I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to the smart and articulate author Jenny Gardiner about her great novel Slim to None, as well as to discuss body image issues, including her personal struggles and recent weight loss. You can get a sneak peak at the first chapter of Slim to None here.
Slim to None’s heroine Abbie Jennings is Manhattan’s restaurant critic, until her weight makes it impossible for her to visit the restaurants without being recognized. When she’s “outed” by a picture of herself in the New York Post, her editor puts her on a desk job and gives her six months to lose weight in order to get her job back. Abbie’s put in the unique position of eating for a living, then not eating for a living, in order to continue to eat for a living. She’s forced to deal with her own relationship with food, as a source of both pleasure and a way of dealing with her emotions.
Cristina: So what inspired you to write Slim to None?
Jenny: I wanted to write this novel for the same reason I wrote Sleeping With Ward Cleaver. I love to write about issues about which pretty much everyone has an opinion. I had enough conversations with married friends over the years to know that Ward would resonate with pretty much every woman who’d ever been in a relationship with a man for more than, oh, say, ten minutes. And I knew food issues and body image issues are something with which every woman struggles, no matter how entitled she is to have those issues (like no doubt Jennifer Anniston has these issues and she really ought not, ya know what I mean?!).
Cristina: As a fellow writer one of the things I most admired was how you presented with such grace a funny, engaging and likeable character dealing with so many life issues without making Abbie too whiny, depressed and feeling sorry for herself. How did you accomplish this?
Jenny: Thanks! I just wrote a character I’d like to hang out with. She’s flawed, but who isn’t it? She’s got a big heart, she wouldn’t hurt a fly, and she means well. She’s just lost her way in the woods, and I wanted to help her find her way out.
Cristina: Abbie tries to balance her love of food and the place it has had in her life with her need to be healthy, deal with her emotions, and find other things to replace food in her life. What has she learned and how has she changed by the end of the novel?
Jenny: Abbie did what a lot of people do: she buried emotions in food for comfort’s sake. It became a habit for her. She really knew no other way. What she needed was this cattle prod to force her to wake up and figure out a better way to exist. She learned that food isn’t her salvation, although it can certainly be a source of pleasure. But she had to find happiness from within, and realized she had taken for granted, such as her relationship with her husband. And she sort of took herself for granted as well. By the end Abbie had found a much healthier balance in her life, to the point that what she thought was most important (her career) ended up not being all that important after all.
Cristina: Do you think Abbie would have lost weight if not for it being a requirement to save her job? Why do you think her job was so important to her?
Jenny: I fear she’d have slogged along just doing what she did. I mean, she lived a kind, understated fine-enough life but she was stagnant. I think her job was important to her because it was something she thought she had total control over. It was something she’d worked so hard to get and she thought it was the answer to her problems. Only it wasn’t. Continue reading