Frances Kuffel writes a detailed and moving story of her lifelong struggle with a compulsive eating disorder, food addiction and weight problems. From her childhood in Montana where she volunteered to wash dishes after dinner so she could eat the leftovers off the plates or hide food into her room, to her life as a literary agent in New York where she continued to eat uncontrollably until she was well over 300 lbs. While on a trip to Coney Island with friends, she is humiliated by a ride operator at the Cyclone who proclaims “Nope, It’ll never fit” and refuses to let her get on the ride. This is followed by one of her best friends, while drunk, belittling her in public about her size and weight. She eventually joins a 12 step program and begins a long struggle to change her eating habits and lose weight. With the help of sponsors and friends from the group, she gets down to the 160s but then struggles with her new body and learning how to act “thin”. No struggle is left uncovered as she chronicles her relationship with her family who support her efforts but don’t understand why she can’t eat “normal” foods, she writes about dating for the first time since she was a teenager and details her confrontations with an employer who becomes threatened by her weight loss and makes her life at work difficult. Overall it is a very inspiring story as she overcomes these obstacles and learns to accept her new self.
There were some parts of the book that I found hard to read because I could relate to her story all too well. While I never remember eating the leftovers off of someone else’s plate, I had no problem raiding the fridge and stuffing as much food as possible into my mouth before someone noticed. At the age of 13, I weighed 155 lbs. and have been as heavy as 345. I know the humiliation of squeezing into an airplane seat, asking for a belt extender and seeing the person next to you cringe like fat is contagious and they will catch it if you touch them. I have been embarrassed by asking to be moved to a table in a restaurant because I couldn’t fit into the booth that every hostess invariably tries to seat me in. While I know what I should eat and how much to eat, everyday is a struggle and I will binge at the drop of a hat. I know I can eat just one cookie and be OK but if that bag is left sitting out and no one is looking, I’m eating the whole damn bag.
Even as I read this book and was inspired as well as reminded that there was a ray of hope out there for me, I was helping myself to 2nd and 3rd helpings of Thanksgiving leftovers. How’s that for irony. I have managed to drop weight over the last few years but I still have a good 100 lbs. or so to go before I get back to what I weighed at age 13. Christmas, along with all of its’ requisite holiday dinner parties, is looming straight ahead and hopefully I will emerge into the New Year with minimum damage and a new course plotted.
While writing this, I was listening to "Little Fly" from "Chamber Music Society" by Esperanza Spalding