Based on my experiences not only with diets but with attempts to quit smoking and drinking, I noticed that unless something very deep is driving us to change ourselves, it’s not the big things in life that tend to send us off the deep end and put our resolutions at risk. (Big things probably would knock us off track as well — but at least if it were something big, we’d have a better excuse for falling off the wagon!) It’s the endless tedious little things that wear us down. We begin to think, “What’s the point? Nothing’s ever going to get better anyway,” and “Poor me. I always have to do everything around here,” and “I deserve a treat.” And before we know it, we’ve given up on giving up and we’re back on the cycle of despair, self-recrimination, over-indulgence, and then more resolutions.
In order to set up this kind of situation for my main character, Rita Sax Turner, so that she could experience what I had, and ultimately gain the same insights I had gained, I created a domestic situation that would become intolerable for her as often as possible. I did this by creating family members who were difficult for her to cope with: partly because she is young, partly because she is not the actual parents of the children in the house, and partly because she is going about trying to lose weight in the wrong way (as far as I’m concerned).
What was interesting to me — as it always is when I write fiction — was how I could set up a situation like that, and then find that the characters I had invented so that they would get in the way of Rita’s progress gradually started to take on their own personalities, and become people. To me, Graham, Simon and Ida, Coralea and Elmer, and Rita’s mother are as real as the people I know in the real world. They are not evil — none of them is trying to do anything but be themselves. Their effect on Rita is the result of her attitude toward them — and, more importantly, her attitude toward herself.
If you are just tuning in to this blog, welcome. I invite you to join our little group of members of the One-Book-Only Book Club. We are reading The Whole Clove Diet over the month of January, and talking about overeating as addiction. So far we’ve read the first eleven chapters, and this week we’ll read to page 190 (end of Chapter 21). You can read the first seven chapters free right here, and the guidelines for the reading group are here. We welcome your input.