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The Long and Winding Road

A Message from Carol H. Munter and Jane R. Hirschmann

Dear Reader,

Well, we're back from the book tour, quite tired, but very pleased. We conducted 11 speakouts along the way and heard from a lot of women out there that the time has definitely come for The Women's Campaign to End Body Hatred and Dieting. It was great to meet many of you and to hear so many inspiring stories. We thought we'd share some notes from our travels.

Our first stop, Washington D.C. The speakout was in a lovely women's bookstore, Lammas, and we met quite a few women who have been using the Overcoming Overeating approach for some time. It's always a pleasure to have seasoned nondieters around when newcomers to the approach are expressing their apprehension.

Houston was our next stop. Of course, it was great to visit with Kathy and Karen, directors of the Houston Center, and particularly fun to do some of our visiting/interviewing at the fancy Ritz-Carlton. (Book tours are grueling and exhausting, but publishing companies have great taste in hotels!) Two male radio hosts at different stations responded particularly well to the material in the new book. One is convinced that many of the difficulties in his life are attributable to his being short (an interesting version of a bad body thought) and the other man has always been large. Incidentally, we were able to play the audiotape, "Who Says?" written and performed by Caryl Towner, during most of our radio interviews.

On to Chicago, described by some at the speakout as the "epicenter" of the anti-diet movement given the presence there of the Chicago Center, Jade Publishing, and Abundia, represented that night by Cheri Erdman. It was great to see everyone and the speakout at Barbara's was big and exciting. Nice clip on the 4p.m. TV news. 70 degrees on a March day in Chicago!

We missed our morning TV show in Minneapolis due to fog caused by the midwest heat wave, but were able to do the show the following morning. Another feminist bookstore, Amazon Books, and a great crowd and discussion.

We weren't at all sure about Cincinnati, not many Cincinnatians on our mailing list. But again, a nice turnout and a great evening. A 75-year-old woman was one of the first to speak. She said that she'd spent most of her life hating her body, dieting, and obsessing. A few years back, she arrived at some of the same conclusions we write about in our books. She's recently given up dieting and she's determined to give up body hatred as well. In Cincinnati, it was particularly gratifying to hook up with Susan and Wayne Wooley, longtime anti-dieting researchers, activists, and clinicians. We'd never really had the time with them before to hear about the exciting, residential treatment program for eating disorders that they run several times each year.

A few days rest and we were off to the west coast. High tea in San Francisco with a group of women who do anti-dieting/size-acceptance work there and were so helpful in organizing the Berkeley speakout. And Berkeley was Berkeley—more than 200 women showed up to speak out at GAIA Bookstore. Quite something! Alice Ansfield, from Radiance; Pat Lyons of Great Shape; Laurelei, Carol and Elizabeth from Beyond Hunger; and many, many more women who have moved the anti-dieting/size-acceptance movement so far ahead.

Los Angeles for the day. It was a treat to be interviewed for a feminist program on public radio hosted by Josy Cotoggio and Ariana Manov who was a founding member of The Fat Underground in the '70s.

On to Denver. Seeing how tired we looked, the man at the reservations desk at the Brown Palace Hotel suggested we take the Beatle's Suite. Why not? Golden gates, mirrored floors and ceilings—we had no complaint. The speakout was in the Tattered Cover's new downtown Lo-Do store. Lots of space, lots of great stories. Here's one of them:

As the discussion at the Denver speakout proceeded, a woman jumped up and said she had to speak. She told us that she'd been severely anorectic for many years and that not long ago, her husband had had a serious talk with her about how she needed to make a decision about living or dying. She made her decision. She went to the store and bought many, many boxes of Hostess Twinkies. She stocked the house, stocked the office; she ate as many as she pleased and offered them to everyone around her. She told us that she's an incest survivor and that, as a child, she'd eaten Twinkies after the incidents of sexual molestation. Twinkies used to be her solace; now they're her declaration of survival. For years, this woman thought that eating Twinkies was a bad thing and felt guilty about it. Of course, now she understands that a really bad thing happened to her for which she bears no guilt or responsibility.

Salt Lake City was next with its wonderful landscape, snow and welcoming, forthright women at the speakout. On the spot, they decided to reconvene a few weeks later for a discussion of the new book and to organize a Spring Cleaning event for May 6th. One woman spoke up and said that she thinks it's ridiculous to be asked what you weigh when you apply for a driver's license. She proposed that from now on, as far as Motor Vehicles is concerned, we all weigh the same. 1,000 pounds? Not enough spaces on the form to write in such a number. 475? Better still, 925!

Home. Out to Long Island for a speakout in Bohemia and then the wonderful welcome at the Upper Westside Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. We couldn't see everyone hidden behind the bookshelves, but we're told that 200-300 women showed up. It was very exciting to have friends, family, and so many of the women who attend the New York workshop at such an event. The testimonies were wonderful. One story we'd like to share:

A woman told us she'd been invited to a wedding and had decided to look for a new dress to wear. At the time, she was traveling in California. She found a store in Haight-Ashbury that had a lot of spandex and sequined outfits. Looking at a spandex number, she was wondering how she'd ever fit into such a thing, when a salesperson came up to her and said, "Don't worry, it'll fit you."

"I had visions of them squeezing me into it," the woman told us, "but finally I understood. The salesperson told me that many tranvestites and drag queens shop in the store and that they make everything to fit the customers who, not infrequently, are 6 ft. tall. What a relief to find that it's the dress that needed altering, not me!"

The moral of the story? Look what happens when men decide to buy dresses!

Last stop Florida. The Renfrew Center of Coconut Creek sponsored a speakout at Liberties Books in Boca Raton. First we went to a lovely reception at Renfrew where we had a chance to meet many of the staff and to see this very impressive facility. Then on to the speakout and a whole host of old friends and family. One young woman, very upset, was there with her fiance and told us that at her last bridal fitting, her dress was many sizes too small. We're sure you can guess our advice to her.

We hope to do more speakouts in the future. If there's a bookstore in your area that would like to sponsor one and there's some way to fly us out, we'd be delighted to come! For now, we're looking forward to the weeklong workshop at Lake Austin. Hearty Appetites!

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