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Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself
by Frances Kuffel
2004

passing for thin by frances kuffel Fat is not merely physical. In fact, according to author Frances Kuffel, fat is not just emotional or mental either. Fat is a planet all on its own — a planet of exile. Even when the inhabitants of the Planet of Fat become thin, they don't necessarily escape. And those who do escape don't get away unscathed. Obesity — especially morbid obesity brought on by a compulsive overeating — is a very complex thing. Losing the weight is one thing; recovering from fat is another. Kuffel's memoir gives the barest amount of space to the former and focuses on the latter. That's how it should be, because the recovery makes all the difference.

If you are looking for a "how to lose the weight" book, this isn't it. If you're looking for a book that will tell you how to be happy, no matter what shape you are, this book isn't it, either. Kuffel went from 338 pounds to 168 by joining Overeaters Anonymous and following the direction of her sponsor, but every overweight woman has her own unique journey to travel. Kuffel can't tell you to appreciate your current body because she hated hers so much when it was bigger. Even now she continues to battle with body image. What Kuffel does have to offer is a fascinating story of one woman and two bodies — the billowy, carbed-to-oblivion body that kept her from living life fully, and the more streamlined but still flawed physique that she had to get to know.

Living in the new body required learning skills that weren't a part of Frances' fat self. She had to learn about "girl" things like manicures and shopping for pretty clothes. She had to learn how to move and be active. She had to learn about self-respect so that she could leave an abusive boss and step gingerly into the dating world. And occasionally, the shadow of her former self would hover, waiting for a crisis that might inspire a relapse into her old compulsive ways. This is the real story when it comes to weight loss. It's about what happens when the pounds are gone and you're left wondering who you really are. When it comes to that side of weight loss, Kuffel pulls no punches. She's boldly honest, even when it doesn't show her in the best light (she admits to wanting a pretty OA sponsee and unkindly refers to a lover's overweight son as "Dudley Dursley"). She has a couple of slips during the course of the book, and it only underscores the difficulty of the path from Fat to Thin.

Although Kuffel has accomplished an amazing feat by losing more than half her weight without surgery, she doesn't seem to have any desire to be a weight-loss poster child. In fact, one gets the impression that if she could magically wave a wand and make her former fat life disappear altogether, she would, and gladly. Kuffel isn't perfect, and this is a good thing. Every woman who struggles with her weight feels highly imperfect and most likely has more than a small dose of self-loathing. Kuffel's story shows that your new body doesn't make you a new woman and even though that body has its perks (thighs that don't meet in the middle, second glances from men), it doesn't give you a new life. These are accomplishments that must be earned, that don't involve merely passing up the mashed potatoes. If Kuffel has any wisdom to impart to the Planet of Fat, this is her most valuable insight.

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