“Hunger, a Memoir of (my) Body, (2017 HarperCollins New York, NY) by New York Times best selling author of “Bad Feminist,” Roxane Gay, is about her tribulations with severe obesity. Bottom line – it is a cruel world for fat people and a very cruel world for very fat people.
From a beautiful, very functional,loving, well off Haitian family – not like that family of JD Vance in “Hillbilly Elegy” (2016 HarperCollins again) – Roxane Gay went to Exeter for high school and Yale University. She is a successful writer.
When she was 12 years old she was gang raped by her boyfriend and his friends. She says that she became very obese after that in order to keep boys away because of that horrendous trauma. But I don’t think I believe that. Obesity is a hard wired thing that would have happened in any event and is no more attributable to post traumatic stress than being gay is. At any rate it doesn’t seem to help her with those intrusive memories to be very obese. She also says that sometimes she gains weight from panic of weight loss. That is also hard for me to understand.
More straightforward is that it is mostly about terrible hunger and self hating. At some point she weighed 577 pounds. But mostly she weighs about 425 pounds. That represents 26% weight loss from 577. That is a very impressive and difficult weight loss to maintain. She is 6 feet 3 inches tall.
She’s tried all of the plans of “the weight-loss industrial complex.”
She tried bulimia, that is a normal healthy reaction to starving, and purging through self induced vomiting, that is a normal healthy reaction to self hatred for being too fat. Chocolate tastes the worst when it comes back up.
She attended with her father an orientation for candidates of gastric bypass surgery where a psychiatrist told them that, “‘normal people’ (his words) in our lives might try to sabotage our weight loss because they were invested in the idea of them as fat people.” After hearing about some other possible or expected side effects, Roxane and her father decided she was “not at this point yet.” I don’t think that was a reasonable presentation for obesity surgery.
When she broke her ankle, she was so anemic that she needed blood transfusions.
One revelation to me was the indictment obese individuals feel by the constant public proclamations about the crisis of the obesity epidemic and the cost to our health care system. It sounds like we should save ourselves by rooting out those people. The only consolation for these enemies of the people is that they constitute 35% of the population that is obese and 69% that are obese or overweight in this country.
Another story is that of reality television shows like “The Biggest Loser” that are “glaring, harsh and often cruel.” Apparently in season 15 the winner was Rachel Frederickson who went from 260 pounds to 105 that was shocking and scary to witness and then there were accusations by some former contestants against the show for inappropriate and dangerous tactics and a study that showed that 13 of 14 contestants gained back most or all or more weight that they had lost on the show.
Reading this book was penance for me. That’s a Catholic thing but I highly recommend it for everyone.
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or phone-354-6605.