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Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head Paperback – February 19, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After she loses 180 pounds from weight-loss surgery, Larsen lives happier ever after. As she says in her epilogue, written more than five years after the procedure, she never regrets going under the knife. Still, she doesn’t see it as a panacea: “Being skinnier is far, far easier in this world than being fat, and being skinny does not solve all your problems.” She describes how she changes inside and out, even though she hardly becomes the poster girl for healthy living. Before her surgery, Larsen stops at the convenience store to get two 20-ounce liters of diet Pepsi, two king-size Kit Kats, and a pack of menthol cigarettes. Afterward, she does buy a bike, but she also keeps smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Throughout her honest memoir, she bravely shares her emotions about being fat and unhappy, which should help slim readers feel empathetic and remind those who are overweight that they are not alone. --Karen Springen


“Honest, brave and sparklingly funny, Larsen’s memoir reminds us that one size doesn’t—and shouldn’t—fit all.”
People Magazine

"For all the noise our culture makes about fat and thin and health and perfect bodies, Jen Larsen's voice rises above the clamor, disarming and funny but unflinching, too. Combining stark honesty with generosity of spirit, this story of loss and recovery is like no other."
Wendy McClure, columnist for BUST Magazine and author of The Wilder Life

"An arresting memoir about the author's experience with weight–loss surgery.

Larsen initially lied to her mother about the nature of her surgery and didn’t tell her the truth until well after the procedure. She admits that her librarian co–workers 'probably knew more than I did' about the risks and potential complications, and she spread the first payment across three credit cards. When a doctor reprimanded her for gaining, rather than losing, weight before the surgery date, Larsen asked, 'If I don't lose the weight, can you still operate?' She smoked and drank heavily. After her painful recovery, she 'ate whatever I could fit inside me, and suffered for it, and lost weight anyway.' In the hands of a lesser writer, all of these facts could lead readers to feel judgment or disgust. Instead, Larsen's honesty and insight make for a searing account of precisely what it feels like to be fat and to have complicated relationships with food, family and friends. We understand exactly why one would look to surgery as a solution to not only excess weight, but also fear, loneliness and unhappiness. Larsen eventually lost the weight, and she also moved on from her dead–end job and her bad relationship. But though her life is measurably better, she still reels from the shock that self–acceptance did not come automatically: 'You lose weight without having to develop self–awareness, self–control, a sense of self. In fact, you go ahead and you lose your sense of self.'

Raw vulnerability and rigorous emotional honesty make this weight–loss memoir compelling and memorable." —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (February 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580054463
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580054461
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jen Larsen reads, writes, and generally avoids arithmetic. She currently lives in Minneapolis, MN with her partner and a vast menagerie. Visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Cleary on February 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jen Larsen's "Stranger Here" sounds like a weight-loss memoir. Certainly, it's about someone who lost a lot of weight (through weight-loss surgery), but the story isn't about pounds lost and foods ingested. Rather, this is the story of what happens when someone thinks she knows the answer to all her problems in life and finds out that sometimes, getting exactly what you wanted isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Larsen has a light, easily-readable style that carries the reader along on her journey. She turns a critical eye to society's criticisms of overweight people, to the weight loss industry, to doctors and medical professionals who may be a little too eager to push heavy people through the system, but mostly, she analyzes herself. This is not a tale of a perfect woman who just needed to make a change, Jen Larsen is a flawed protagonist who makes a number of mistakes, but tries to do better.

"Stranger Here" isn't just for those people considering weight-loss surgery or people who struggle with body issues. There's a lot to be learned from the story of someone who does what she can to make a change in her life, but realizes that "happily ever after" is just one more step on her journey.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Kristin on February 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Full disclosure; I know Jen Larsen personally(Lucky me!). I am not a writer, but I enjoy sharing what I love. I loved this book. I met Jen Larsen a few years post surgery, through mutual friends- and I was immediately taken by this charming human being with what seemed like fountains of confidence, a smile that could win over a troll, and an amazing personality to top it all off. You think, when you meet her that she is one of those people who truly have it all. You would never guess she had lost half her body weight, neither from her attitude nor her appearance.

As I got to know Jen better, she shared with me tidbits about weight loss surgery, and her life post op... But reading this book was a deep, raw, and vivid window into that journey. Jen Larsen is not shy about the pains, downfalls, and struggles it took to reach her goal, nor the daily battle to maintain it. Unflinchingly honest- you follow her from planning to execution, and every painful and humorous pound lost to her goal. This book shouldn't just be read by someone who is considering weight loss surgery, someone who has had it, or even someone who has struggled with weight issues. Anyone who enjoys good story telling will enjoy this book. Anyone who has had to overcome that voice inside that says "you cant" will enjoy this book. Anyone who has won, or triumphed, and then figures out the finish line isn't the end of the race will love this book. When I reached the end, all I could think was "I want to know more!" I wont give anything away, but there are more stories to be told and journeys to be written about, so I am looking forward to book #2.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Shaw on February 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
One of the most powerful and moving books I have ever read. It seemed sometimes as though the author had snuck glances at my personal diary and the struggles I have gone through with the love of my body while writing her words.
"Stranger Here" touches on some of the things I believe every woman struggles with in regards to weight, romance, self love and a funny, uplifting & sympathetic way. Jen Larsen has struck a chord that I believe will resound for years to come.
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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Houck on April 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having had gastric bypass surgery myself, 13 years ago, I was extremely excited to read Jen Larsen's book. The title led me to believe that this was a woman who was going to be putting the ugly truth of weight loss surgery on paper. For 13 years I've listened to people degrade me for having lost weight "the easy way". I couldn't wait to read the story of another woman who understood the widely unknown mental destruction that occurs in so many of these patients. I was optimistic while reading about her life leading up to the surgery; even the part about not asking too many, if any,
questions for fear of hearing something so horrifying as to reneg on the decision to follow through. My skepticism set in relatively quickly after reading about her activities following surgery. While I'm not so bold as to call her a liar about everything (maybe a bit of exaggeration?) I will accuse Ms. Larsen of not being quite as forthright with her readers as she claims to be. Right off the bat she describes frying and eating an entire pack of boneless chicken breasts. She says after the first piece she could feel the food, basically, in her esophagus. But...she proceeded to gorge herself on the remaining chicken. I'm calling BS on that right now. Depending on the size of the portion of stomach that was left following her surgery, she very well could have had room for an entire chicken breast, though it's highly unlikely. But an entire pack? No. That's just not physiologically possible that soon after the particular surgery she had. I
appreciate her candor about her post surgery drinking, though that could really be attributed to her pre surgery drinking. She did give detail about her "almost" affair but conveniently glossed over the whole promiscuity issue after she became single.
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