I’m Not The New Me: A Memoir
Somewhere in cyberspace, a Blue Fairy hovers above a hundred thousand blogs clamoring for her attention, like so many digital Pinocchios—please, Blue Fairy, make me a real book! One of these blogs is called Pound, and lo and behold, the little blog’s prayers have been answered. I’m Not the New Me was born out of the site Wendy McClure started as an online weight-loss diary, and before you roll your eyes and stop reading, it should be said that this particular wood actually deserved to be made flesh. McClure is a funny, sarcastic writer—an honest, bright, and caustic wit.
The book, thankfully, does not set up the typical “fat girl gets her shit together, drops 80 pounds, realizes her Inner Beauty, is redeemed in a soft-focused swirl of size 6 jeans and hot new boyfriends” story arc. McClure does lose weight in the course of the book, but she is not skinny when it ends. The book focuses on the journey, not the goal, and McClure’s weight-loss regimen leads by necessity to hard looks at her inner life. McClure doesn’t hate herself—unlike in Fat Girl, Judith Moore’s recently published memoir on a similar subject, the reader is not subject to any hard-core inner bile—but you don’t need a psych degree to figure out that overeating and poor self-image get down in a nasty little chicken-or-egg two-step, and if losing weight was just about eating less, well, we’d all be fucking skinny, wouldn’t we?
Inspirational is too strong a word to use here. It’s not like McClure’s a paraplegic or was born into crushing poverty and, against all odds, graduated Harvard or something, and she doesn’t play it that way either. I’m Not the New Me is encouraging, and encouragement can be a lot more effective than inspiration. Inspirational books can make you feel a little bad, like you totally wouldn’t have been able to saw off your own hand to get away from that crushing boulder. But encouraging books, about real but not extraordinary struggles, are more like friends that reassure you that, yeah, this might suck, but you can do it.
As anyone who carries a bit of junk in the trunk can attest, weight is like a constant low buzzing—you’re never quite unaware of it. It ain’t cancer, but it casts a pall nonetheless. McClure takes her situation seriously enough to address it, but it doesn’t define her. She’s a wry, sharp-eyed, clever observer of the world, who is also trying to lose some weight. Her blog helped many people in the same position, and whatever your feelings about online journaling, there’s not much to gainsay about that.