(Other reviews: Kirkus)
When I started thinking about getting weight loss surgery (WLS), I went to a close friend of mine who had it a few years prior. She was more than happy to answer my questions and recommended I read Stranger Here, Jen Larsen’s memoir on her experiences before, during, and after getting the surgery, to get a perspective and help guide me towards a a decision.
After reading The Big Reveal (which I LOVED), also by Larsen, I was torn. On one hand I wanted to be like Addie: Confident and inspirational. A person who loves their body and accepts themselves for themselves.
But I’m not Addie and while she’s everything every girl should be, it’s a struggle to accept myself and I’m old enough to be Addie’s mom. If an 18 year old can do it, why can’t I?
Reading Stranger Here was like reading my very own private diary that I had no idea that I had written or needed to read. Larsen writes a very poignant story about being fat is more than just weight. Spurned on by society and lack of doctor’s willing to use evidence medicine, it tortures our self-perception of ourselves, nearly destroying in the end and how we play into it all.
Near the end of the book, Larsen writes that she does not regret getting WLS but she regrets the years of her life she wasted on not loving herself. The comment is a mere few paragraphs, and Larsen doesn’t really expound on it much – the ending and the wrap up of the book was quite quick from Larsen’s rhythm, so I wonder how she got there and what she meant.
What does it mean to love yourself? Is it merely a trend about boundaries, self-care, being a spoonie, and self-love? What does it all mean? Why do so many seem to figure it out while people like Larsen and I tend to flounder and wobble as we find ourselves? Are we somehow figuring things out how society has wrecked us not only for our body shape but also for our own mental and emotional health? While trend seems to be a big word to use here, maybe it’s time we’re taking back control.
Maybe control is the answer. Maybe taking control of our own lives is what begins the self-love healing and acceptance with ourselves. We make choices and live by those choices but being fat is more than about eating too much as so much goes into it like genetics, medicines, and existing conditions. Being fat is not a choice no matter what society tells us.
As I navigate the process of getting WLS from reading studies, other perspectives, and the many dear friends who have had success at it, Larsen’s book sticks with me the most. It’s a comfort to know I’m not alone and also a comfort to know maybe things are going to be okay. And maybe, just maybe, as I discover more about my own needs and wants, I’ll find that I love myself after all no matter what I weigh.