PastaQueen, a.k.a. Jennette Fulda, created the blog Half of Me to track her goal of losing half her body weight. If you get a chance, check out her progress pictures; they're fun to twirl. Watch as she shrinks down to half her starting weight!
Now she’s written a memoir of her experiences in gaining and then losing almost 200 pounds. Since Crabby and I both love her blog, we were delighted to interview her and review the book.
I don’t know if it’s coincidence or what, but the last two people who’ve been interviewed on Cranky Fitness have then gone on to be interviewed on the Today show (Jennette and Leslie from The Weighting Game). It’s shameless the way those network television shows imitate us. Check out Jennette this Sunday, May 11, on the Today show. (Local times may vary.)
Okay, on to the interview!
Cranky Fitness: Pasta Queen, welcome to Cranky Fitness! What made you decide to write a book about the process of losing half your body weight?
Pasta Queen: Ever since Jennifer D. won the Young Author's contest in 5th grade over me, I vowed to avenge my unjust loss by writing a book one day. No, actually, I'd been writing a blog about my weight loss for several years and an editor expressed some interest in it. I put together a book proposal and was offered a contract.
Cranky Fitness: I bet Jennifer D. is feeling pretty silly right about now. Anyway, Crabby and I struggle to keep up one little blog. How did you manage to hold down a full-time job, exercise regularly, eat those damn green leafy things, keep up a popular and entertaining blog, and write a book at the same time?
Pasta Queen: I have a cloning chamber in my basement. I created a duplicate copy of myself to send to work while I wrote my book. No, that's a lie. I don't have a basement. In all honestly, I don't know how I did it. I didn't have much of a social life for several months there, that's for sure.
Cranky Fitness: Over the years that you've been writing this blog, you've gotten into running in a big way. Do you feel that running helped you lose weight or was it more the emphasis on eating those green leafy things?
Pasta Queen: It's been both. I know you can lose weight just through diet or just through exercise, but it helps to do both. I feel better when I'm eating healthy and exercising, though sometimes it's hard to remind myself of that fact when I'm staring at a head of cauliflower in my fridge sitting next to a much tastier looking pudding cup.
Cranky Fitness: Any future writing plans? Or future running plans? (Besides plans to run from silly blog interviews in the future).
Pasta Queen: I'll keep writing the blog as long as I have something to say. Looking at all the notes I've got for possible entries, that will be a long, long time. I've been trying to decide what writing avenues I want to pursue next, but now that I've lost so much weight, I feel like anything's possible. As for running, I'm going to keep up with that too, but no more half-marathons in my near future. I miss going to my TurboKick classes!
Cranky Fitness: Writing a blog can feel like exposing your innermost thoughts while at the same time remaining hidden behind a firewall of anonymity. How is it different from writing a memoir? More intrusive? Less?
Pasta Queen: In both cases, like a stripper, I get to decide how much I want to show. As an example, I have a somewhat strained relationship with my father which I've barely ever talked about on the blog, but I mention somewhat in the book. I wasn't sure how much to say about it, but I ultimately decided just to include the parts that related to weight loss. I also delve more into my childhood and my earlier fat years in the book, whereas my blog focuses mainly on the present. I did feel like there would an unspoken expectation to explain why I'd gotten so fat to begin with, which is something I've never really gotten into on the blog. So I did feel like I needed to reveal more in the book, but I've posted vulnerable thoughts on my blog as well.
Cranky Fitness: Does Half-assed utilize irony, subtext, metaphors, metonymy, or those other fancy literary devices that high-falutin' writers are supposed to employ?
Pasta Queen: I'm happy just to put together a comprehensible sentence that makes you giggle. If I happen to use metonymy while I'm at it, it's purely by accident.
Cranky Fitness: What's the most important piece of advice you'd give someone just starting off on a weight loss journey?
Pasta Queen: You don't have to start making the best choices, just better choices. Take your time. You didn't gain the weight all in a day and you're not going to lose it all in a day either. If you make small changes, they'll eventually add up to larger changes. When I first got on the treadmill, I could only walk 4/10 of a mile before I was exhausted. But I kept with it and last weekend I completed a half-marathon.
Cranky Fitness: On a blog, you get to write pretty much what you want and control what you "publish". But in the book world, there's reputedly an editing process. What was that like? Anything surprise you about it?
Pasta Queen: Having an editor helped expose my blind spots. After I'd submitted a rough draft, my editor would ask questions like, "Why didn't you talk about this?" or "Can you tell me more about what was happening here?" It forced me to look more carefully at parts of my life that I hadn't even realized I'd overlooked. I had a great relationship with my editor. She understood that the work was my baby, and I understood that any suggestions she made were out of the best interests of the book. She suggested I cut out parts where I took a joke way too far and she pulled out unnecessary passages to make the book as a whole much tighter and better. The book is much better because of my editor's invisible hand.
Cranky Fitness: Unlike you, many people who lose a lot of weight seem to gain it all back again. Are there special challenges and strategies that are different when it comes to maintaining weight loss as opposed to losing weight in the first place?
Pasta Queen: It's certainly less thrilling. When I was losing weight I got to step on the scale every week and say, "Down another pound. Woo-hoo!" Now I step on the scale every week and say, "I weigh exactly the same. Woo-hoo?" And then there are weeks when I actually gain back a pound and have to lose it again, which seems like an awful type of do-over. The biggest challenge is to keep it interesting and to stay focused. I try to spice things up by trying new exercise classes and cooking new recipes. If I get bored or lazy, I know I'll gain the weight back again.
Cranky Fitness: What does it feel like to have a book you wrote published and out there on the shelves?
Pasta Queen: It's surreal. I've been anticipating this moment for over a year since I signed my contract, so it's odd to think it's finally happening. My mom is thrilled! She went to Barnes and Noble and put my book face out on the bookshelves.
Cranky Fitness: Congrats on the book coming out, and thanks for letting us be on the "tour!"
The Magical Secret to Weight Loss
Imagine that you have just bought Half-assed: a weight-loss memoir and found within its pages a magical secret that will whisk away all your excess poundage and leave you svelte, scintillating, and successful. All women will envy you. All men will desire you. You will ride off into the sunset in your new convertible.
Yeah, it sounded good to me too.
I think that's what some people expect from Jennette Fulda, a.k.a. Pasta Queen. The woman lost almost 200 pounds, half her body weight, and everyone wants to know The Secret. Was it surgery? Willpower? A marvelous new diet? Little blue happy pills?
It is greatly to her credit that Jennette does not mention in the book the name of the particular diet she followed. The emphasis is not on one diet over another. She didn’t use weight-loss surgery or diet pills. Neither does she put much credence in losing weight through willpower. Willpower came in handy for short bursts in the grocery store, accelerating quickly past the cookies while heading toward the fruit and vegetables, but willpower didn't make the pounds melt away. What worked was creating healthy habits, retraining herself to eat healthily and exercise.
Does that sound boring? It shouldn't. What surprised me when I read this memoir was how much humor there was in her story. I kept reading along, mentally comparing notes, yep, did that, did that too, oh wait, I never thought of that .... Occasionally I laughed out loud. Jennette writes of her daily struggles with a nice mixture of common sense and a sense of humor.
- A few excerpts that I liked:
- She drove to McDonald's and deliberately stuffed herself with one last junk food meal before she went on her first vegetable shopping trip because "you shouldn't shop on an empty stomach."
- When participating on Fat Acceptance websites, she found herself banned from commenting because she didn't want to stay being overweight. She wrote "Acceptance is defined as 'recognize as true.' As in, recognize diabetes, sleep apnea, other problems are exacerbated or directly caused by obesity.... Acceptance does not equal complacency."
- About planning meals, she wrote "I never planned what I was going to eat until I was hungry, which was like waiting until I was drunk to start driving."
I think if you get into the habit of cooking and eating healthy food, pretty soon you’ll find that cooking doesn't seem to take as much time as it did when you started. But if you've never started, it seems an insuperable obstacle. I can't cook; I don't know how. It never comes out right, and it takes forever.
Times have changed. When my grandmother cooked the Thanksgiving turkey, she brought home a bird from the farm, wrung its neck, and started plucking feathers. Me, I pick up Lean Cuisine turkey meal and put it in the microwave. Jennette worked to find a reasonable middle ground between these two extremes, finding shortcuts that enabled her to eat healthy food without feeling deprived, and throwing in some exercise as well.
Don't read this book if you're looking for a fairy tale. Read this book if you want help to psyche yourself into doing what it takes to lose weight. To read her memoir is to follow along on her weight-loss journey: seeing first hand what worked and what didn't. No magical secret. One woman's story.