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Writing The Fatness

The Fatness

Click the image to get it at Amazon!

I’m not sure how interesting it is for readers to know the story behind the story, but I thought I’d share my experiences with writing this book.

This one was personal.

I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life, so I found it quite difficult to write a humorous account of what it would be like to be imprisoned for your weight.

Really difficult.

As is the case for many of my novels, the idea for The Fatness first came to me, in a dream. I’d been reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos. It’s an eye-opening non-fiction about the bad science surrounding the idea of the obesity “epidemic.” This was sometime in 2005, the year ENC Press published my first book The Amadeus Net.

So that’s a horrible notion, I thought. Concentration camps for fat people. That’s terrifying. And strangely compelling. I could see people thinking this was actually a good idea, policy wise. But I trust my readers to know satire when they see it, so I wrote four chapters…

They were terrible. There was nothing funny about the book. It wasn’t biting satire, it was just bitter.

I made several other attempts, all failures. Six years ago I even got as far as completing an outline and a large chunk of a draft. But it wasn’t really what I wanted the book to be. It was strained and really not funny in a way that was compassionate for the inmates of the Calorie Reduction Centers.

Then four years ago I got serious about my own weight issues. I worked with two wonderful personal trainers and got my weight down below the dreaded 30 BMI for the first time in years, and for some reason, that gave me the ability to write the book. I think I needed to understand the process of losing weight so that I could communicate it properly. Within the course of a year I managed to produce a draft of the book I felt was good.

The following year I worked with my editor and produced two more drafts. Then my life got really complicated. My long-term relationship ended, my dog died, and I started a new and extremely challenging work position. (Sounds like a bad country and western song, doesn’t it?) So it took a few more years until I was ready to start the publishing process. Yeah, sometimes it takes that long.

This is the longest gestation period for a book I’ve written. By comparison, my first novel, The Amadeus Net, was a breeze. It only took 10 years from start to finish.

But I think it’s the best book I’ve written (so far) and the positive reviews seem to back up that feeling. I’m particularly pleased that readers feel the book is satirical, yet has a big heart that is compassionate for people struggling with weight issues. As the book taught me, there’s no easy answers.

Learn more about the book here.

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The Fatness is live!

The FatnessMy fourth novel is available as of today! 

It’s a satire about concentration camps for fat people and bureaucracy gone mad. (Don’t worry, it’s a love story.)

This crazy book was 12 years in the making, so I hope you enjoy it. Here’s a quick synopsis, and more purchase links below:

Synopsis

Keelan Cavanaugh is fat. That’s why the government put him in prison.

They placed him in a Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC), where trained staff work to help him and many others slim down. Well, that was the intention, anyway. The powers that be had decided chubby citizens must either go there or lose their health care coverage.

When he meets Jacinda Williams, an activist lawyer researching this new system, Keelan is more determined than ever to slim down. But Keelan discovers losing weight is more difficult than it seems, especially when he also has to fight against a ridiculous bureaucracy and policy wonks with hidden agendas. Can he succeed? Will the CRC-crossed lovers ever dine at love’s banquet together?

From award-winning author Mark A. Rayner, The Fatness is a contemporary satire of socialism, capitalism, and the so-called “obesity epidemic”. This is Catch-22 for a new generation, with a distinctly tender undertone, even as it mercilessly spoofs the establishment.

Critical reception

As of today, with 20 ratings, it’s got 4.4/5 stars on Goodreads, and the Amazon reviews are starting to come in (4.5/5 so far)

“Mark A. Rayner—an all-Canadian synthesis of Douglas Adams and Ben Elton—understands that the best satire is only five degrees to the left of reality. The Fatness may not be reality (yet), but it’s too close for comfort. Luckily, it’s also funny as heck.” ~Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey and Husk

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Engineering an obesity epidemic

Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael MossHow would you react if I told you it wasn’t your fault you’re fat?

Not entirely, anyway. Not the way that the medical profession or society at large would have you believe.

At least part of your spare tire — and the cause of the obesity epidemic generally — is because the processed food industry has engineered it for their own needs. That is the central theme of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. This comprehensive look at the food industry by Michael Moss is a brilliant bit of journalism.

Through the manipulation of the key ingredients of sugar (which our brain reacts to in ways that are similar to cocaine), fat (which we’re hard-wired to crave) and salt, the processed food industry has beefed up their own profits while increasing the gross tonnage of the population at large.

Of course, it’s the profit motive that drives the industry, not some evil desire to turn us all into Fat Albert. Moss’s examination of the industry is at times extremely positive. It’s clear that he admires the creativity, ingenuity and business acumen of many of the central players in this drama that is promising to shorten the life spans of our children. His reportage is scrupulous, fair, and peppered with insight. I’m not surprise he’s already won a Pulitzer. He should get one for this book too.

At times the book seems repetitive, but that is a minor flaw, given how comprehensive and wide-ranging his reportage into this secretive industry is, and how generally readable the narrative is.

The other major theme that I pulled out of the book is that while the food giants have hooked us on sugar, salt and fat, they have also hooked themselves on the profits those key ingredients generate. They are going to fight tooth and Tootsie-roll too keep our foods laden with them, and work against any efforts to make their foods more healthy. And now that the North American markets are saturated (pun intended), they’re looking to other countries. I found one of the anecdotes about an ex-Coke executive walking around a bario in Brazil kind of heart-breaking and enraging at the same time.

“The people here need a lot of things, but a Coke isn’t one of them.”

Yet the company has created smaller serving bottles for poor neighborhoods in countries like Brazil, so that everyone can afford the 20-cents they need to get a taste of “the real thing.”

While the book is informative, it is not a self-help book. There are no prescriptions for how to use this information to save your own waistline, except for the obvious one:

If your food was made by a food processing company, you probably shouldn’t be eating it!

Fuck it, I’m having a donut

Professor QuippyNews out of the journal Obesity (I buy it for the photos), shows that being moderately overweight actually improves your odds of not dying early.

Compared with people in the “normal” range of the BMI — the misused and misguided body mass index, which charts your height and weight and determines if you are “normal”, overweight or underweight — people who were moderately overweight were 17 percent less likely to die than people in the normal range.

This is really more of a condemnation of the BMI than it is anything else. One of the study’s primary authors and a researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Oregon, David Feeny, said: “I think this is part of an accumulation of evidence that indicates that organizations like Health Canada… should rethink the evidence on their classification of BMI categories.”

According to the Globe and Mail:

Feeny speculates that overweight people might survive longer because their extra heft gives them more resilience when they become old or ill. Since people lose fat faster than muscle, having that bit of extra weight might help in preventing frailty.

No word yet on how much beer you have to drink to live longer. But… fingers crossed!

Alltop and humor-blogs.com are both a bit beyond the norm too. More on this story at the Globe and Mail.