Not long ago I was asked by journalist Jenna Bergen to chime in on a sex-related magazine article she was writing. In our email exchange, I noticed that her email signature line indicated that she was the author of “Your Big Fat Boyfriend: How to Stay Thin When Dating a Diet Disaster” – a title that sent me to her web site to learn more.
Given the countless conversations that friends and I have had on this very topic (namely, maintaining a healthy balance of eating/exercise when dating someone with radically different eating/exercise behaviors), to say that I was curious to read Jenna’s book would be an understatement.
It’s important to note upfront that gaining weight is not necessarily a bad thing – some women (and men) long to gain weight. Others may not plan on gaining weight but are happy in their bodies regardless of their pants size. But for those who - whether for reasons of health or self-imag – prefer to keep to a certain weight or for those who would simply like information about healthful eating, cooking, restaurant ordering and dating, then this book may be a useful resource – and one of the few books to pay close attention to the way people’s behaviors may change when they’re dating or in a relationship.
In her book, Jenna has packed in anecdotes from women who have struggled to balance their healthy living strategies related to eating and exercising with the activities and routines they get into with dates/boyfriends. She has also included tips about how women and men can calculate a rough estimate of their recommended daily caloric intake, exercise needs, recipes and tips for making it work in daily activities (and dates). Her writing is fun, light-hearted, and a nice mixture of “best friend” and “health reporter.”
If there is one recommendation I’d make for future volumes/versions or Jenna’s blog posts on the topic, it would be to include more anecdotes from women over age 25 as there may be some developmental issues that are more salient for such women. For example, women and men who are 26+ often have higher incomes, and may sometimes feel excited to spring for more expensive restaurants or vacations (e.g., springing for dessert, too; booking all-inclusive trips) which may pose a few new eating/exercise challenges, as might attending each others’ work functions (as that “plus one”) as things get more serious. Also, some single women have children AND a “BFB” and may want some tips on how to juggle such a combination.
I appreciate the sections that Jenna included on encouraging women to spend time with their family and friends, in addition to their partner. This is particularly important as sometimes when women stray very far from their eating/exercise routines, it may be only part of a general indication that they are doing nearly everything their partner wants, and “forgetting”/giving up what they like to do. It was wise of Jenna to touch on this.
Also, I thought it was critical that throughout the book Jenna emphasized balance, perspective, and eating food in moderation – including cakes, cookies or whatever one has for some reasons deemed “bad” for them. In other words, not to get so food obsessed that one misses out on the joys of living (and eating).
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the title, which some may find difficult to swallow. After all, our society often seems fat-obsessed in a difficult (often condemning or judgmental) way. Given the light-hearted, joking and “friend-like” tone of the book, many readers will perhaps take the title with a grain of salt, with laughs, and see it in context and in comparison with the many ways that friends refer to themselves and each other with words (like “bitch” or “ho”) that – to outsiders – may seem negative or non-PC, but within a certain group of friends may be intended as affectionate, warm, or just the way they operate. If not, perhaps at least the title will spark conversation among friends about the ongoing issues our society is dealing with when it comes to weight, gender and how we talk (or avoid talking about) fat and body shapes/sizes.
As Jenna astutely points out early in the book, relationships often introduce new behaviors and routines to women and men, and these sometimes take time to get used to. Eating, exercise and sleep (the latter is also touched on in the book) are just three common and fundamental lifestyle behaviors that may be influenced by a romantic/sexual partnership, and I’m happy to see a writer address the issue of how people might try to bring these behaviors into a balance that works for them. Congratulations on your book, Jenna!