Shauna is Dietgirl. She has Amazing Adventures, and writes not only a so-good blog about them, but also, recently, a book. It is, you will be astonished to learned, called The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, and it is marvelous–it’s funny, moving, beautifully written, with a cast of wonderful characters and a story at the heart of it that will make you feel, for real, inspired and hopeful. It’s not a book about dieting, about how happiness is only achievable if you’re thin, but a book about health and about happiness. It will also make you want to go sign up for a Body Pump class right now immediately.
Shauna has embarked on a Virtual Book Tour (other stops can be found here), and has answered a few questions that I had for her, though I forgot to ask if she’ll take me home in her suitcase when she returns to Scotland. Shit.
1. In the book you struggle with accepting your body and loving who you were despite your size, and you use a lot of very harsh language about your body and your weight. You could be so mean to yourself, so casually, that it was sometimes difficult to read. Is self-acceptance something you’re still struggling with? Have you consciously tried to change the way you talk about and think about your weight or your body?
I find it difficult to read too! It disturbs me to look back and see how my awful body image clouded every little thing I did. It’s not something I struggle with so much now. I don’t think I consciously tried to change the way I talked/thought; it happened more naturally as a result of my actions. Little things, like getting into weight training when I was 300 pounds, or doing that 5K race… it’s so bloody cheesy but just doing stuff and proving to myself that my body was not a “fat, useless blob” and other terrible quotes got me looking at my body in a different light. The words I used to describe myself became more accepting and positive.
I still have days when I get grumpy with my lumpy bits – your body is such an easy target if you’re feeling down. But I know feeling good about it again is a simple matter of taking care of myself – sleep, good food, exercise. Again it sounds cheesy and simplistic but I need to do those things to keep me feeling good in my own skin. If I don’t take care of my physical health my mental health goes haywire so I have to work to keep it all in vague harmony.
I also think being older helps – life becomes less you-centric so you get a better perspective on things. I can laugh at my character and body flaws instead of feeling crippled by them.
2. Your sister and your mother are both such incredibly vibrant characters in the book. Your sister’s support and the way she kept pushing you to take chances, to take charge, to not give in to your insecurity, was particularly wonderful, and I’m a fan. Does she still live in London and work in posh hotels? Has she considered a career as a life coach, or are your family the only lucky ones?
Rhiannon still lives in London. She’s in marketing now but I will suggest life coaching to her if she ever fancies a change!
Rhi and I have been through a lot of crazy stuff and have always been the other’s calm in the storm, helping each other through our darkest moments. I’m glad that I got to preserve this period in print and let everyone know who bloody amazing she was… she believed in me when I didn’t. She is a good egg. The greatest of all eggs :)
3. I love that your mom had her own story, too–from figuring out her own issues with food, coming to terms with how they affected her daughters, coming to terms with how they had been affecting her her whole life, and finally overcoming them at the end. Is she still walking every day? Still kicking ass and taking names?
The Mothership remains a great character. She’s still walking and has even become a bit of a gym bunny now. She’s found a love interest too — she met him online. It was only a few years ago she was wary of me gallivating around with People Off The Internet and now she’s going to marry one of them!
4. One of the things you worried about in the book was how the people in your life would react to your website; how have people reacted to the book? How have they reacted to how they’re portrayed? How have they reacted to your painfully honest descriptions of your early depression, the binging and the hopelessness?
Those in the book have been happy with their portrayal – I was careful to balance honesty with discretion! Some people were shocked to read about the depression and bingeing and were upset that they didn’t know because they could have helped. In hindsight I feel rotten for not reaching out to people, but you know what it’s like when you’re caught in that fog… you can’t find the energy or words to express what you’re feeling. I couldn’t stand being around myself so the last thing I wanted to do was burden anyone else with my troubles. I think that’s just the nature of the depressed beast.
5. Your book tour is huge and all-encompassing and something that would have scared the shit out of the old Shauna. You are very brave! How are you handling it? Does it ever make you wish you could pull down your blinds and hide a lot?
I’m handling it much now than when the book came out in the UK and Ireland a year ago. Last year I felt rather fraudulent and wanted to hide; all those old Fat Girl Freak Out feelings resurfaced! But I’m glad it happened because I toughened up and finally got it through my head that can’t make everyone in the world approve of me – some people are going to hate you and your book, some will like it, and that’s cool… I just need to make sure I approve of what I’m doing!
Life is far more peaceful and enjoyable since I figured that out that one (I’m a slow learner). I was reading an article in the Sunday Times (UK) recently called How To Be An Optimist and there was a nice quote from Bill Clinton: “We organise our minds to obsess about things that don’t amount to hill of beans. You be free now!”
6. You mention in the book that your dream had always to become an author, and one of the best things about the book was that you see it happen over the course of the story–your confidence and courage growing and your belief in your own talent, plus the fact that we’re holding in our hands the evidence of it coming true. Are you still writing? What are you working on now?
I’m still writing, but right now it’s a load of scrawly rubbish in notebooks. I’m stepping back a little and recharging my batteries and trying to remember that I can write about things aside from the size of my arse :)