Name Christina Fisanick Greer, Ph.D.
Where are you from
I grew up in a trailer park in a little town in West Virginia, USA. I left in 1993 to go to college. I went on to earn a three degrees in English, including a PhD. I returned to West Virginia in 2008, where I live with my husband, son, and two cats.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I am the author of more than 30 non-fiction books. My latest memoir, The Optimistic Food Addict: Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder, comes out on September 27.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing around age 8 as a way to express myself. My grandmother and I loved to write poetry together at the kitchen table. That same year, I won my very first award for writing. I never looked back.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In a sense I new from age 8 that I was a writer, but it wasn’t until I was able to make a decent income from writing, which was when I was around 30, that I called myself writer. At that point I was the author of four books.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
This is a complicated question. I wrote my first book, a novel, because I had a story to tell. I wrote my first published book, about the Bay of Pigs, because I was a struggling graduate student who needed the money.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have been working on my writing style for decades and have never felt more confident about my writing and my voice. I describe my writing style as literary non-fiction. I was trained by expert memoirists, and my writing reflects that training. It is both approachable and beautiful.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I have always been an optimist, and one day when I was talking to my therapist I referred to myself half-jokingly as an optimistic addict. A book title was born!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope that readers find inspiration in my memoir. I hope they find themselves between my words. I hope they realize that they are not alone and that there is no reason to feel guilty about being addicting to food. Throw away guilt and shame; find recovery.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I have been most influenced by Joan Didion’s work, especially her book, A Year of Magical Thinking. I want to be her when I grow up. Her books are carefully crafted and no one can turn a phrase like her.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I am not sure I would call her a new author, but I do think she is one that many people overlook: Molly Haskell. Her book, Love and Other Infectious Diseases, really drew me in. It is a memoir that explores the effects that illness had her on her marriage. Crisp, clear, evocative writing. Highly recommend.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
So many I could name, but universities have been my biggest support system. I have attended three and taught at three. It was a university that I first believed that I could become a professional writer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. Writing is a my second job. I am a writing professor also.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think I would make it longer. There is so much left to say about the subject.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As I say above, I used to write with my grandmother and then it grew from there. I have kept diaries and journals all my life. Once I started getting praise for my writing, I just kept going.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The Optimistic Addict is about my 30+ year struggle with binge eating disorder. It is an unflinching look at what it is like to suffer with an untreated mental illness. Here is an excerpt:
My body was rotting from the inside out.
Twenty-eight years of bingeing and dieting had finally caught up to me, and the results were obvious to anyone who came near me.
My gastrointestinal track was so diseased that I had constant odorous gas, which made my clothes smell. It was painful and embarrassing.
My feet smelled so badly because of my inability to comfortably bend over and wash them that they reeked through my shoes. People could smell my feet while sitting next to me.
My body was overrun with candida from eating so much sugar and flour, and every crevice smelled like death, including my belly button and other skin folds.
My feet were in so much pain from plantar fasciitis from eating an inflammatory diet that waking up in the morning and walking to the bathroom was sheer agony.
My stomach ached with alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
I had to sleep propped up on five pillows because my acid reflux was so severe that being flat took my breath away–literally.
My migraines were out of control. At 10-12 migraines per month, my quality of life was greatly diminished.
My back burned, and I could not make it through the grocery store without leaning over the cart.
I was mentally ill.
My anxiety was so severe that I couldn’t sleep without the lights on, I thought I was dying daily, and I was going to a myriad of doctors seeking treatment for illnesses for which no one my age should suffer.
I would also sink into periodic pits of despair that drove me to eat more and more and to hate myself.
In addition, I suffered from cystic acne; thin, greasy hair; and bursitis in both hips.
And yet the urge to keep eating was so powerful that with all of those symptoms I continued bingeing. I continued alternating between starving and overeating. I continued to berate myself. I continued to deny that I was sick, even though I was ill is so many ways.
I was just 39 years old when I entered recovery, but my body was disintegrating, and I felt helpless to stop my behavior.
For the first time ever in my life, I knew I had to seek help or I would die. I chose weight loss over well being. I chose me over societal expectations.
On the night I put down the food, I cried to the universe for help. I did not beg to be thin like I had for decades. I did not wish for a bikini body. I did not long for a svelte silhouette in an evening gown. I petitioned for sanity. I called for freedom from food obsession.
Two and a half years later I am in active recovery. ALL of the diseases mentioned above are gone. I am not thin. I am not going to wear a bikini any time soon, but I am doing something I only did sporadically when I was deep in the food–living.
I actually listen to people when we meet over dinner, instead of obsessing over who will get the last appetizer. I started a brand new business, instead of thinking all day about when I would eat next. I volunteer at my son’s school, instead of sitting at home eating myself sick after everyone goes to bed.
Not every day of my recovery is perfect, but an imperfect day in recovery is far better than any day without it.
If you are suffering like I once was, please believe that recovery is possible. Give yourself the power to love who you are right now. Give yourself the gift of daily gratitude. Help yourself to living your life for maybe the first time since childhood.
Don’t wait until Monday or the first of the year or after you daughter’s birthday. Start today. Start right now. Your first step is admitting that you have a problem with food. Your next step is forgiving yourself.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing is hard. It is not for the weak. My biggest challenge is getting it done. My job as a writing professor and being a mom take up a lot of my time and energy. Finding time to write and revise is difficult, but always worth it.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Nope. It’s all inside.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I have designed the covers for my last two books.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Being absolutely unflinchingly honest, even if it meant that people close to me might feel hurt by my words.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned more about myself. I learned more about writing. I learned that I am in a better place in my recovery that I believed myself to be.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
I would love to have Melissa McCarthy play me! She is brilliant, funny, and beautiful.
Or Ginnifer Goodwin. She is amazing too.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read. Read. Read. Read the good stuff. Find the best writers in your genre and read. Study them. Be them. Then write. Find you and your voice on the page. The best thing I ever did was start a blog and get some traffic. It gave me the pressure I needed to write regularly because I knew my readers wanted more.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Don’t suffer through food addiction alone. Binge eating disorder is a real mental health issue. Help and support are out there. Look for us on Facebook as Food Addiction Recovery.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I am re-reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Frankl’s seriousness is balanced out by Lawson’s funny and often times grotesque humor.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes. Mother Goose. I still love it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I get some of my biggest laughs from malapropisms, but I also laugh pretty hard at absurdity. Life makes me laugh an awful lot just because truth is always funnier than fiction.
I rarely cry, but when I do it is because I am powerless over something that has happened to me, animals, or someone I love. Injustices. Unnecessary deaths. Heartbreaking.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would love to meet former US President Bill Clinton. He is a big hero of mine. Without his education reforms, I would not have a PhD.
I would also love to meet Joan Didion. Her writing inspires me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
The class is now half empty. Because as an optimistic, I always see the glass as half full.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I am a crafter. I make things out of recycled book pages. I make wedding bouquets and household decorations.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I am a big fan of Downton Abbey, Frasier, Friends, and Stranger Things. My favorite films: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
My favorite food is guacamole. It goes great with veggies and can be made in a snap.
My favorite color, oddly enough, is sage green.
My favorite band is Over the Rhine, a Cincinnati, Ohio, USA band whose music is eclectic, real, and beautiful.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Being an English professor, which is my other job. I am living my dream occupations, for sure.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Readers can find me at OptimisticFoodAddict.com. I regularly blog there about food addiction recovery, create free courses for food addicts, and share the latest science about binge eating disorder.
Here’s a link to my book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Optimistic-Food-Addict-Recovering-Eating/dp/1942891288/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474148202&sr=8-2&keywords=fisanick+greer