HELEN Lederer has one of those funny faces.

Not her features per se — those icy-blue eyes and long blonde hair make her distincitive but certainly not ridiculous. But looking at her face, combined with her quirky mannersims, makes you automatically think of Ab Fab, French and Saunders and the old Naked Video show from the 80s, and then you just can’t help but smile.

Yet, as with so many other funny ‘faces’, that uber-confidence and wit masks some deep-seated insecurities, in Helen’s case related to her weight.

A self-confessed “chubby child”, who endurted all the classroom jibes that entails, she has gone on to spend most of her adult life on some kind of diet, from living on Limmits biscuits to being unwittingly injected with amphetamines. She even once booked in for a gastric band op, but pulled out three days beforehand after realising she’d have to puree her pizzas if she wanted to eat them.

Now — at age 60 and a steady size 16 — she has poured all those years of slimming angst into her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Losing It, which is what brought her to the Swindon Festival of Literature.

The book tells of middle-agedMillie, who is in debt, divorced and desperate, but who stands to make a huge chunk of money if she can just lose some weight.

If the excerpt Helen read for the Arts Centre audience is anything to go by, the writing is both brutal (an eye-watering description of colonic cleansing... perfect as a pre-dinner appetiser) and brutally-funny. Indeed, the book has been nominated for The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comedic literature, announced later this month. She is up against some tough competition — the likes of Caitlin Moran and Alexander McCall Smith — but I hope she wins for her own self-esteem.

It would be great to see the fat girl having the last laugh.

  • Losing It by Helen Lederer is published by Pan Macmillan, £7.99.