Living Large: My Review of Dietland

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Has it ever occurred to you how ridiculously difficult it is to be female?  Why do we pluck, bleach, dye, shave, and wax hairs? Why do we wear heels that contort our feet into positions which are not only torturous but also unhealthy for the human body? Why do we straighten our hair with irons and treat it with chemicals? Why do some of us inject poison into our bodies and use mild acids on our skin? Why? Because God forbid we wrinkle (after all, we all know the worst thing a woman can do is get old …  or fat)!   I am guilty of many of these things. There is no reason to be coy. I’m guessing you are too, because if you are reading my blog, you are probably a woman.

Growing up I remember my mom brushing my hair. I remember having this huge knot right behind my neck that had to be unmatted. It took her ages to detangle me. I was crying and upset, and my mother said something to me I will never forget: “A little pain is a little beauty.”

The things we do to be “beautiful” are really over the top stupid. Imagine if you were an alien looking at us from outer space and you saw that all these tortures were not only self inflicted, painful, and expensive; but that we deeply wanted them. What would you think? Us women are a strange bunch. But if you think a little deeper, there is more to it than that.

I just read the most amazing book called Dietland by Sarai Walker. It made me think a lot about all the self harm we do in order to fit someone else’s idea of what women should be. Someone needs to slap those people. We are rad as fuck just the way we are, dontcha know!? When it comes to Dietland,  what looks like some ordinary chick lit, with its cutsey little cover, is actually one of the most eye poppingly unique feminist manifestos I have ever had the pleasure of reading (and that’s saying quite a bit as I do a lot of reading and have a minor in Women’s Studies). It starts off being about a fat girl who goes by the name of Plum. Plum is trapped in her 300+ pound fleshy suit of armor which prevents her from living the life she wants. Instead of relationships and romance, she gets snide and nasty comments. Instead of feeling worthwhile and beautiful, she covers herself in loose clothes trying to go unnoticed. She is contemplating gastric bypass surgery when the story opens. What actually unfolds, however, is not your typical fat girl gets thin and gets a guy book. No indeed. What happens, as Plum’s journey unfolds, is that Dietland leads the reader to question why being fat is actually so bad. For that matter, why as women, do we feel such a desperate need to cling to almost unattainable standards in order to feel that we have worth? Is beauty the most important thing to aspire to? Aren’t we more than the flesh suits we live in? Maybe our fat / unibrows / excessive body hair / flat chests / aging bodies aren’t really the problem.

Dietland  was not just an engaging read. At times it is dark and hardcore, at times it is funny and sweet. It also made me angry … but in a good way. Some of the characters in this book were also angry, and the novel explores what happens when women stop trying to be all sugar and spice and decide to fight back. Dietland will leave you with a smile on your face, an unapologetic door stopper of cake in your hand, and a feeling of empowerment. This book is for any woman who ever felt like she was “less than.” So yeah, this book is for anyone who is a woman. I wish I was rich like Oprah and could buy a copy for every single woman I know. I hope you read it.

23 Comments

  1. A very interesting post!
    Some weeks ago I bought a new pair of boots with a fantastic but painful heels, and after some hours walking with them, I was wondering what the hell I was doing with that dreadful and masochistic boots, destroying my feet and ruining my night, why if I never wear heels?? In fact, I remember the last time I swear to myself never to buy again that kind of shoes, but…as you say, this is something we follow since childhood, in some way or another.
    I’m going to pre-order “Dietland” now, In Spain we’ll have to wait some weeks until it is on sale.
    Greetings!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha… I will start reading this book (even though I currently have exactly six books at my fingertips that I have started and not finished). It sounds wonderful! I was just on the internet searching for comfy skirts for NO. So… I am assuming if I show up with uncombed hair, comfy flats, no make up, shapeless flowy clothes, comfortable as all hell, in all my chubby glory, you will embrace me and love me just the same–and not run the other way. 😉 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very timely. Just before I came away to Argentina my GEOG590 lecture and reading was about body shape(s). Same thing. I loved it because I am porky pig at the moment. Never fatter. And I struggle with knowing that I should be more accepting, but hating myself so much for my size. Not helped by a couple of FAAAAT Facebook posts. It’s shit. And all couched so much more as “healthy” here in NZ these days than beautiful. But it is attractiveness or lack of that is what ‘they’ really mean. The best part for me of my lecturer’s critique was that she is guest lecturing from the Sport and Leisure Studies Department and is slim. It sounds affirming when she calls bullshit on the appearance of health. How can we tell by looks? There are healthy big people and unhealthy slim ones, and vice versa. Such a lot of pressure on women, and sadly young men are also starting to be bombarded with these messages, too.
    Love this post, caroline. Love you xxx.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love u too ❤️
      I have always struggled with my weight and body issues. I’ve even dabbled in eating disorders. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at me, but I have a strange relationship with food. I think most women do. Why should that be the case!?! I have odd eating habits and I’m either in feast or famine mode. I’m always hungry and I’m a giant foodie, but I’m always restricting myself. What our culture has done to women and their body image is a very sad thing. It creates a lot of self loathing which totally doesn’t need to exist.
      I hope you read this book. I think you would love it. ❤️❤️❤️

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    2. Whoops. Paper code wrong, who cares! I usually okay-ish. But late 40s and working while doing a Masters and all the travel. I have warped into a (pre) menopausal shape as I am not doing enough exercise. I actually eat fairly well. Usually. Yuck. I hate getting older now that I am not loved the way I used to be, chubby bits and all. He still loves me, but I feel less. Fatter and shorter than Leanne. Yuck. Stupid thing is I could never be as thin as her even if I starved myself. Such a damn mindfuck

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know exactly what you mean. Getting older and not feeling like you can compete with these over sexulized bimbos really can make a woman feel isolated, especially when the man she loves/ed cheated on her. Are we really expected to be on the treadmill in our 90s and trying to look sexy then too? Are we ever going to be just good enough the way we are?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Since I “know” and love you both, I am just going to say this. We do this to ourselves. We let the media into our lives and into our heads. I have a husband who loves, and I mean LOVES the way I look and tells me every single day. I am at least 30 pounds overweight, I don’t wear make up (can’t even remember the last time I wore lipstick), on many days I don’t even brush my hair!!! and he still loves me. He cheated because it is not about that. It is hardly ever ever ever about how we look or even feel about how we look. It is about broken people doing broken things. You are both beautiful women, gorgeous just the way you are. We are all beautiful. We need to stop letting in the hate and stop making ourselves feel bad. Love is on the inside, not the outside. ❤ ❤ ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      3. This is exactly what I have tried to teach my children. But the message to me was ‘not good enough’ and the OW taunted me with that for about four years, during the affair and with messages after. It has destroyed my once strong sense of self esteem. After all, I was never a classic beauty, and never valued myself in that sense. However, because she is tall, lithe and athletic, with a strong, professional career, with all the trimmings like beautiful home and late model car (Who fucking cares, Paula!) I definitely knew I felt deeply inferior – on the surface. But the surface is immediately apparent. I heard comments about me that were less than complimentary. Too heavy, too short, no independent career, must have been super shit in bed……and I angrily, reluctantly absorbed far too much of it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a kick-arse feminist who had never bought any of that crap – until he made such a fool of me. Then I felt that insidious message about women, the one I have tried to counteract especially with my daughters, sticking to me. I’m not proud of how this has changed me. I fight it every day. But at the end of the day, although I know it was totally about his shit and his shit decisions, I feel bad about me. Then I feel bad about not being able to rise above it and shrug the bullshit off fully. However, IRL, I pretend and project like crazy! Affair, what fucking affair?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I know how you feel. My ex had many women he slept with, but the one he left me for was 15 years younger than me, better body, and dumb as toast–but going to nursing school. Complete bimbo. During my one text conversation with her, I was told I wasn’t sexy enough and I should try dressing up for him. WTF?!?! Looking back, I shouldn’t be offended. She was just a stupid child. But he picked her over me.
        Paula you are an amazing woman. I admire you so much. Don’t see yourself as heavy or short or any of that sh*t. You are smart, kind, strong AND beautiful (I have seen your pic on Instagram). His stupid choices were about him and his ego, not about you. He is f’ing lucky you are still around. You are a kick ass lady, seriously!!!! You have nothing to prove❤️

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Read all of CM, owlie. Am a bit of a stalker fan of hers. Twitter, etc. I used to think I was a bit like her. And Rog like the long suffering Pete 😁 Hope he never breaks her heart like this (and that she never does the same to him!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I went out with no make-up on today. In public! It wasn’t intentional though. I ran out of my eyeliner and my spare is in my purse. I simply forgot about it. I usually only wear eyeliner and lipstick most of the time anyway. It’s a high pressure day when I break out the foundation and powder!

    Liked by 1 person

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