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The Words of Camryn Manheim: The Need for Speed | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Words of Camryn Manheim: The Need for Speed

In honor of the recent TV airing about the “health at every size” issue and fat acceptance, I bring you this timely excerpt from the Fat Girl’s Bible: The superfantastic Wake Up, I’m Fat! by the large and fabulous Camryn Manheim.

It is from the chapter about her time at the New York University Tisch School for the Arts, where the professors and administration of the Drama “hocked” her (as they say in Yiddish) about her weight and her admittedly bad attitude (“Camryn, you have a bad attitude!” “Did you say I have a fat attitude?” “No, I said you have a bad attitude!” “I heard you! I’m too fat for class!”). Now, pay careful attention, ladies, to this paragraph from page 64:

I was doing speed in the morning to get through the day and Valium at night to get to sleep. Speed in the morning to get through the day and Valium at night to get to sleep. Speed in the morning. Valium at night. Speed in the morning. Valium at night. Speed. Valium. Speed. Valium. Speed. Valium. (Pant, pant) Speed and Valium . . . it’s got a certain rhythm, but you can’t dance to it. Life was going by at a hundred miles a minute. I wasn’t eating a thing and I was exercising more than ever. I was playing tennis, racquetball, swimming. I was really improving my cardiovascular system and destroying it at the very same time. By the end of the summer, I had lost about thirty-five pounds, and when I returned to NYU I was celebrated by my peers. My teachers took a brand-new interest in me and I felt like a star. I was afraid if I stopped taking the speed I would gain all thirty-five pounds back, so I decided to keep taking it during my last year at NYU. I was a wreck but a trimmed-down wreck, and that kept NYU happy. By spring I was the thinnest I had ever been in my adult life, about eighty pounds less than I am now. I don’t think anyone ever noticed that I was on speed, but then, ya know, I could have been in denial.

Remember, boys and girls: You cannot tell just from looking at someone how healthy they are. If they used to be obese and are now thin(ner), the question should not be “how can we celebrate your new-found health and beauty?” but rather “did you lose the weight in a healthy way? Are you actually healthier now than you were before? If so, congratulations! If not, is worrying about your (subjective) beauty more important than worrying about your mental, emotional, and physical health? How can I support you in what you really need?”

Turns out that, in response to the negative publicity they received after Manheim wrote a one-woman show about how awful they’d been, NYU’s Tisch school completely revamped their attitude (fattitude?) toward overweight students. Want to know how Manheim found out? You must buy the book!

Happy reading!

xoxo,

Francesca

18 Responses to “The Words of Camryn Manheim: The Need for Speed”

  1. Sass February 1, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    I read her book in high school, and I have to say I absolutely love it. It was pretty much the very first fat-positive memoir I’d ever encountered. The way she chronicles her life and career through her relationship with her body was so interesting to me, and as a teenager it expressed things I felt but didn’t yet have the words to say. Love that woman! Thanks for reminding me of that awesome book, it may be worth a re-read.

  2. Lisa February 1, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    I think it’s definitely worth a re-read. I just have to now either dig out my copy or trek to the library.

    I think I’m going to start doing what Miss Francesca suggests when I see someone who has lost weight. Compliment them, but ask if it was done in a way that is beneficial to their health.

  3. ChaChaHeels February 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    This is the phenomenon Carol Shields wrote about in creating the “fat” character in her novel, Larry’s Party: a woman chastised all her life by people around her, until she got AIDS and finally slimmed down. Suddenly, the world was her oyster and she finally had respect and validation, because she was slender (but dying).

    I think the speed/valium treatment is no longer considered “sound” practice in medicine, but only because bariatrics is focused on surgery now (lap bands and stomach bypasses). Equally dangerous, healthwise.

  4. Twistie February 1, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    This is such an important point. When you’re fat, people feel it’s okay for them to assume you’re a stroke waiting to happen or that you clearly have diabetes. Guess what? Thin people can have diabetes and cardiovascular disease, too. Fat people can be perfectly healthy. Losing weight may be healthy, but only when it’s done in a healthy way.

  5. JaneC February 1, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    I have two friends who each lost a considerable (more than 40 pounds) amount of weight in the last five years. My reaction both times was, “Wow, you’ve really slimmed down. Um, how did you do it?” I wasn’t actually happy for them initially–I was worried, but tried to act happy for them. It took me about a month of observing the first one, going to dinner at her house and taking her out for coffee, to be convinced that she’d just changed her exercise habits and was eating carrots and chicken instead of cookies and hamburgers.

    The other one, well, I’m still not convinced that she lost weight by healthy means and for healthy reasons rather than because she was disappointed in love recently, but she claims to be fine and unfortunately I’m not in a position to find out whether that’s true.

  6. sara February 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    That is such a fabulous book – it’s funny you bring it up, because I have a student who’s a theatre major on the larger side and knew she needed to read it, so I just dug it out of my boxes of books to lend to her. I think it’s a great read for everyone, but especially for performers – she really blazed her own trail when it came to roles.

  7. MsMonis February 1, 2008 at 5:41 pm #

    camryn is awesome! my dream of dreams is to be an actress and we all know actresses are size 0 and fat actresses are jennifer love hewitt. camryn gives me hope. i get down on myself all the time about being a size 18 and how i need to lose weight. it’s stopping me from pursuing my dream. i need to be healthy and happy with me first before anyone will be able to see my star potential…

  8. Bridey February 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    I might point out, mildly, that Camryn Manheim is significantly thinner than she used to be, has credited her weight loss to a “change in lifestyle” in order to be “healthier,” and has expressed her pleasure at not having to shop in fat-lady stores.

    I’m not raising this as a criticism — people, even fat celebrities, are free to do the weight-loss thing if they figure they’ll get something out of it. Everyone has his or her own priorities. Just seemed worth bringing up, as a bit of context, perhaps.

  9. P February 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    Several years ago, I lost a considerable amount of weight while being treated for migraines. At the time I didn’t care about the weight loss because the headaches would render me useless, sometimes for several days, and on quite a few occasions, weeks. All I was concerned with was that the pain was not so bad and sometimes, going away. I truly didn’t notice that the pounds came off untill my pants no longer fit. I had some lovely clothes that hurt to give away. Then, one of my parents became ill and more weight came off. I am not a stress eater, actually, food makes me nauseated when things are not going well. My hair was falling out in clumps, I wasn’t sleeping, and I didn’t feel well. It wasn’t until several months after my father passed that I started to feel better and healthy. I gained much of the weight back and the headaches come much less frequently and are manageable. Oh, my hair came back too, albeit, too much of it grey. The people I come into contact with are gracious about my size. To those who aren’t, my question has always been, “Why are you so concerned with MY weight?” because when I looked “really good,” I was miserable and didn’t feel at all well. Maybe sometime I will be motivated to lose the weight again, but not if it will make me feel the same as last time.

  10. class-factotum February 2, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    I do love the writing on this blog and hesitate to offer any sort of contradiction, but instead of “the question should not be ‘how can we celebrate your new-found health and beauty?’ but rather “did you lose the weight in a healthy way?” shouldn’t we just not be questioning others’ weight loss, gain or appearance?

    Either someone looks great or she doesn’t, but looking great is not necessarily correlated with size. I know skinny girls who look like skanks or frumps and heavy ladies who are always perfectly groomed, dressed and made up. Nothing wrong with saying, “You look fabulous!” but asking what someone did or ate to achieve that fabulosity seems a little rude to me.

    One of the things I have learned living in The South, where there is a completely different language, is that one does not inquire about another’s eating habits, weight or lack thereof. Instead, one strives to be gracious at all times.

  11. FyreStarrter February 6, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    @class-factorum I would agree with you approximately 40% of the time. Having lived in the South I can understand completely with your saying. But I suggest that perhaps it should depend upon how you know the person. Someone you are a casual acquaintance with I would not suggest such an inquiry but to any old friend, by all means we should trust our intuition & ask away! Many a time we are only asking because we would like some direction as to the way we should go in our weight loss & if we know the person really well, sometimes we would just like to know how they are REALLY doing or maybe even suspect they are not doing well. The young lady above us talked about clumps of HAIR falling out, obviously she was going through some difficulty & maybe just ONE person making an inquiry as to how she was doing or how she had accomplished her weight loss may have helped her overcome whatever was going on in her life at that time.

  12. FyreStarrter February 6, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    Oh by the way LOVE Camryn Mannheim she is a phenomenal actress & a true to herself person.

  13. Jennie February 7, 2008 at 2:57 am #

    As true GRITS (girls raised in the south). We learn to ask in round about ways. “Darlin’ you are positively glowing! What’s your secret?” Or, “Sweetie, you’re a bit pale, can I help with anything?” Both discuss health without praise or critique and are perfect for allowing someone to respond with details or a conventional brush off…

  14. Max December 15, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    Hi – just wanted to say good design and blog –

  15. Max December 15, 2008 at 8:06 am #

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100%, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong.

  16. May September 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm #

    Its not about appearances, but usually excersizing and eating well will usually lead to a better figure. speed curbs appetite but is no replacement for a good meal. I’m locked up on the whole ‘fat-lib’ idea because while i do think people should have a good self-image, telling yourself that everything is alright when there are glaring health concerns seems a bit counterproductive. ‘Healthy at any size’ is a matra to make overweight people justify their indulgences (ive been on both sides of the scale so im speaking from experience). I prefer the matra ‘you are beautiful’ simply to not assure myself but not confuse the issue. ‘Healthy at any size’ is really something to be determined to by a doctor, not the mirror. And for those that think doctors discriminating against you, all I can say is stop making excuses because a doctors duty is your health any they have no stake in ‘making you feel bad’. That ‘feeling bad’ is just a result of hidden insecurities buried under a mountain of ‘healthy at any size’ linguistic misprogramming. Seek the truth, save yourself the trouble later. Diabetes is real, heart disease is real and they get out of control when you deny what you are seeing in the mirror.

    Beauty is everywhere, don’t let what im saying make anyone here angry, I’m on your side and Im sure everyone of you is beautiful (as you should think too). But you must know that what is paramount is health. Do not let your pride betray your health. Cathryn Manheim knows this (if youve seen her lately, shes lost plenty of weight). But she’s not a traitor, she simply realized the wrong in her ways when she had a child and wanted the best for him and his health- and I commend her for that.

  17. Kitchen Rugs  October 13, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    I like the cars on Need For Speed, they are great car models like the Mitsubishi Evo;,`