The Real Me is Thin

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The Real Me is Thin By Arabella Weir, book reviewThe Real Me Is Thin is a biography by actress, comedian and writer, Arabella Weir. Arabella was a regular face on the comedy series ‘The Fast Show’ with Paul Whitehouse, where her catchphrase “Does my bum look big in this?” featured regularly. As well as being a regular on the series ‘Grumpy Old Women’ she has appeared in plays and TV series such as ‘Skins’.

A few years ago I read a previous book of Arabella’s which was named after the aforementioned catchphrase “Does My Bum Look Big In This” and quite enjoyed it, so when I was given a copy of her latest offering, ‘The Real Me Is Thin‘ I was interested in reading it, particularly as this was a biography highlighting her issues with food and eating throughout her life.

The book is described as being for every woman who thinks she is fat and who thinks there is another ‘better’ person waiting to get out – if only she could lose a few pounds…

Reading this book, it comes across as more a set of memoirs of Arabella’s life, growing up with disapproving parents who often told her she was fat and who also went as far as to publicly humiliate their daughter. Examples of what Arabella endured as a child, includes her father standing up at the dinner table when Arabella was just eight years old and announcing to her older brothers and younger sister: “Arabella won’t be having any potatoes – because she’s fat.” Also Arabella’s mother’s favourite line to her daughter was “Watching you eat is like having hot knives stuck into my eyes!”

It is no wonder then that Arabella developed a guilt towards eating which has followed her throughout her life. In the book she discusses at length her relationship with her parents, their divorce and how the divorce affected her mother and also the meal times that followed, in that her mother never cooked very much. Arabella recalls opening the fridge to find it bare except for a packet of bacon which was ‘quietly throbbing’ as it was infested with maggots! There was also numerous suspicious meat offerings their mother dished up.

What I found I was asking myself whilst reading this was why did her parents act this way? Arabella attempts to answer this by explaining that her parents thought that fat did not equal beautiful, especially for girls. Whilst is was ok for her brother to be a little ‘chunky’ it certainly wasn’t for Arabella. It seemed to me that Arabella never was and still isn’t ‘fat’ as she puts it. She certainly is not obese and the fact that her musings on ‘the real me’ not needing a size 16 or sometimes even an 18, prove this. Those are sizes which are certainly not what I would describe as being anything to be really alarmed about. Therefore it is really sad that her upbringing has led her to still have guilt to this day about eating.

Arabella did feel loved but also constantly judged by her parents. Her father told her he loved her more when she was thinner, her mother told her being hungry was good for you. Hunger, anger and desperation all became coiled up together for Arabella, so that the moment she feels hungry all she feels is panic, as if somebody might say “not for you”.

“Many women will identify with Arabella’s ‘the real me is thin’ scenario.”

It was quite an interesting book to read and at times it was quite funny which lightened the sadness of her childhood. Arabella recalls incidents from her teenage years which I could relate to myself and made for entertaining reading. Arabella seems like an average woman and whilst not a twig, she is certainly not unattractive. She discusses society’s obsession with being thin and is more than capable of knowing she is often wrong to feel the guilt she feels about eating. Her strength of character and confidence is to be applauded as she will not give in to the inner voice telling her to not to eat that cake or pudding. Indeed she displays a bolshie sense of entitlement and won’t give in to the idea that she should be thinner.

Overall, Arabella wishes her parents hadn’t made her feel that how she looked was linked to how much they loved her. She does acknowledge that it must be hard to watch your child pile on the pounds and she doesn’t hate her parents, as although wrong, they thought they were doing the right thing. Arabella feels that being able to be around food and never wonder if there’ll be enough for you, never worrying if you’ll be judged for what and how much you’re eating is a fantastic gift. But, like any gift worth having, in the first place someone has to give it to you. And she never had that.

The Real Me Is Thin serves as a reminder of how the way in which we are treated when we are young, shapes our future and has a lasting effect on us as adults, as well as pointing out what is wrong with society’s attitude towards the rights and wrongs of eating, dieting and appearane, particularly by applauding stick thin women and size zero models. Many women will identify with Arabella’s ‘ the real me is thin’ scenario.

I found it an interesting read and and can identify and agree with many of the points raised in this book. Yes it is a good read for ‘any women who thinks she is fat’ but is also a testimony to Arabella herself who has managed to become a confident woman with an ability to entertain despite enduring a childhood where the amount of love she received was dependent on her size.

The Real Me Is Thin by Arabella Weir
Published by HarperCollins, September 2010

Thanks to HarperCollins for a free copy of the book.

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Real Me is Thin, The
by Arabella Weir

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