Fat Chance, by Nick Spalding Review: a True Portrayal of Losing Weight

Losing weight is never an easy task, and Fat Chance, by Nick Spalding, might just have hit the nail right on the head. To see if it truly has, read on…

A picture of someone holding a Kindle with Fat Chance on it, with a cat in the background

After having a little look through some of the free books Amazon Kindle have to offer, I stumbled across Fat Chance, by Nick Spalding. I thought it sounded like a fun, easy read, so I downloaded it, and before I knew it, I’d breezed through it in about three days!

Regarded as one of the best Nick Spalding books, Fat Chance is an interesting take on what it may take for some people to lose weight. It dives into the mentality of it all, the misunderstanding many have on losing weight healthily, and the struggles fat people are exposed to daily. To see if I thought Spalding handled these issues well, and whether the story was worth giving a go, you came to the right place…

Fat Chance Characters

We’ll start by introducing our main characters; the first two whose first-hand accounts of events we follow throughout, in a diary format. Although there are a number of named characters throughout our story, the main ones to note are:

  • Zoe Milton: Zoe is our leading female character. She works in the local radio station, and is a size 18 woman, once size 8, who feels trapped in her body.
  • Greg Milton: Greg is Zoe’s husband. He has a classic rugby build, but has packed on the pounds, and is now severely overweight.
  • Elise: Elise is Zoe’s best friend, and works as the DJ and radio presenter at the local radio station.

Fat Chance Plot

As you can see, our main characters, who we follow throughout the story, are Zoe and Greg Milton. Having met each other at secondary school as teenagers, they instantly hit it off, and were soon married. Madly in love with one another, they’ve lived the usual life of any middle-aged couple; working hard, playing hard, loving one another fiercely… and packing on the pounds.

Zoe works as a sales woman, selling advertising spots to companies at the local radio station. Her best friend, Elise, works as the fun-loving and attractive radio presenter, so when an idea for a new radio competition comes forth, Zoe seems the obvious choice for becoming part of it all. But what is Zoe’s problem, and why is a competition the solution?

Well, when life really got in the way, both Zoe and Greg started putting on weight. Frequent takeaways, snacks, and alcoholic beverages meant weight was slowly, but surely, added to their once slight frames. Now, both are severely overweight, but the thought of doing anything about it has become truly hopeless.

Although neither would ever admit it to one another, they’re both starting to feel self-conscious, even around each other! A couple of embarrassing incidents, including Greg breaking a chair at a friend’s BBQ, and Zoe getting stuck in a dress in a changing room, light the fire that something needs to be done.

The competition surrounds a number of fat couples who are challenged to lose weight. The couple who lose the most weight by the end of the competition win £50,000. Although Zoe is initially hesitant when her friend offers her and Greg a spot in the competition, it seems like the only way out of this rut they find themselves in.

Each couple have to write a diary of their experience, and the book surrounds Zoe and Greg’s diary entries. The entries begin by describing the tipping point that led them here; the two embarrassing stories I mentioned before. Then, we follow their journey of dieting, exercise, weigh-ins with the radio station, and more.

Someone holding a Kindle with Fat Chance on it, whilst they sit on a towel on the grass in their garden

What do the Masses Think of Fat Chance, by Nick Spalding?

I was reading this book for a bit of light reading, as I’d just finished a WW2 romance novel, and was really looking for something easygoing and lighthearted. So, for me, this ticked all the boxes; it made me chuckle a fair few times, and it was swimmingly simple to breeze through. That said, on having a look over what some other people thought of this book, I was shocked to find some peoples’ reactions.

A couple of the reviews of Nick Spalding’s Fat Chance were pretty aggressively negative. They criticised the lack of humour, and the unrealistic way in which Nick describes the dieting.

For example, one extreme diet that Greg tries is the military diet, which advocates for drinking an awful lot of coffee. When Zoe’s parents come to visit, Greg is completely high on caffeine, and just won’t stop talking. The reviewer deems these reactions to the coffee to be completely unrealistic.

They also felt that Nick’s main agenda was to make it seem as though the only way anyone can be happy is to be skinny. So, with all this in mind, what did I think of this novel? Did the perhaps unrealistic and insensitive ideas and scenes remove from the point of the story?

My Thoughts on Nick Spalding’s Fat Chance

I have to say, I completely disagree with this idea about Spalding’s purposes for writing. I think he tackled the emotions behind losing weight pretty well; that it’s something everyone wants to be able to do, but many of us fear the journey ahead. Getting the right push – and I’d say £50,000 is definitely the push many of us would need – is perhaps all it takes.

Yes, Spalding does make a farce out of a lot of it, especially the whole idea behind the competition being a spectator’s sport. That said, the exasperation of Zoe and Greg at this is clear, and it’s very obvious that this being a spectator’s sport is awful.

I think this truly highlights peoples’ attitudes to fat people being something to ridicule. Through hearing the thoughts behind Zoe and Greg, and how people approach them, it shows a new side to it all; the rotten side of the apple which we all must recognise.

In general, I have to say that this book gave me exactly what I was looking for; an easy read that I could just breeze through in the garden, with the sun shining. Well, it didn’t disappoint, and I really did enjoy it. No, it was no timeless classic, but it sure was a fun story to read.

With this in mind, what were my thoughts on the wider themes of the story?

An Unrealistic Comedy

I won’t deny that the coffee fiasco other reviewers disliked did seem a little bizarre, and I too wondered whether that would really be my reaction if I overdosed on caffeine. There were also a number other scenes where similar weird things were happening, and I have no doubt that, in real life, things would never pan out this way. That said, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it all.

Even with the wackiest diets and craziest experiences Zoe and Greg took on, I was hooked, and just wanted both of them to lose the weight. I think that this craziness added to the storyline; the desperation people feel to lose weight, wherein they ‘d try anything, even if it sacrificed their health and sanity.

The comical nature in which Nick describes Zoe’s and Greg’s experiences with these diets just increases the reader’s exasperation. Throughout the story, I was just dying for them to stop eating these silly foods and drinks, and start consuming healthy and nutritious meals. That’s all it takes, and Nick highlights this fact pretty clearly.

All in all, the story is based on what fat people go through daily, but we can’t forget that it’s still fiction. Nick is entitled to a little bit of writer’s privilege, and I feel that the overall story, and the funny and silly additions here and there, added to the moral very well. Without all this, it wouldn’t have been as fun a read as I found it to be.

With this in mind, I think the main moral of the story was pretty clear; most diets are a complete farce. There are a huge number of fad diets out there, but the one that will truly work is simply consuming a calorie deficit. If you want to lose weight, just consume less calories than you burn each day, and you’ll be good to go.

Society and Fat Shaming

Unrealistic scenes and morals of the story aside, the element of the book which I felt was probably pretty realistic were the daily experiences of Zoe and Greg whilst still a fat couple. Nick truly touches on something very important here, namely the experiences of fat people as they go through life.

Although I can’t speak from experience, I can completely imagine having people constantly pitying or ridiculing you, even whilst doing day-to-day tasks. Zoe and Greg’s exasperation and boredom at people’s reactions to them being fat seems to me to be a pretty good portrayal of what it must be like. As a relatively slim person, this opened my eyes to the discrimination that fat people must face day in and day out, giving me a new perspective.

The Difficulties of Fat People

Another topic which was touched upon was Zoe’s inability to have children due to her weight. This is a real problem that many women suffer from, and I think Nick’s representation of Zoe’s feelings behind this must have been pretty accurate. The pinnacle moment for this is when Elise asks Zoe to discuss this issue live on the radio, and her anger at her friend for making her do this for the sake of the audience is palpable.

This just goes to show that there’s more to being a fat person than just being fat. There are also much deeper angles to it all that most people don’t even think about. The story has made me wonder if there are much more sensitive topics out there which need to be understood.

Someone holding a Kindle with Fat Chance on it, whilst they sit on the grass with their legs crossed

A Comical, Easy Read Worth Picking Up…

So, those are my thoughts on Nick Spalding’s Fat Chance. As someone who constantly feels the pressures of society to look a certain way (having a flat stomach is my biggest worry), I could really empathise with Spalding’s characters. Although I am by no means overweight, seeing the lengths they go to, and the persuasion they needed to finally lose the weight, really hit home.

For some, it’s not as easy as “exercise and eat well”. For many, it’s overcoming the battle within you to actually do it, and I think Spalding demonstrates this, and lets us know the sense of accomplishment we’ll feel when we finally tackle it.

Have you read this story, or any more by Nick Spalding? What do you think of his work? I’d love to know whether you laughed out loud like me, or disliked his portrayal of losing weight – let me know, in the comments below!

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