Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self

Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self

An intimate and darkly comic memoir of a woman who does a 180 with her body.

When she was in her early forties, Frances Kuffel lost half her body weight. In Passing for Thin, Frances describes with unflinching honesty and a wickedly dark sense of humor her first fumbling introductions to her newly slender body, shining a light on the shared human experience of feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin. She gradually moves from observer to player—enjoying for the first time flirting, exercising, and shopping–as she explores the terrain on the “Planet of Thin.” As Frances gradually comes to know—and love—the stranger in the mirror, she learns that her body does not define her, but enables her to become the woman she’s always wanted to be.


  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767912926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767912921
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
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  1. I thought I was going to like both this memoir and its author, but I came away feeling ambivalent about both. (I read about Frances Kuffel in a magazine, and got the impression that her book would be well worth reading, but I did not find that to be the case.)
    What put me off the most about Passing for Thin was that, despite having once been fat herself, Kuffel seems devoid of empathy for those who are still fat. She refers to a woman in her OA program as a “fatty” and to her lover’s obese son as “Dudley Dursley”. (Harry Potter’s cousin.) This might be an apt comparison in that Dudley Dursley is indeed obese, but he is also mean, petty and spoiled rotten, so it seems more than a little unkind of Kuffel to mention this particular fictional character when writing about her lover’s son.
    Having lost half her weight, Kuffel now seems as contemptuous of the obese as the people who used to give her “appalled second glances” when she herself was obese.
    I was also put off by Kuffel’s relentless narcissism. It’s very peculiar that she would choose Janeane Garofalo as a role model, because as far as I can tell, these women have very little in common. Garofalo has been quoted as saying (about a time in her life when she lost a lot of weight in the hope that it would help her land more parts) she hates the vanity that goes with being thin. Kuffel, on the other hand, seems to embrace this kind of vanity, going on and on about various aspects of her appearance. (I watch What Not to Wear and buy fashion magazines from time to time, so the fact that even I was bored by the endless descriptions of Kuffel’s various outfits is saying a lot.Read more ›

  2. I agree with some of the other reviewers in that sometimes I didn’t like Frances. Sometimes she is whiny and self-pitying. Sometimes I wanted to grab her and say “get over it, girl!” But I applaud her for such a raw, open accounting of herself and her journey. Weight loss is hard. Adjusting to the results of weight loss is harder.

    I know, because I am in the middle of that journey myself. In the last 18 months I have lost 125 lbs, on my way to losing 175. To those who commented that it seemed like the book was written by two different women (Fat Frances and Thin Frances), I can say that weight loss *can* turn you into a different person inside as well. The way I relate to the world is completely different. My role, as I see it, and as others see it, is completely different. At age 33, that’s going to cause some tension and some problems. I see tension and changes in some of my relationships. I’m trying to keep an eye on them and nurture them through the changes. So far I haven’t lost any of them, but I could see it happening.

    To those who said Frances became more selfish… it’s true. I definitely find myself being more selfish. Why? Because I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood desperately trying to make people like me and “overcome” the fact that I was fat. Now it’s time to do some things just for me, and just because I want to do them. Doesn’t mean I’m becoming mean-spirited or self-involved, I’m just beginning to really love and value myself and recognize that sometimes I have to put myself first.

    Her story was so compelling to me that it has inspired me to write my own. Might take a while (particularly since the story is not finished yet) but I think this aspect of weight loss desperately needs more attention.Read more ›

  3. I read Frances Kuffel’s “Passing for Thin” with mixed emotions. As a person who has (and continues to) struggle with weight, body issues and weight loss, I could readily identify with many of the topics Kuffel writes about.
    For instance, she writes about needing to wear shorts underneath a denim dress to prevent chafing of her inner thighs in the summer…and of being refused entry to an amusement park ride – and the condescending remarks of pity offered by one woman afterwards as a sort of consolence…and of being hot and feeling in poor health all the time…so much of this a large reader can understand intimately.
    I also think she does a very good job of showing, early in the book, how family dynamics affect her weight gain…her family (and one brother, in particular), come across as very insensitive to her during her childhood.
    Yes, Frances Kuffel has spent much time on “Planet Fat” (her own descriptive phrase for what it’s like living as a very fat person in this world) and she knows alot about the terrain, the rules and so forth.
    She also does a fine job showing how difficult it is to make the transition from “Planet Fat” to a normal life in a “normal” body after her loss of about 150 pounds. (Not just in terms of the physical weight loss…but how, mentally, emotionall and spiritually she had to adapt to a new way of living and being in the world after her huge weight loss).
    Despite all this, I did have some problems with the book.Read more ›

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