The literary world has a strange relationship with its overweight female protagonists.
Their stories have acquired an aura of predictability. For the first 30 or so pages, they will entertain us with jovial commentary about jockeying with broken zippers and Weight Watchers points.
Next, they’ll encounter a setback, an unexpected circumstance that somehow inspires weight loss. By page 242 (approximately), they’ve tackled the setback, landed a man (bonus!) and still saved room for an insatiable macaroon habit.
Attribute the formula largely to the surge in “chick lit,” which gave us novels like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Good in Bed,” a tale of a plus-size woman who reorganizes her life when her ex-boyfriend writes an article entitled “Loving a Larger Woman.”
Since then, female musings on weight have expanded to include memoirs by bloggers like Shauna Reid, author of “The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl.”
The book is neatly packaged in shades of pink and blue like traditional chick lit, and has traces of self-deprecating humor you’d expect from fictional characters like Bridget Jones.
“I just couldn’t do the Fat Girl on the Town routine tonight,” Reid writes. “For starters, I have nothing to wear. I may have dropped a few sizes but I still look enormous, especially when standing next to my slender comrades.”
But as a memoir, “Dietgirl” touches on a subtlety often overlooked by fictional protagonists: the fact that weight alone rarely dictates happiness.
“My journey was never about what I weighed or the size of my jeans. The true reward is finding peace and acceptance and embracing my own skin, with all its quirks and charms,” Reid writes at the book’s conclusion.
Reid, who grew up in Australia and lives in Scotland, occupies a corner of the blogosphere that is centered on weight.
Her blog, which holds the same title as her memoir, contains personal updates and elements like diet and fitness resources.
Travel a few clicks away from Reid in the cyber world and you’ll find Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, bloggers who recently authored “Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body.”
They’re leaders in a “fat acceptance” movement that aims to refocus perceptions of dieting and weight.
Harding and Kirby contribute posts to a Powell’s Books blog. Many of those posts focus on bleak portrayals of plus-size heroines.
“Unfortunately, one of the reasons all of those awkward and/or self-loathing and/or defensive fat heroines anchor bestselling books is that so many women relate to their constant weight anxiety and body shame,” a recent post notes.
The image, then, will always be one of a blurry scale. The overweight protagonist represents either a poster child for dramatic change, or a testament to the power of self-acceptance.
And in the end, the lessons we take away from her chosen direction have nothing to do with weight at all.