Taming the Obeast

A few weeks ago, I read Lori Lansens’ bestselling book “the wife’s tale“.

The book tells the story of Mary Gooch, a 43 year-old woman with severe obesity, who lives her life in defensive, deflective blame, segregating herself in the small farming town of Leaford, Ontario.

When her husband dissapears on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Mary abandons her comfortable position to take the next flight to look for him in California. Soon after arriving she loses her wallet and passport, which further complicates her situation.

With the help of some unlikely friendships that she makes along the way, Mary undertakes a journey of self discovery resulting in an amazing transformation. The deeply insightful story touchingly depicts the heart-wrenching daily reality of someone living with severe disabling obesity.

In an opening sequence, Mary describes how, as a nine year old, she heard her doctor whisper the word “obese” to her mother. Never having heard the word before, little Mary imagined that she was under the power of an “obeast”, a creature that had taken over her body and was manifesting itself in her starving gut.

As Lori Lansens, who hails from Chatham, Ontario, a rural community near the border to Detroit, notes in her self-penned author profile,

“I drove the curving roads of the Santa Monica Mountains thinking of the thousands of conversations I’ve had with women about loneliness, self acceptance, marriage, husbands, body image, food, denial, betrayal and more recently, encroaching middle-age. I thought about what it means to be a stranger, and how one can be transformed by circumstance, and as I found my own tribe of friends and settled into the new rhythm of a different life, the story of Mary Gooch unfolded.”

Although her biography makes no mention of any weight issues that Lansens herself may have experienced, she tells the story of many patients that I see in my clinic everyday.

Anyone who still believes that we will solve the obesity epidemic by simply telling people to eat less and move more should take the time to read this book – but my guess is that if you believe that the solution to obesity is as simple as eating less, then you may have little interest in a book which reveals uncomfortable layers of complexity to a problem for which there are no easy solutions.

If any of my readers have read “The Wife’s Tale”, I’d love to hear from you.

Edmonton, Alberta