Book Club: The Shape of Us

Author: Lisa Ireland
ISBN: 978-1-76055-087-5
RRP: $29.99

The Shape of Us is the story of four women struggling with their weight, I was in. This has been something I have struggled with throughout my life so it was a premise that I could really relate to.

The four leading ladies all join an online weight loss program called WON (Weight Off Now) that includes a member forum; I don’t think this program exists but there is certainly no shortage of weightloss programs that would be similar. The WON program offers support from women with similar goals from all across the country while still being able to maintain some anonymity, it seems like a wonderful opportunity. Unfortunately the anonymity can be a double edged sword because people often say things from behind their keyboard that they would not say in person.

In this digital age we are all connected to social media somehow and we do share a lot of ourselves but we are also very aware of the dangers. I’m sure there are many of us who can relate to the way these women have connected online and formed a real friendship. I have made some wonderful friendships online through Facebook gaming, reviewing and even a weightloss support group in my local area. Some of these friendships have stood the test of time and others have been more seasonal; either way it’s enough for me to understand the way these friendships can form online and translate into the real world.

The Shape of Us is a highly relatable story on many levels for me and the WON program did remind me of other programs I have seen. Mezz, Jewels, Ellie and Kate are very different women from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, the only tangible thing they really have in common is that they are overweight and want to do something about it. The member forum isn’t a medium any of them are feeling comfortable in so they create a mini forum of their own, a place that is truly without judgement and there they begin to share their lives.

I love the way the story was written and placed on the page as well because we got right inside our characters heads. The narrative is made up of blog posts from each of the women interspersed with their real time lives in alternating chapters. It gives us the chance to see them from both sides.

Four overweight women from different walks of life and little in common except their desire to lose weight and regain their happiness. There is so much to love about this, and so much that I could relate to on a very personal level. One of the big lessons that I came out of this book with is that everyone is on their own journey and each of them is different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for another and that’s ok. I think that’s probably the strongest part, it’s ok that what works for each of us is different and in the long run sometimes it’s not the end result that matters but what you learn along the way.

The WON program doesn’t work for any of these women but it brought them together so that makes it worthwhile, they don’t follow the program and they don’t need to post in the forum once they have their private one. The program doesn’t work but that doesn’t mean they give up, they find other methods; some more effective than others and some a lot more controversial.

Weightloss brings the women together but it isn’t long before they are sharing their whole lives and building a friendship that will see them through all that life has to throw at them, and they face a lot.

Each of the women have different reasons for wanting to lose the weight and different effects they would like it to have on their life but it was Jewels that I really connected with. She is having trouble conceiving and the doctor has told her that her best chance at conception will be after some significant weight loss, while her sister has just discovered she’s pregnant with baby number four.

I loved watching the evolution of this friendship between women with very different opinions and the way they offer support and refrain from judgement, for the most part. This is something that a lot of people could take something away from, they didn’t always agree but they were always supportive. They shared their opinion and then supported their friend through decisions they didn’t necessarily agree with.

We travel with Jewels, Mezz, Ellie and Kat through break-ups, breakdowns and a variety of different weightloss methods. In the end they all make some major changes but I think the best one was the mindset change.

The Shape of Us is ultimately a book about friendship and support but at it’s heart there is a strong message of learning to love who you are and realising the number on the scales doesn’t define you.

I think this book has come to me at a perfect time because I do struggle with my weight and I would love to change it but I don’t have the discipline for a strict regime. Everyone needs to find their own way and find what works for them, as well as learning to love the body they are in and what it does for them. My body has grown four beautiful children and nourished them so I really need to cut it some slack and then I need to fuel it, move it, look after it and grow to love it.

This is a book I would recommend wholeheartedly to all women, it’s a story of friendship and support that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The Shape of Us is book #14 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Lisa Ireland can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

The Shape of Us is published by Pan Macmillan and is available in April from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading The Shape of Us so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I can not wait to hear what our readers think.

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