Chicago-based memoirist Jen Lancaster would make a shitty diet coach. Even if her mouthwatering descriptions of French toast and port-wine cheese didn't drive readers to the fridge, her refusal to apologize for being fat in the first place would probably leave her clients fatter than they were at the beginning. In her third book, Such A Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest To Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or Why Pie Is Not The Answer, she never solves the mystery of how she managed to lose 50 pounds while writing about the many pitfalls involved in trying to lose 50 pounds.
After milking unemployment and the annoyances of city life for her books Bitter Is The New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass, Lancaster—one of the most prolific members of the blog-to-book generation—struggles with the first sentence of a young-adult novel. Then, faced with her husband's threat to send her back to temping, she decides to take a friend's suggestion and write a more realistic book about dieting. A naked self-portrait gone wrong also contributes; she writes, "How the fuck did Jabba The Hutt get into my bedroom, and why is he wearing my pearls?" With the 50 pounds now a contractual obligation, and with absolutely no interest in exploring the psychological ramifications of her weight gain, Lancaster enlists the services of a sadistically cheerful trainer named Barbie (whom she hopes in vain will be "a dark, homely girl with an overbite") and endures carb withdrawal and packaged-meal rage to keep her promise to her editor.
Lancaster's efforts may make her healthier in the end, but it's just a side effect of her tremendously entertaining quest for superiority over everyone. Lancaster's self-acknowledged high self-esteem, not her methods, set Such A Pretty Fat apart from other dieting books. (In an earlier book, she was rejected at a Biggest Loser casting call because of she refused to cry on television.) Although she's gleefully prepared to abase herself in the service of a good story, her turn from fat and unapologetic to thinner and apologetic gives stories about familiar temptations an often-absurd turn. Just as her experiences in Bitter Is The New Black taught her to appreciate the free things in life, like hating her neighbors, Lancaster sails out of the book marginally wiser, but no less amusing.