Today is a guest post by the always entertaining and insightful Anne R.Allen, author of the new release, FOOD OF LOVE—a novel about friendship, size acceptance, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
Does anybody remember the size acceptance movement of the 1990’s?
Fashion magazines like Mode and Radiance featured gorgeous models with non-surgically-enhanced curves. The plus-sized Emme became a supermodel and motivational speaker. Romance publishers issued whole lines featuring curvy women who didn't diet to find love. Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES DIARY and Jennifer Weiner's GOOD IN BED topped the fiction bestseller lists. Books like Geoffrey Cannon's DIETS MAKE YOU FAT and Susan Powter's STOP THE INSANITY let us know 98% of diets resulted in weight gain.
The movement urged women to put energy into living instead of dieting. It reminded us that nobody who's starving can work at full capacity. It told us that if women channeled the energy we were putting into hating our bodies into changing the world, we could make a difference.
I wrote my novel FOOD OF LOVE during that era, just when a diet drug combination called phen-phen had to be taken off the market because it, well, killed people (but left a fashionably skinny corpse.)
I wanted to point out the ironic truth that women--no matter what culture, sexual orientation or race--are united by one thing: the compulsion to diminish ourselves by dieting. I showed how women inflict this insanity on ourselves and each other--as one character says "women are always complaining how the menfolk are oppressing us, but you know...we're pretty damn good at oppressing our ownselves."
I didn’t want to write something preachy. Or another “men are jerks” saga.
So I combined satiric social observations with a roller-coaster plot involving an aging supermodel, a conservative talk show hostess, a hot KGB agent, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
Two different agents took it on and tried to sell it, but it didn't pigeonhole neatly into a prescribed genre. Finally in 2001 I found a medium-sized independent publisher in the UK who loved it. I think the book might have taken off if they had been able to get US distribution rights. But one of the owners of the company died under mysterious circumstances (yes, fodder for another novel--coming out soon) before the book had a chance to find a US audience.
Soon afterward, New York pronounced romantic comedies "over" and plump, life-affirming heroines were replaced by vampires, zombies and the hungry undead.
At the same time a new cultural mindset emerged--carefully orchestrated by the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry. By the mid 2000's, the concept of body acceptance had been erased from our consciousness. We were again being told that starvation (and/or surgical enhancement) was the path to happiness.
I suppose it helped that our romances were all about falling in love with dead people.
Boomers were told the natural weight gain—which has been happening to aging human bodies since we were swinging from the trees-- is "unhealthy." Children as young as six were put on diets that destroyed their natural appetite regulators. We didn't let them run free and exercise, then shamed then for being fat. Fad diets like Atkins came back with a vengeance. Fat people were humiliated for entertainment and dieting lies got new life
with the 2004 debut of “The Biggest Loser.”
Personally, I lost faith and fell for the lies again: “It’s not a diet—it’s an 800-calorie-a-day ‘lifestyle’.” I was swayed by those nightly news reports about the obesity “epidemic”—which turns out to have been created by reducing the medical definition of “normal” weight, inflated by the natural weight gain of aging Boomer bodies. I was shamed by those decapitated images of people who dared walk our streets without buns of steel or six-pack abs.
After three years of starvation dieting and the subsequent craving, depression, and binging, I’d gained thirty pounds and looked for help in the size acceptance movement again. But I discovered most of their websites were dead and/or had been vandalized. I Googled “Emme” and couldn’t find one entry. It was as if the whole movement had never existed.
But this weekend something happened that gave me hope. The brilliant actress Melissa McCarthy won the best actress Emmy.
I’m not a big awards show fan, and the TV was on only to accompany my laundry-sorting. McCarthy’s sitcom, Mike and Molly was barely on my radar. But as I stood there folding my plus-size clothes, watching her walk regally across the stage, I shocked myself by bursting into tears. Here was a beautiful fat woman—seriously fat, not simply un-skeletal—winning an award over the likes of Amy Pohler and Tina Fey.
I couldn’t stop crying. It was as if some huge shift was happening in my own consciousness as well as that of the ATAS voters. I had a glimmer of hope that maybe things were moving back to sanity. Later that evening, I Googled Emme and found she has a new website, Emme Nation http://emmenation.com/ full of new messages to women about honoring ourselves, no matter what size the bodies our genes and age dictate.
This all happened the same weekend that FOOD OF LOVE finally made its US debut—thirteen years after I wrote the first version.
I am so blessed that a small US publisher, Popcorn Press, liked my blog enough that they contacted me and asked about my out-of-print books—and then liked the books well enough to publish them. With a fresh edit and a gorgeous new cover, the book is as relevant today as when I wrote it—maybe more so, because a whole generation of young women haven’t been able to hear its message. Most women still need to learn to stop “oppressing our ownselves”—and love the bodies we were born with.
FOOD OF LOVE is about living life to the fullest and honoring our own passions—whether for food, music, faith, or an all-consuming romantic love.
Anne R. Allen’s Blog
She’s the author of five comic mysteries debuting this fall with two publishers: Popcorn Press and MWiDP. FOOD OF LOVE is available in ebook on Amazon. The paper version is available for pre-order at Popcorn Press.
Upcoming titles: THE GATSBY GAME (October 2011) GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY (October 2011) SHERWOOD, LIMITED (November 2011) and THE BEST REVENGE (December 2011.) Paper versions will be available at Popcorn Press.
Anne is also working on a nonfiction self-help handbook for writers with PAY IT FORWARD author, Catherine Ryan Hyde.