Apr 02

“Stranger Here”: Jen Larsen’s Weight-Loss Surgery Story

For those who’ve struggled to lose significant amounts of weight, surgery has increasingly become an option. In the new autobiographical book Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head, Jen Larsen describes her own process since undergoing expensive bariatric surgery in 2006 and dropping 180 pounds. People calls it “(h)onest, brave and sparklingly funny.”

One of the main points, as stated in the book description: Weight loss, no matter how you achieve it, is not a cure-all for life’s problems. About Larsen: “…(G)etting skinny was not the magical cure she thought it would be—and suddenly, she wasn’t sure who she was anymore.”

A Stranger Here excerpt available on The Huffington Post details a type of workplace incident that felt quite familiar to me despite the many years I’ve now been self-employed. It has to do with the all-too-common occurrence of treats being available in the kitchen at work (left-over Easter candy, anyone?).

So, what happens when a post-surgery cake-craving Larsen meets up with a yogurt-preferring coworker in the kitchen? In a nutshell, Larsen’s conclusion: “I was ashamed for wanting cake, and she was horrified by the idea of wanting cake. I was a fat girl, and she was a skinny woman, and we were both crazy.”

Kirkus Reviews states of Stranger Here, “We understand exactly why one would look to surgery as a solution to not only excess weight, but also fear, loneliness and unhappiness. Larsen eventually lost the weight, and she also moved on from her dead–end job and her bad relationship. But though her life is measurably better, she still reels from the shock that self–acceptance did not come automatically: ‘You lose weight without having to develop self–awareness, self–control, a sense of self. In fact, you go ahead and you lose your sense of self.'”

Larsen has admitted she still struggles with food issues, having difficulty being “mindful” about her eating. She wishes, though, that society would promote more positive messages about food choices and health while decreasing the current focus on our “obesity epidemic”—and making people feel bad about being fat: “Let’s turn the conversation away from shaming fat kids. Let’s talk about that mindfulness thing. Let’s talk about good food that isn’t processed crap, about not feeling shame for eating, and about exercising to feel good about our bodies and to be as active, strong and bear-wrestlingly fit as we want to be.”