23 March 2009

Don't try this at home!

Sam Macdonald's THE URBAN HERMIT is one of the more offbeat memoirs I have read recently. Facing a ton of debt, an addiction to the bar around the corner and a very unhealthy lifestyle, Macdonald hit upon the kind of solution that always looks good on paper: He'll limit himself to an 800-calorie-a-day diet (mostly lentils and cheap canned tuna), stop drinking cold turkey and use the resultant savings to clean up his life. As they say on "Sesame Street," it's so crazy it just might work.

Of course, along the way in his draconian diet Macdonald discovered a career, made new friends and met his future wife, which, according to the last chapter of his book is what THE URBAN HERMIT is all about. I can't remember the last time I read a book which had a built-in disclaimer in the last chapter, but in it, Macdonald quotes from various weight-loss memoirs (if I remember correctly, all by women) and stresses that his story is not about weight loss, it was about changing his life, man. Why do you have to put so many labels on it? And, as he stresses at many points in the book, an 800-calorie diet should not be attempted by someone not under medical supervision.

On the other hand, Macdonald did lose 160 pounds on the Urban Hermit plan or life strategy or what have you. And one of the things I liked about it was how insane he got in the pursuit of his goal, and that he actually (spoiler!) achieved it and managed to get back on track. But the auto-disparagement was kind of off-putting, as is the intimation that most people who write about losing a huge amount of weight do so without major implications to their lives. (See I'M NOT THE NEW ME or HALF-ASSED: A WEIGHT LOSS MEMOIR for examples.)

No comments: