I remember the day I realized I didn’t want my body to be the topic of conversation anymore. I was running a giveaway on my old blog, PastaQueen, for an IGIGI gift card. As part of the giveaway I’d gotten some dresses and was required to post photos of myself wearing them. I live alone, so I used a timer on my digital camera which resulted in some mediocre photos, but fulfilled the requirements. I posted them and asked people to enter the contest by stating what IGIGI dress they’d wear to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s upcoming wedding.
I did NOT ask for any comments on my appearance, either positive or negative, but I got them anyway. One person said, “I think they all look terrible on you.” I figured this was the internet and I was bound to get one jerk and dismissed it. Then someone else chimed in, “You are much too young and attractive to be wearing those dresses! The hemlines are much too long and the styles are frumpy!” which was a back-handed compliment at best. It didn’t seem right that I was being attacked for giving away something for free, so I wrote another post asking people to shut up about my looks already. There was an item in my FAQ letting people know I walk around this ugly on purpose, so my anger seemed justified, though I probably shouldn’t have dropped the eff bomb. Unfortunately, someone either didn’t read that post or didn’t care, so within 24 hours I got another comment that said, “Those dresses are terrible and they do not flatter your cute face and personality.” I don’t lose my shit that often on my blog, but I definitely lost my shit in that moment. I shut the contest down early and that was that.
Reading these comments six years later they don’t seem as harsh as I remembered, and I don’t think I’d react as explosively as I did then, partly because I’ve been working on expressing anger when I have it instead of bottling it up until it explodes all over whoever happens to be in my path. However, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that six weeks later I stopped posting on PastaQueen and started a new blog on a different domain to make it clear my body was no longer the topic of conversation.
Some of you might say, “Hey, you wrote a weight-loss memoir and blogged about your weight for several years and made money doing it. You brought this upon yourself!” That’s a valid point. I have two responses to that. First, the internet was a different place in 2005. When I started blogging regularly about my weight, social media wasn’t really a thing. Facebook was a little site just for college kids and Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat did not exist. Between the time I started blogging and the time my first book came out, those “Like This” and “Tweet This” buttons that are now ubiquitous on any article published on the internet were not on any of my posts. The way you found sites was through blogrolls. Every blogger kept a list of blogs they liked in their sidebar, so once you found one blog you liked you were able to find similar ones. This made weight-loss blogging seem like a small, safe community, sort of like a local bar that only the residents of a certain neighborhood knew about.
These days the internet seems like a much more misogynistic, judgmental place, like a flood of tourists have swarmed the local bar and you never know what asshole is going to show up, start a fight and then breeze off, never to be seen again. If I share a post on Twitter or Facebook, it’s not just going to be viewed by people in this community, but by their friends and family who might share it somewhere else. I don’t know where that post is going to travel or how many people will see it. If I had been born 10 years later, I’m not sure I would have chosen to blog about my weight loss given the current atmosphere of the internet. Blogging felt safer back then.
Second, people have the right to change. It helped me that blogging made me do some deep thinking about my body image problems. However, after I’d written about that for several years, I felt like I’d said what I had to say and was ready to move on. I didn’t expect all my readers to move on with me, and I don’t have any hard feelings towards anyone who decided they weren’t interested in following me anymore when that happened. I’m grateful that my book Half-Assed is still out there meeting new people for the first time almost 10 years after its publication and that it might help those people in some way. That said, there is a copyright date clearly printed in the front, so I don’t think it’s absurd to expect people to understand that I’m not the exact same person today that I was in 2008. That includes the fact that I don’t have interest in making my body the topic of public conversation anymore. Having a career that revolves around what your body looks like sounds like hell to me.
However, I can understand why people would want to know if I’ve maintained my weight loss, which might be why the phrase “jennette fulda weight gain” sometimes appears in my site analytics. I did post several Reason for Regain posts back in 2014, but otherwise I’ve dealt with my weight offline. I’ve thought about blogging about it over the past few years, but I wasn’t sure how to do that without making my body the topic of conversation again. Basically, the answer is I can’t. So I didn’t.
The only reason I’m writing about any of this now is that I’m appearing at the Unititled Town Book Festival in Green Bay, Wisconsin this Sunday and I don’t want anyone to show up there and think I’m hiding anything just because I haven’t blogged about it. Basically, I’ve regained most of the weight I lost, though not all of it. I updated the About page on my site to reflect that a while back, and the mini-bio in the footer of every page of this site has said “(former?) weight-loss inspiration” for years. I also updated the headshot on the About page a few months ago because I didn’t think I could get away with using a seven-year-old image anymore whether I’d gained weight or not. So, it’s been out there. Anything you put on the internet is public. I didn’t advertise it and point blinking red arrows at it, but I’ve never denied it either.
Obviously, I would rather have maintained my weight loss, but I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for nine years now which complicated things. I definitely turn to food to feel better, and if my weight is any indication, I’ve been feeling REALLY, REALLY, bad. I don’t know if I would have maintained my weight loss if I weren’t in chronic pain. It’s pretty common for people to regain weight. I don’t think I would have regained it as rapidly or as soon as I did without the constant pain acting as a trigger. Even with the pain though, there have been times I could have made a bigger effort to cook or go for a walk than I did.
Some of you might be thinking, “She preferred to blog about things when they were going her way and not when they weren’t.” You got me there. It was definitely more fun blogging about my successful attempt to lose weight than it was to talk about my unsuccessful attempt to keep it off. That said, I wrote an entire book about my chronic headache problem, which is the single worst thing to ever happen to me, so I haven’t shied away from writing about crappy times in my life.
I don’t like that I’ve gained weight, but I don’t feel like I owe the internet an apology about it. I’m writing this entry mostly so there isn’t a socially awkward situation where a reader comes to the panel with one expectation and comes face-to-face with another. I’m not ashamed of what I look like these days and I don’t think it makes me a hypocrite. If I’d written a book called, How to Lose 200 Pounds and Keep it Off Forever, then I’d be in trouble. But I wrote a memoir and the nice thing about a memoir is that it’s always a true representation of how you viewed your life at the time you wrote it. The book is a great record of what it was like to grow up fat, lose 200 pounds, and what I thought about it at the time. It always will be that regardless of whether I lose 200 pounds again or gain another 200 pounds in the future. I deliberately didn’t say what diet plan I used in the book because it’s not meant to be a how-to book. It’s a how-it-was book. Also, I made it pretty clear in the final chapter that I recognized I might get fat again, so it’s not like I thought this was impossible. If any of that makes you decide you don’t want to buy or read the book, or perhaps changes the way you interpret the book, I understand and I have no hard feelings toward anyone about it. You never promised me anything and I never promised you anything either.
When my friend Wendy invited me to the book festival, I did briefly consider saying no since I knew I’d have to make my body a topic of conversation again, but I don’t think I should live the rest of my life in hiding. (It makes a great Happy Rhodes song though.) And Wendy has worked really hard on the festival, so if you’re in the area you should come help make it a success. Most of the events are free. My panel is From blog to book: How bloggers turned their blog posts into publishing contracts which takes place on Sunday, April 30th at 12pm CT at the Brown County Library. Jen Larsen will be there too, and Wendy McClure is Skyping in. Kate Harding will be at the festival too, but her reading is on Saturday at 3:30pm CT. I’ll sign a book if you bring it with you, and I’ll have a few copies of Chocolate & Vicodin available to purchase, though I don’t have any copies of Half-Assed left. (I’d have to buy a case of 40 to get more, and I can’t afford to front the hundreds of dollars it would cost.)
Oh, Margaret Atwood will be there too. OMG, yes, I’m appearing at the same book festival as Margaret Atwood! Free tickets are long gone for that one, though I think there are some pricey VIP tickets left. By the way, if you’re like me and were wondering why anyone would name their festival “Untitled,” it turns out Green Bay is known as “TitleTown,” so it’s a play on words. It has something to do with the Green Bay Packers, and that’s all I know.
I was going to turn off comments on this post until I realized I can’t turn off comments on Facebook when I post the link there, and I can’t avoid any Twitter replies I get. See, the internet is a different place than it was 10 years ago! I’ll leave comments on, but please remember I prefer that my body not be a topic of conversation anymore, so please respect that. If you don’t, you shall be deleted, because the internet and I may be different, but some things stay the same.