April 26, 2013

Stranger Here book review and giveaway

I wish I could say I slept really good last night, considering I found the source of the beeping, but this sore throat has been awful at night. It doesn't bother me during the day, but my throat gets really dry at night. If I'm going to get sick, I wish I would just get sick already, instead of having these tiny symptoms.

Anyway, considering I had a horrible run yesterday, I was kind of dreading today's run. I already had decided that I was going to do it on the treadmill, just in case I had a bad time again, I could stop early. And I had made up my mind to do just 8 miles, instead of 12.

I turned on Sons of Anarchy and watched two episodes while I was running (Season 4, Episodes 5-6). I felt much better than I did while running yesterday, no doubt because there was no wind, but I still couldn't wait to be done.

It's kind of funny, when I plan to do 12 miles, it really doesn't feel that long; but when I do "just" 8, it feels like forever! I think I have the idea in my head that it's going to go by super fast because I'm used to doing 12.

After eight miles, I kept running because there was still a good 15 minutes left of the episode. I ran until I reached mile nine, and then I walked until the episode was over. I was glad I went the extra mile!
I wanted to save my extra PointsPlus for this weekend, so my long run treat was lower in calories than I am used to. I ended up having an old favorite from when I was losing weight--a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. I softened it for a few seconds in the microwave, and then topped it with Cool Whip Free and melted peanut butter. It was SO good, and only 6 PointsPlus!

Considering I usually spend an average of 20 PP on my long run treat, this was a good deal. But then in the evening, after the boys' first baseball practice of the season, I got talked into going out for ice cream. So I had a Reese's Cup Flurry, for 14 PP. Hahaha, so I wound up spending 20 PP anyway.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again--I'm not a big reader. A book has to really keep my attention long enough for me to finish, and because of that, I start a lot of books and just never finish them. So when I get requests to review books, I usually decline. But I've actually read a few books recently for review, so I'll be sharing those in the coming weeks.

The first I was asked if I'd like to read and review is called "Stranger Here" by Jen Larsen. The book is a memoir about a woman who had weight loss surgery (WLS) and her thoughts and feelings both before and after the surgery as she lost weight. Reading weight loss surgery stories isn't of interest to me, so I almost said no.

The description that changed my mind about reading the book was, "Larsen realized that getting skinny was not the magical cure she thought it would be--and that suddenly she wasn't sure who she was anymore." I could definitely relate to that, even though I lost weight through diet and exercise rather than weight loss surgery, so I agreed to read and review the book. I was curious how our experiences compared.

I, surprisingly, really liked the book! The thing that was so interesting to me was that this wasn't a super-happy feel-good memoir about a weight loss success story. Larsen wrote so honestly about the fact that she just wanted a "simple" way to be skinny. She admitted that she hadn't exhausted all of her options before considering WLS, but she knew the "right answers" to give the doctors so that they would agree to the surgery.

She also admitted to not having thought through the consequences of her choice to have surgery, and after the surgery, she was struck by the enormity of it. Her entire life had to change. I had no idea just how restrictive the diet is after WLS--Larsen had to agree to give up alcohol, sugar, and fats (pretty much my entire diet, hahaha) and consume almost nothing but protein (mostly in the form of shakes)--forever.

The part that I could relate to so much was her thought process as she lost weight. Her mind still saw herself as "the fat girl", and it was hard to see herself as anything else. There was one part toward the end of the book, where she wrote about a man (literally) picking her up, and she felt totally panicked because she was "too heavy" to pick up--even though she was thin.

This same scenario happened to me a couple of times since losing the weight, most recently when I was in Key West a few months ago. We were all at a bar, standing outside chatting and taking goofy pictures, and this guy scooped me up for a picture. It was like an alarm went off in my head, and I got SO panicked that I was going to hurt him, or he would drop me in front of everyone, because I was "too heavy" to be picked up. Some of those thoughts are probably going to be ingrained in my head forever.

Even at my heaviest, weight loss surgery was never something I even wanted to consider; I knew I was capable of losing weight "the old fashioned way", so I was determined to do so. Stranger Here is a great read for someone who is considering WLS, because Larsen writes about the good, the bad, the ugly of the process; but it's also a great read for someone like me, who lost weight without surgery, because I found that we had a LOT in common, despite the fact that we chose different methods of weight loss.

The whole book makes a big point that weight loss, no matter how it is achieved, doesn't solve any of your problems (except maybe health issues). It doesn't fix an unhealthy relationship, it doesn't fix issues with food and overeating or binge eating, it doesn't even mean that you will be happy. Larsen seemed to have a hard time separating her personality from her weight, and I think that's something that most overweight people (and even thin people) can relate to.

The surgery is just a small part of this book; most of the writing is about Larsen's thought process while she was obese, and then considering the surgery, and finally, as she lost weight. I think that's why I enjoyed the book so much.

If you're interested in reading it, you're in luck--one randomly selected Runs for Cookies reader will win a copy! To submit your name into a random drawing, just fill out the form below. I will accept entries until 4/29/13 at 8:00 AM. Contest has ended.


  1. With the sore throat thing happening only at night, I'm guessing it could have to do with an allegic reaction you are having to something. Possibly the washing powder you are using on your pillow casings and sheets? Try using a different one. Could me a number of things in the room too. If it's only happening at night and in that bed, then chances are this is what's going on. Hope this helps :)

    1. Or an allergic reaction to spring? I live in Canada and we are now in the full-on spring allergy season. I just spent the last week at home with two sick kids, and I got it too. Headaches, congestion, runny nose, my one son even had a fever, sore throat. Feeling like complete crud, but never actually getting sick. It's caused by snow mold and dust here. The city hasn't cleaned the streets yet and everything is still brown. We need a good rain and a lawn mowing to get rid of the mold on our lawns.

  2. WLS is a tool, just like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, exercising, walking and running. You have to know how to use the tool ahead of time and how it is going to work for you before you can begin to use it. I had lap-band surgery 8 years ago and would do it all over again if I had to. I lost 120 lbs. I tried Weight Watchers; worked with a dietician and even tried prescription weightloss drugs but none of it worked. I knew that if I didn't do something drastic to lose the weight, I wouldn't reach my 40th birthday. WLS isn't for everyone and I can tell you, it is NOT a quick fix. It took a year and a half to lose 120 lbs which is about how long it took me to make a decision to lap-band. And yes, I did have to give up some foods but I don't miss them. What did I have to give up? Eating a Big Mac when I'd get stressed; pop (carbonation doesn't agree with my band); and anything with a lot of fiber such as celery or broccoli but otherwise, everything else, I can eat but in much, much smaller portions and I do my best to avoid my trigger foods, which go through the band easily (for me that is chocolate and ice cream).

    Great post tonight!

  3. Found your blog about a week ago, you are such an inspiration. I am starting on my weight loss journey(again) and have a binge problem too. It's not something I've ever told anyone!!! Just wanted to say thank you for your truthfulness about everything you've been through, you've giving me the push to finally address some of my problems that I've been in denial about.

  4. Great post! Sounds like a great book to read. I completely relate to the feeling of being "too heavy" to be picked up.. even by my husband who outweighs me. I totally panic and freak out. Hope you start to feel better soon!!

  5. that dessert looks awesome!

  6. I think I read an article on Yahoo! about this woman. At least, it sounds like the same woman. In the article I read, she sounded very negative about the whole experience of WLS, and like she still didn't like herself very much. Did you get that impression from the book?

    1. Yes, I definitely got that impression throughout the book. She states at the end that she doesn't regret the surgery, but everything I read sounds like she did. It just wasn't at all what she expected.

  7. Also, as to the night-time sore throat, it could be post-nasal drip while you sleep. Happens to me sometimes. It sucks, but I don't know if there's anything you can do about it...

  8. I follow Holly at 300 Pounds Down and she has been addressing these very issues lately. She has lost 225 pounds and is struggling with an identity crisis. I always thought about what I would do with myself once I lost the weight and didn't have to focus on it anymore. The sad truth is that it will always be something I have to focus on, if I want to remain fit and healthy. The energy I put into losing weight is now used to keep it off. No one really talks about maintenance and how hard it is because not many people actually achieve goal weight to understand it. The biggest con to WLS for me (other than possible medical complications related to any major surgery) is thinking that certain foods are banned forever. That's why so many weight-loss attempts didn't work for me, because I deemed certain foods as "bad." Now, to think that a slice of bread would make me physically ill makes me sad. But it all comes down to what you believe, Katie- you have to make changes you are willing to adhere to for the rest of your life. Cutting out foods completely is a deal-breaker for me. However, for some, WLS is a matter of life or death and the last effort before the weight kills them. It's their only hope.

  9. Great post! First off, that desert looks amazing! Seriously, how do you come up with this stuff! I need to be more creative! I think I get a little boring with my food!

    Stranger Here sounds like a really interesting book. I don't care how people choose to lose weight - that is a personal choice - so even though I have opted against surgery (although I was really, really considering it), I think there is absolutely something to be learned by reading this woman's journey.

    I KNOW that I have some anxiety issues that in the beginning I really thought weight loss would cure. I'm 51.2 lbs. lost into this 265 lbs. journey, and I am realizing that weight loss is not going to do for my anxiety what I thought it would.

    **heavy sigh**

    I am definitely going to read this book!!

    Thanks for sharing Katie!

  10. No way that ice cream sandwich could be "skinny", it looks way too good! I think I will have to try that sometime, thanks for the idea!

  11. I've been following you since opendiary...halfway through your journey...some times i miss a few months but i always come back to see how ur doing....i had another blog...but this time im starting fresh ...this post made me really tear up.i am up and down wifh my weight. At one point intime ...when i gained the weight due to pregnancy and then had 2 more back to back.... i felt this body wasnt mine ...but now....almost 10 years have i feel its an impossible feat. Being fat has taken so much of my youth after i had kids...i hid myself away from e eryone. I'm almost 30 ...will losing weight give me back my confidence or will i be disapointed and obsessed? Sorry .. this post hit home.

  12. AnonymousMay 03, 2013

    The biggest message I got from this book is that getting skinny is no magic cure for your 'issues'. It seemed like she really believed her life would be magical, just as soon as she was skinny....I think a lot of people can hyperfocus on one aspect of their lives like that and waste a lot of energy on 'if only'...


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