The Big Skinny

Michele Suthers

“Make a decision, take action, be honest and stick to it!” says Carol Lay, California cartoonist, in her graphic novel, ” The Big Skinny: A Memoir.”

Lay begins by guiding the reader through her history of poor eating habits, weight gain, fad diets, pills, weight loss and weight re-gain.

Her parents were overweight and she flashes back to her grandparents’ era to reveal a recipe passed down from the Great Depression. “Depression Style venison dipped in flour and deep fried in Crisco,” as her grandparents called it, may incite mouthwatering in some, but these family members lived and worked farmland, struggling to get by during the Depression, burning calories from the work.

Lay, a shy, introverted, invisible teenager with acne, created funky, in-between meal snacks such as “peanut butter and brown sugar mash.” This, combined with rich, fried and salty home cooked dinners, instilled unhealthy eating habits, lasting throughout her teens and into her adulthood.

Salt, in the Lay household, was encouraged and used on many dishes, including carrots and cantaloupe. As an adult, Lay realized that these foods tasted better without salt. Still, the eating and overeating were unconscious, emotional and monotonous- aching and eating to fill an emptiness that couldn’t be satisfied with just food. The chronic eating equates to addiction, which was an addiction to sugar in particular. A humorous scenario of her incredible dependence on sugar, ironically ends with her thinking, “I will never tell anyone about this as long as I live.”

Research, reading labels, speaking with nutritionists and trainers, Lay provokes us to consider deeply, what is being put, stuffed and crammed into our bodies and what the consequences are from doing so. One page challenges us to see how overuse of food, may seem comforting.
Drama, stress, guilt, and family dynamics, play starring roles in shoving one towards the refrigerator, but by simply refocusing, i.e. listening to music, walking or reading, many can avoid falling off the wagon of healthy eating.

Certain circumstances might force one to be healthy, such as an injury, a family member’s urging or an accident, but ultimately, denial has to be stripped away by reality.

Lay offers some intrinsic eye openers for motivating change. Ideas such as support groups, prepared, frozen meals, (for instance, Jenny Craig) and hypnosis might be considered to help keep health enthusiasts on track. Lay includes calorie counting, “the gym-less work out,” menu planning and low calorie recipes.

A graphic novel may look like a thick comic book to some, but this is a colorful, entertaining, informative, affirmative and relatively fast read. The art is vibrant, nicely rendered, understandable and humorous.

Responsibility, honesty, determination and simple belief in the possible can inspire one to optimum health. In these times of sky high health care, hopefully easing into reformation, responsibility can save and or sustain lives, as well as save money, pain and frustration.
It’s never too late to get healthy and just feel better.