Before we get started with the interview with our featured author, I want to take some time to add my condolences and prayers for everyone who is grieving from the recent tragedies in Orlando, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge, and Dallas.
Almost every woman I know is self-critical about body image. It’s rampant, beginning in childhood or teen years. Happiness is shattered by the realization that all your self-worth is wrapped up into a concept society deems important. You are a clothing size. And if you don’t fit the bill, you are “nothing.” You become someone who is overlooked, ridiculed, and shamed. You have to be someone who is “easy on the eyes.” Being overweight is the new group to hate. It’s a painful membership to a club nobody enjoys.
I’ve been reading women’s memoirs on body issues and relationships. Fat Girl, Skinny really hit home for me because Archer has the uncanny ability to tease the funny bone while talking about sensitive issues. A few emotions are prevalent in writing about life and eating disorders. There is anger, grief, frustration and fear. We eat for comfort. We eat for love but the satisfaction doesn’t last.
The goal is to deal with our thoughts as habits. Then we can cherish and love our physical bodies. And, we don’t do this fight alone.
It’s interesting that Archer talks about overweight women as a “marginalized group.” Writing a memoir about your body is like walking out on a diving board naked. There comes a time when you jump in the water, naysayers be damned.
“I am down almost thirty pounds now, and for the first time I can remember, I am actually inviting a man to touch my body.” AA
For Archer, joining Weight Watchers offered her the support, the challenge to get fit, and the joy of belonging. She began to reach her goals.
“I have been humiliated most of my adult life. I have worked so hard at being accepted, so sweet and nice, always over compensating for the lack of aesthetic on the outside.” AA
Below is my interview with writer, Amye Archer, Fat Girl, Skinny. You can find her here.
SR: What made you want to write a memoir?
AA: I’m afraid that my writing a memoir was more necessity than choice. I have a difficult time writing from an imaginary perspective. My own voice is my own, and even when I try to write fiction, the character is often exactly me. So, yes, there was a point where I felt that this story needed to be told, but I also never felt there was any other way to tell it than from my own voice.
SR: Do you journal or write your thoughts during the day or did you just sit down and decide to write a book?
AA: I do not journal, but it’s important to know that my writing is happening in my head at all times. If you knew me in real life, you would know me to be a little clumsy, forever preoccupied, and often forgetful. And that is simple because I am always writing, and that writing takes up a lot of my mental space.
I’m also not a big fan of disciplined writing, or of “forcing it.” I sit and write when the muse is with me.
“I spent years feeling responsible for someone else.” -AA
SR: As a co-dependent in recovery, the above sentence screamed out at me and made me realize how much addiction to approval in any form can be about relationships and childhood wounds.
AA: I think it’s important to realize that there is a strong correlation between obesity and codependency. For me, as I grew more and more unhappy with my relationship, I found comfort in food. Sometimes it works in reverse. But there is oftentimes a connection clearly, because when we let ourselves get to morbid obesity-which I was at 275-we are clearly not taking care of ourselves, but are often great at taking care of others.
It was a hard lesson, the idea that we must care for ourselves above all others. We live in a society to which the concept of self-love and self-care can be demonized, especially when you’re a mother. But it’s important and necessary for survival.
SR: How did your relationship with your sister factor into your writing? IE, family issues about truth and relationships are intense when writing memoir. What would you say to memoir writers who are excavating old wounds?
AA: I don’t advocate writing off family members, but the old adage is true: if they truly love you, they’ll come around.
I’m very fortunate in that I have artists in my immediate family, so the whole “laying it out there for the sake of the art” is an acceptable practice in my family. However, I understand that is not always the case, especially for those writing abuse/survivor memoir.
My best advice is that you stay true to the message of your story. Never forget that there are people in your exact situation who can be reached through your storytelling. It takes tremendous courage to write a memoir of any kind, but it’s also a great responsibility. Be true, be honest, don’t hide or shrink from the truth and you’ll do fine.
SR: Thank you, Amye! You give everyone who struggles with body image a feeling of hope. I love that you give us answers.
“This is my own life taking shape around me.” -Amye Archer
Right now, I am happy by being down about 12 pounds and am leaving sugar OUT of the house.
As a writer and artist, my goal is to be a healthy role model for my grandchild who has cystic fibrosis. I think about how we didn’t have so much junk food when I was a child. Food was real food, even though we ate meat, we didn’t have access to so much processed food. For me, trauma and anxiety influenced my lonely food addiction. Now it’s a battle for health. It’s been my lifelong struggle to accept myself for who I am and not what I look like. The challenge of life’s journey for many is around learning to love the self. In turn, we become of service to others. It seems that the key to happiness has to do with how we view ourselves. I feel that gratitude is an essential factor in healing.
Dear readers, I hope you continue journaling, writing, doing art, playing music or whatever form of creative expression inspires you. The door to the path of healing is always open.
“Hang on. You will become one of us. We will accept you.” -Weight Watchers advisor to Amye Archer.
If you are moved to contribute any comments or questions, please feel free.
Journal prompt: write about weight and body image. Have you ever struggled with over-eating or addiction in any form? Use pictures and collage in your journal.
Quotes are from Fat Girl, Skinny. Art is mine.
Copyright ©2016 by Susan E. Rowland