Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother

Lionel Shriver did have a “big” brother, he died from an apparent obesity related illness as 55. This knowledge made her latest book Big Brother feel all the more uncomfortable. It is a no holds barred look at the obese, fat, weight challenged  – call it what you like, but it’s a bumpy ride.

Pandora’s older brother Edison comes to visit. She hasn’t seen him for four years and he is unrecognisable. Weight gain has left him bloated and barely able to walk. Pandora is horrified but pretends that she isn’t. By the end of the first chapter I am feeling uneasy.

Search catalogueEdison is portrayed as gross, out of control, aimless and self-centered. Pandora’s husband – the taut, tight Fletcher – is a manic cyclist and health food fanatic who is equally as horrible,  and Pandora is somewhat cold and detached. She has made a fortune producing custom-made dolls that resemble the people who receive them. Each doll has a talk function where they utter scripts provided by the giver, usually an opportunity to provide sly digs about the recipient’s bad behaviours. The dolls are funny but with a sting in the tail, a bit like Shriver perhaps as again she has compiled a cast of fascinating, brutally honest and utterly unlikable characters.

Pandora eventually acknowledges to Edison that she is worried about him, but he steadfastly refuses to cut back on his food intake. Descriptions of massive amounts of cheese, fast food, cream, piles of pancakes and butter left me feeling somewhat unwell. Just as  unappetising is Fletcher’s quest to become the ultimate lean machine, producing dry, bland,  fibre based meals laden with self-satisfaction.

Pandora decides that she will take Edison in hand, and rents them a flat for a year in which he will have to lose 163Ibs or be sent packing.  They both embark on the diet shake based system-  as Pandora is horrified that she put on a bit herself, and the abandoned Fletcher remains bitter and twisted in the family home while brother and sister bond over their joint sense of deprivation.

Will Edison lose all the weight? Can Fletcher and Pandora’s marriage survive the separation and accusations that go with Pandora’s quest to help her brother? Will I ever be able to eat again without  memories of Edison’s rather unfortunate episode in the toilet?

I am left with a huge sense of ambiguity about this book, I can’t decide whether it gives the finger to our obsession with diet and weight, or literally feeds into it. Would I recommend it? Yes, most definitely but be warned, it’s not pretty.

Confessions of a reluctant runner

Search the catalogue for RunningI’m still finding it hard to believe, but a month ago I took part in the relay in the Buller Marathon, running 10.55k. 10.55 kilometres!

It was about a year ago I started this running caper. At the time a neighbour asked if I would like to run the 6k in the City to Surf with her. ‘Like’ wasn’t quite the word I’d have chosen but it was time to try and shift some post preggy weight and get out and do some exercise.

But running? Not really my thing. Or so I thought. At the start different parts of my body certainly took turns in telling me how much it disliked this new activity I was subjecting it to. Initially, running with friends helped a lot as it was good motivation to A) show up in the first place and B) keep going when you really want to lie down and gasp. The secret saving grace of a beginner runner is the fact that no one can tell by your sweaty red faced state, how far (or little) you have actually run…

After awhile, going for a run every two or three days became a pattern or dare I say it, a habit. As with a lot of things, it’s all about your attitude and managing trick your brain into going along with this exercise nonsense.

In the process I’ve run in all sorts of weather, up hills, taken part in a duathlon and now, been part of a successful relay team. I won’t ever be in the league of “Running with the Kenyans” but running is a free form of exercise that’s strangely habit forming and even at times enjoyable! So, if you’ve got one of those new year’s resolutions that’s yet to be started, or you’ve thought about running but never got around to putting on the appropriate footwear, there’s lots of help out there if you need it. The library has loads of resources and links to community groups to get you started.

In the words of that huge multinational “just do it!”

Trim down this Summer

Summer’s here. It’s time to get out and enjoy the good weather. Maybe you’re a little worried how you’ll look in your lighter clothes or still feel sluggish after winter.

Try eating better to lose weight and get fit.

Join a dance class.

Get stuck into the garden.

Whatever you do this Summer, get out in it. Every little bit of exercise helps even just playing with the kids or the dog, but most of all – enjoy!

Has winter made you ‘sturdy’?

I love my mother very much, but like many mothers she has this way with words that can floor you. Last time I was visiting her in my hometown of Invercargill she cast an appraising eye over me and commented “You are looking really healthy”. Healthy I asked? Yes she replied – “lovely and sturdy”. Now I know this is a form of compliment from my mother but sturdy for me is a large table that you could cower under in the advent of another decent aftershock!

I can confess that I may have taken the quake weight concept a little too far. You know the concept – I will eat that cream bun because the Alpine fault is next!

The fat lining my body is not going to save me – it will though clog my arteries and have me in an early grave. As my father would say – you are a long time scratching at the lid.

Here at Christchurch City Libraries, we have a multitude of  items that can help us lose weight and experience a healthier lifestyle – now that the days are longer and the days warmer. Our internet gateway introduces a huge amount of online information on health issues  while our BiblioCommons catalogue will find you numerous resources on weight loss, nutrition and exercise.

Put that cream bun down, my fellow sugar lovers and let’s get moving … tomorrow?