This Is Big by Marisa Meltzer
Chapters that offer the biography of WW founder Jean Nidetch alternate with the author’s own “My Year of Doing WW” and meditations on being fat and diet culture in general.
Nidetch was a self-described “Former Fat Housewife” from Queens who founded Weight Watchers International in the early 1960s. Meltzer doesn’t have an awful lot of material to work with, but makes the best of what she has; after Nidetch stepped down from the presidency after a decade or two, the second half of her life seemed kind of sad coda. She divorced, gambled, lost a 49-year-old son (tumor? addiction? the jury seems to be out). She never gained back the fat; yet here’s proof that thin is not sufficient to make for a happy life.
Meltzer’s own life musings are a cut above those found in many other of the “My Year of” genre. I love the scathing attacks on ‘wellness’ culture – dieting by another name; “such a performance of loving yourself, of health, of fun, of flattering angles and good light and tight cropping.” “Wellness has become an excuse for doing what was once considered superficial; under the banner of wellness, the same activities are important, necessary, maybe transformative.”
Reminds me of points made in Smash the Wellness Industry, a NYT editorial I clipped and still keep smushed in a journal. My favorite line being, “Nobody is telling men they need to love their bodies to live full and meaningful lines.” It was really a “I could have had a V-8” head-knocking moment for me to read that.
My own wellness goals entail being so busy pursuing my fulfilling life that I honestly no longer notice my tummy or butt size. Note this is still in the ‘goal’ stage.