodies whatever shape they take in the end, a lessen all of us should understand. This may not be an easy read for anyone struggling with her weight but it will certainly inspire reflection and adds to the conversation about personal and social expectations about women's appearances and I'm glad to have read it.

For more information about Randy Susan Meyers and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher Atria Books for sending me a copy of this books for review.


  1. I have trouble resisting novels about what it's like to be a fat woman in the 21st century. This one sounds pretty extreme!

  2. My review stop is on Monday, but I really enjoyed this one! I really did just go through a Body Image Boot Camp that wasn't exercise but focused on the mental side. It was really eye opening so a lot of things in this book made me scream but now I think of things differently. I don't think I'm hot stuff but I don't hate myself either. Anyways. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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