Daily Record (Scotland)
– 2 May 2006
FIRST NOVEL WAS WELL WORTH THE WEIGHT
LIZA PALMER spent years being overweight and unhappy. Despite her size - in her twenties she weighed almost 30 stone - she felt invisible.
But as she started to write her first novel, Conversations with the Fat Girl, the weight began | to fall off. While Liza denies the book was therapy, in writing about her heroine's relationship with her weight, Liza recognised much of what she had been doing wrong.
Now she's lost 200lbs, half her body weight, and is enjoying life again. But, as a native of Los Angeles where unnatural beauty is everywhere, she's angry at the women who have made painfully thin bodies acceptable.
"Lots of celebrity women look like they're wasting away," said Liza, 35. "Being fat means being invisible, the exact opposite of what you would think. But you're so big that people avert their eyes and don't look at you as that makes them uncomfortable.
"In LA there are lots of stick-thin people, but it's so unhealthy. It's not natural for a woman's body to look like Jennifer Aniston's, and what she has to do to get to that size is disgusting. And she probably still thinks she looks fat.
"Jessica Alba said she hated her curves. She looks amazing, but she thinks she's fat. That's when it started to dawn on me that being a fat girl and thinking like a fat girl has nothing to do with what you look like on the outside. "Jessica Alba thinks like a fat girl and she and I share the same psyche."
Liza's debut novel tells the story of two fat friends, Maggie and Olivia, whose relationship becomes strained when Olivia undergoes surgery to change her shape. Although the book is not biographical, Liza admits much of the character of Maggie is based on herself, although the character's weight is never revealed.
"Maggie's outlook in the book is definitely the way I saw the world in 2003," says Liza. "It was a conscious decision not to say how much she weighed because the fat issue isn't about what you look like. "We all know women who worry about their weight when it shouldn't be a concern."
Liza believes the problem lies in the way women view their own worth through their appearance.
She said: "Men are taught that if you provide and make money, that's what your worth is. It's also true that women don't place as much importance on men's looks as men place on women's.
"We are under a different set of guidelines as far as where our worth lies. Unfortunately, I think it's so ingrained in women now that it will never change.
"In our culture, being perfect focuses on aesthetics, but unfortunately we look at perfect in the wrong way. We think it's important to be physically perfect rather than being intelligent, humourous and kind. We've gotten skewed somewhere and we need to skew it back."
Another problem is the way women use weight as the reason for all their woes.
"It's the best excuse in the world," said Liza. "That's why I got fat in the first place, it's a suit of armour. You gain weight for a reason. Whatever's going on in your life at that point is the embodiment of that. Then, once you get fat, if a guy doesn't like you, you can claim it's because he doesn't like fat girls when in reality it could just be he doesn't like your personality.
"It's easy to use the excuse 'I can't because I'm fat,' because it means you don't have to risk anything."
Liza also believes many young women suffer anxiety about their weight because of unnatural role models. The blame, she says, lies with the celebrities who work so hard to stay so thin.
"But unfortunately they are only cogs in the machine as well," she says. "I hate it when female celebrities say they can eat whatever they want and don't need to work out. It's simply not true. I don't understand what the benefit is of saying that.
"That's why I liked it when Gwen Stefani, Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria, said they worked hard and it took a lot of work to get their bodies to look like that.
"But then you get someone like Cameron Diaz who says she can have hamburgers whenever she wants and doesn't need to work out. Where's the benefit in that? Some 13-year-old girl will think there's something wrong with her because she doesn't look like her.
"It's almost like women aren't looking out for the younger generations and that is so irresponsible."
It's theory echoed by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who attacked the skinny celebrities gracing magazine covers and red carpets in a recent entry on her website.
"These people are role models and they should Be more sensitive to the girls who look up to them," says Liza.
WRITING the book and looking closely at the way she viewed herself and her weight, triggered something in Liza and she realised she could lose weight any time she wanted to.
She said: "Writing the book and losing weight came hand in hand. Losing weight happened when I was ready to deal with the demon. When you're ready to lose the weight, it drops off because you no longer think like a fat girl.
"If I' mat a party and there's pizza, I won't eat a slice of it no front of people because I believe they'll look at me and think that's how I got fat.
"But then, on the way home I'll get a whole pizza and eat it on my own. That's thinking like a fat girl and that's what gets you fat. You won't go to the gym because you think people will look at you.
"Your life gets smaller and smaller until all you do is go from the fridge to the TV to work and you stop living, because it's too painful."
Liza wasn't an overweight child and only became fat in her twenties. As a youngster she played water polo and ate healthily. But when a boy at her school called her names, it destroyed her confidence and sent her on the way to obesity.
"Men and boys know from very early on that calling a girl fat, even if she isn't, will make her dissolve. It's the arrow in the heart for any girl and I started to believe it and started to think like a fat girl, so of course I started to get fat. At my peak, for more than three years, I weighed more than 400lbs."
Liza likens the insecurity and paranoia that comes with being fat, to having negative voices inside her head all the time. Losing the weight has changed her life in many ways, not least meaning she has left the States for the very first time.
She said: "Being fat is like a prison. My body remembers what that feels like so the fear is always there. This is the first time I've travelled anywhere. Even in the States I wasn't much of a traveller."
At 5ft 10in, Liza managed to get down to 150lbs, just under 11 stone, but wants to stay around a stone heavier. It took her years to lose the weight and she is still hesitant about the change it had on her body.
"I did it slowly, with no fad diets and just found what exercise worked for me," she said. "Now I'm swimming and playing tennis because I don't want to ever go to the gym again. I also have a nutritionist now, but hey, I do live in LA after all."