Stacey Ballis, author of Good Enough to Eat tells the story of Melanie, a lawyer who loses half her body weight and then is left by her husband for a woman twice her size. A plus-sized woman herself, Stacey discusses the challenges large women face in everyday life and in their relationships. She writes, "I think women who don’t love and appreciate themselves have challenges with relationships, no matter what size they are. I have been large my entire dating life. And I have had wonderful passionate relationships, and deep love, and I have had heartbreak and rejection. That is life. I have dated men who have never been with a plus-sized woman before, and I have dated men who prefer it. But I have always known who I am, and what I offer, and any man who couldn’t see or appreciate that because of my size was never going to be for me anyway."
Commitmentnow.com: I thoroughly enjoyed Good Enough to Eat. Where did the idea for this book come from?
Stacey Ballis: Relationships often don’t survive major changes in one partner…people lose or gain weight, get sober, change careers. Anything that causes serious transformation in a partner can feel like a betrayal. And I had a few friends who underwent gastric bypass surgery and then found it harder to date, harder to trust people who were romantically interested in them.
I always like to try and have some sort of twist in the themes in my books, after all, there really aren’t any new stories! So woman who works so hard to get thin and then LOSES the guy, that seemed like an interesting place to start.
Commitmentnow.com: Your book is the story of Melanie, a high-powered lawyer whose husband leaves her when she loses weight--for a woman twice her size. Why did you want to explore this topic regarding weight?
Stacey: I have always been a plus-sized woman, and it is important to me to explore issues of weight and body image since those issues are so prevalent in our society. I always try and show a positive and honest look at these issues through my characters and stories.
Half of the women in this country are a size 14 or larger. I want those women to see themselves reflected in my books, not as simpering self-loathing weaklings, but as the strong, beautiful sexy women that they are.
Commitmentnow.com: As a plus-sized woman yourself, what challenges do you sometimes face that you wish would go away?
Stacey: There are public challenges that are minor annoyances based on people not being sensitive to the needs of larger people…the discomfort associated with economy class plane travel, restaurants that have tiny uncomfortable seats, spas that don’t supply larger robes…it is rare that service industries seem to have thought about the size of their clientele, forcing the plus-sized patron to either be uncomfortable or embarrassed.
And of course, there is a whole section of society who views obesity as some kind of laziness issue, and is dismissive of the very real addictive nature of the disease.
Fat discrimination seems to be the last remaining acceptable prejudice we have left. These are all things that I wish would go away, but don’t really get me too upset.
For me the challenges that really bother me are my own physical limitations, and that is the reason I am trying to lose weight. There are things I want to do and places I want to go that are made either difficult or impossible because of my size, and I hope to be able to fix that. I would like to just take a nice hike with my boyfriend and not get winded so easily or have lower back pain, or get a stitch in my side. I’m getting there!
Commitmentnow.com Do you think women who are larger encounter more challenges with relationships? Or less?
Stacey: I think women who don’t love and appreciate themselves have challenges with relationships, no matter what size they are. I have been large my entire dating life. And I have had wonderful passionate relationships, and deep love, and I have had heartbreak and rejection. That is life. I have dated men who have never been with a plus-sized woman before, and I have dated men who prefer it. But I have always known who I am, and what I offer, and any man who couldn’t see or appreciate that because of my size was never going to be for me anyway.
I know that when I am confident about myself, and when I am celebrating everything that is wonderful about me, that makes me more attractive.
Women who are self-loathing or apologetic are boring and unattractive, it doesn’t matter if they are a size 2 or 22.
My boyfriend is the first person to say that it was my confidence that was one of the things that first attracted him, and he had never dated a plus-sized woman before.
Commitmentnow.com: Tell us about the main character Melanie. What can we learn from her? What is the journey she must go on to live the life she was meant to live?
Stacey: Melanie lived her life in a fog of work and food and sex. Her relationship with her husband wasn’t built on a strong foundation, and financial freedom gave them a false sense of security, especially since they were both without significant extended family and they had no children.
When Melanie needs to lose weight to save her own life, health-wise, it moves her into a life filled with more true fulfillment, into a career she was meant for, into a new body and a new way of interacting with the world.
She is on a journey to meet herself, and it is scary and exhilarating and sometimes painful. But the loss of first the weight and then her husband frees her up to be anyone she wants to be, without apology or anyone else’s permission. That is the exciting part for me, was following her on this part of her own becoming.
Commitmentnow.com: How does Melanie's husband leaving her impact and transform her life?
Stacey: She is forced to live in both a seriously reduced financial reality, but also in a new social reality. When she was a lawyer, there was no time left for much besides a good meal and sex. In their marriage they have few friends and mostly business acquaintances. They are a very insular couple, focused inward.
When he leaves her, she has to create a new support structure, open herself up to true friendships, to a renewed relationship with her sister, to new friends and a new lover.
Commitmentnow.com: What enabled you to create a character like Melanie?
Stacey: My protagonists tend to emerge full-fledged in my head. The logistics, she is a chef, I am a passionate home cook, she was a large woman, I am a large woman, she goes through a divorce, I am divorced, all of that feeds into things. But ultimately, Melanie feels very much like her own person, and I am taking dictation!
Commitmentnow.com: How do you go about creating characters when you write--where do they come from? How do you develop their personal stories?
Stacey: Usually I get a sense of a voice, sometimes a look, sometimes snippets of history or circumstance. But I try to allow their personal reality to develop organically while I write, I don’t do character studies or notes beforehand. Often a character will respond to something in a particular way that makes me understand something about who they are or what they have been through in their past, and then that becomes a part of them.
Commitmentnow.com: Was this an easy or difficult book to write?
Stacey: The hardest book I have written so far. It goes to some very personal and devastating places, and it was a difficult edit and rewrite process. But totally worth it!
Commitmentnow.com: This book puts a different spin on weight loss--instead of enabling the girl to finally get the guy, her weight loss causes her to lose the guy. Do you like writing books that put old stereotypes and storylines upside down?
Stacey: I love a good twist. I love when it seems like one thing is going to happen and then I do the opposite. I hate when I read a book and know on page 4 how it will end, so I try to avoid that whenever possible, or to at least put some good twists and turns along the way!
Commitmentnow.com: What makes a great novelist? How did you become one?
Stacey: Great novelists are great readers, and have a keen eye for observing life. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a great novelist, but try to write smart and honest. I try to have characters that feel real, are flawed but sympathetic, and to not be predictable.
Commitmentnow.com: What message does 'Good Enough to Eat' have about food and friendship?
Stacey: That having exceptional versions of both are essential to a life well lived!
Commitmentnow.com: What advice do you have for women who dream of writing novels like yourself?
Stacey: Write for yourself, write the book you want to read. Don’t try to anticipate what the market is doing, don’t think about what is “hot”. Stay true to your own needs as a reader.
Commitmentnow.com: You write that Melanie is "on a journey to meet herself." What does this mean and do you feel you've also gone on a similar journey in your life?
Stacey: I think if we live an introspective, aware life, then eventually we will find the person we are supposed to be. I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out who I am, and how I want to live. I feel very much as if I am living MY life the way I am supposed to right now. I think for Melanie, her life was external, she was just along for the ride. Once she embraces change, she takes control over every aspect of her life, good and bad. I don’t know that she gets all the way there, but she is on her way!
To Purchase "Good Enough To Eat" click here.
About the Author: In addition to being a novelist, Stacey Ballis is a lifestyle and entertaining expert, who previously appeared on The Rachael Ray Show and other television programs. She lives in Chicago.