My Love of Barbie Leads to a Criminal Act (and a Vision of my Future).

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Me with Mimi and my Grandpa Din Shortly Before He Died

From the age of four onward, I was an ardent Barbie fan. My first Barbie doll was a gift from my grandmother Mimi and my Grandpa Din on my fourth birthday. Actually, it was my sister Susan’s ninth birthday, but we celebrated both birthdays on the same day. Moving a birthday to the nearest convenient date was never a thing in my family; my parents reasoned that a birthday is a chance every year to say to the celebrant, “You matter deeply to us and so we are stepping out of ordinary time and celebrating the day you were born.” Such sentiment lost considerable steam, they thought, if the postscript was, “So let’s find a convenient date for us to tell you that.”

So it had not been the plan back in 1963 to combine our birthdays. The original plan had been to celebrate my birthday on November 11 with a family trip to the Milwaukee Athletic Club for “Family Swim.” I loved the MAC and adored Family Swim, because it was the only time that women and girls were allowed to use the Men’s Pool, which was huge and had a high dive. As if that weren’t spectacular enough, there was a snack bar right next to the pool that sold things like hot dogs and pop. I could not imagine a better birthday. We never got to go, however, because on November 10, my Grandpa Din suddenly died. His death was a profound shock to my parents and siblings, but I was four years old, so my reaction was deep disappointment at the loss of my birthday party.

The next few days were taken up with Grandpa Din’s wake and funeral in Chicago, so by the time everyone was ready to celebrate my fourth birthday, it was Susan’s ninth birthday and we celebrated both. I was thrilled when I opened my present from Mimi—my first Barbie doll, “Bubble Cut Barbie.” I was also confused, because the card was signed, “Mimi and Grandpa Din.” I knew Grandpa Din was dead. My theology was a bit fuzzy, as is true, I think, for most four year olds. Still, I was pretty sure that the people in heaven did not purchase Bubble Cut Barbies and sign birthday cards. I remember looking at the card and saying, “But Grandpa Din is dead,” and Mimi telling me that he had sent my gift from heaven. So apparently heaven was a place that gave eternal happiness and provided Bubble Cut Barbies. It was years before I sorted all of this out.

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Grandma Barbie

I loved that first doll because she was mine, but she was odd. Unlike any Barbie I had ever seen, my Barbie’s Bubble Cut was silver. When I played with my friends, they snickered at my “Grandma Barbie,” and I didn’t blame them. I envied Susan, whose Bubble Cut Barbie had orange-ish hair. Looking back, I am not sure why orange hair was more appealing than gray, but it was. A recurring story line in those years was one in which my silver haired Barbie snagged a boyfriend and brought him home, only to have him stolen away by the more beautiful and alluring orange haired

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Susan’s Barbie

Barbie.

Right from the start, I loved to play Barbie; it was a way to make up stories in my head without the nasty repercussions that often followed when I did that in my real life. These stories were limited, however, by the fact that I had just the one doll. I needed a cast of characters. I filled the void by imagining an entire world for my Barbie; this entailed some awkward moments. Susan and I, for example, had to pretend to be our Kens, which wasn’t always easy, especially when it came to kissing. Kissing our own Barbie dolls while pretending to be their boyfriends was just weird.  I was really happy on my fifth birthday when I unwrapped my first Ken doll. About six weeks later, I received Skipper, Barbie’s little sister, for Christmas. Things were looking up.

skipperSkipper was a big hit in Barbie World, and so it wasn’t long before Mattel introduced  yet another sister, this one named Tutti.  Tutti was adorable, and of course I wanted her very badly. My mother thought that Barbie, Ken and Skipper were more than sufficient for my needs, and I despaired of receiving a Tutti doll anytime soon. Luckily for me, however, a birthmark on my neck starting to morph into something ominous right around that very time, and I had to go to the hospital to have it removed. That hospital visit turned out to be my ticket to a Tutti doll.

I had been born with the birthmark, and it was impressive. By the time I knew I had it, which coincided with the time when other children started pointing it out, it was the size of a silver dollar pancake. My cousin Kathy, who loved me, called it my “chocolate mark,” but everyone else was considerably less kind. The doctor told my mother that my birthmark, while ugly, was not dangerous unless it began to get bigger, darker, or start growing hair. When I was nine, it started to do all three, and in the summer of fifth grade, he said it had to go.

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Tutti

I was thrilled. That birthmark had been nothing but trouble for me. It was just one more thing that caused other kids to steer clear of me or worse, make fun of me. I couldn’t wait to see it disappear. Its removal required an overnight hospital stay, and while I was convalescing, the wife of one of my father’s clients at Kemper Insurance sent me a present—Tutti. I was thrilled. My Barbie family was complete for several months, and I happily incorporated Tutti into my storylines. I couldn’t imagine needing anything more to enhance my Barbie Universe. Then I saw an ad for Barbie’s cousin Francie.

Whereas Barbie was a bit formidable with her heavily made up eyes, red lips, permanently misshapen feet, narrow waist and huge bosom, Francie seemed younger, sweeter, nicer, and prettier. Francie had longer hair that fell softly to her shoulders, and flirty bangs. My cousin Kathy had a Francie, and I wanted one, too.

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Ever-Stylish Francie

Always on the lookout for an opportunity to inspire me to lose some weight, my mother seized upon my lust for Francie. She promised me that if I lost ten pounds, Francie would be mine. I readily agreed to this plan, and I was determined to lose the pounds as quickly as possible by eating less and exercising more. Uncoordinated and lazy, I had never been a fan of exercise, so I decided to walk a mile or so to Mayfair every day after school, where I could gaze at Francie dolls and deliberate about which one to take home when the weight was gone. Blond? Brunette? I couldn’t decide but it didn’t matter, because all of the Francies were adorable. Even Francie’s clothes were cuter than Barbie’s.

Despite my sincere attempt to cut back on eating and ramp up on exercise, I wasn’t losing any weight. This was a distressing situation, and I railed at the injustice of the universe. My grandmother, Mommy Mayme, was visiting, and one day she found me crying in my bedroom. When she asked me what on earth was wrong, I told her the whole sad tale: my need for Francie, my mother’s bargain, my body’s stubborn unwillingness to do anything I wanted it to do, my general misery. For a moment, Mommy Mayme didn’t say anything. Then, she said, “Maybe you should just dial the scale back before zero; that’s the fastest way to lose weight.” I have no idea why Mommy Mayme thought this was a good suggestion to make to me; for all I know, she was joking. If she was being facetious, however, I was not. This plan actually made sense to me.

My entire weight loss was being done on the “honor system.” No one else was looking on as I weighed myself every morning; my mother trusted me to let her know when the pounds were gone. Despite the fact that no one was checking the numbers on our pink bathroom scale except me, I began to dutifully move the dial incrementally back behind zero so that it looked as if I were losing weight.

I figured it was plausible that I would lose ten pounds in about a month. So I paced my francie1scale-managing system to create this faux ten pound weight loss about thirty days into our agreement. On the appointed day, I turned the scale back to negative ten and announced my ten pound “weight loss.” My mother seemed disappointed that I looked no different, and none of my clothes fit any better, but a deal was a deal and she trusted me. She gave me the money to buy my Francie, and I did; I bought a brunette Francie whom I adored every bit as much as I thought I would. Francie became the ingénue in all my stories, and Bubble Cut Barbie was relegated to the role of wise-cracking older sister. My mother never asked if I was regaining the weight, and she never challenged my claim to have lost it. It was, however, her last attempt to bribe me into going on a diet.

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Twist N Turn Barbie

I was content in my Barbie universe for a while, and then Mattel revolutionized the world for young girls everywhere by coming out with “Twist N Turn” Barbie. Before the advent of Twist N Turn Barbie, all of the dolls were made entirely of rigid plastic. Barbie and Ken always had

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Awkward Hug

strange hugs and kisses, because their arms stuck straight out every time they “embraced.” They also sat in a weird way, because their legs didn’t bend at any point. Twist N Turn Barbie changed all of that.  Her knees bent! Her waist twisted! Her arms were still ramrod straight, but this was major Barbie progress.

I didn’t hold out much hope of receiving a Twist N Turn Barbie, because I already owned more Barbie dolls than my mother deemed necessary, but when I found out that my cousin Kathy had received one for Christmas, I was bereft. I wanted one, too. My mother took pity on me when she saw me gazing at Kathy’s doll, and she relented. My Confirmation gift in March that year was my first Twist N Turn Barbie. I had become a Soldier for Christ, and it was already paying off.

Once I had my Twist N Turn Barbie, my other Barbies seemed more problematic. I still loved Francie, because she was so cool that she could overcome anything, even unbendable legs, but my Bubble Cut Barbie was dated and old; after all, she had always had grey hair. I wanted another Twist N Turn Barbie. I had no means to obtain one, but that didn’t stop my wanting.

Then, one day my mother and I were visiting my sister Marbeth at her apartment building on the south side of town. That building seemed like heaven on earth to me, because it was a high rise on Lake Michigan with its own swimming pool and a little grocery store in the lobby. Whenever Marbeth ran out of something or needed something small, she could just pop down to that little store and buy it, which was a big help to someone who was home all day with two babies under the age of three.

On this particular day, we needed something at the little grocery store. My mother fished a five dollar bill out of her purse and sent me down to get it.  It might have been a loaf of bread; I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that I handed the clerk the five dollar bill and she gave me change for a ten. I saw immediately what she had done, and I had a very fleeting impulse to say something to her. I said nothing, though. I took the change and made my way upstairs, thinking I would tell my mother and sister about it and go right back downstairs to give back the extra five dollars.  But a Twist N Turn Barbie cost four dollars. I could keep the money and buy myself the new Barbie I coveted.  I kept the money and said nothing to anyone.

The following Monday after school, I took the bus to Mayfair (no walking that day; I was

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Raven-Haired Beauty

flush with cash) and I bought my new Barbie at Gimbel’s Department Store. With the money I had left over, I went to the in-store lunch counter, named Tasty-Town, and ordered myself a plate of French Fries and a chocolate milkshake. I felt very strange, sitting at the counter all by myself, ordering and paying for my own food. I also felt guilty, and worried that the clerk at Marbeth’s store had gotten into trouble when the money came up missing at the end of the day. I wished, sitting there in Tasty Town,  that I could feel happy about my new Barbie; she was the most beautiful Barbie I had ever seen, with waist-length glossy black hair and big blue eyes, but I couldn’t shake my worry and guilt. I decided, by the time I finished my snack, that what was done was done. I had kept the money, bought the doll and consumed the food. Now I had to forget about the clerk and the fact that the money wasn’t mine and move forward.

That wasn’t easily done, especially in my Catholic world of mass, examination of conscience and confession. (For more about my adventures with the sacrament of confessions, click here) I knew I had to confess about the five dollars, and I dreaded it. I was terrified that Father would tell me to come clean with my mother and/or pay back the store. Either possibility terrified me. I was so worried about my potential penance, in fact, that I went to confession a few times without confessing the theft, which only made things exponentially worse. Not only was I still carrying the sin of stealing, but now I was adding on the sin of knowingly concealing a sin in the confessional. I was soaking in sin.

After a few months, the anxiety of all this sinning overtook the anxiety of my sin’s possible ramifications, and I confessed the whole sorry tale—the clerk, the money I kept, the Barbie, the French Fries—I let it all out. Father Stommel, on the other side of the grid in the confessional, asked me how much money it was, and I told him it was five dollars. I held my breath, heart hammering wildly, and Father said, “Well, that’s not a mortal sin. A mortal sin is a theft of more money than that.” Really? This was news to me, but welcome news it was. For my venial sin, I had only to say two Hail Marys and two Our Fathers. Nothing was said about restitution or telling my mother. I think the “kinder, gentler” Vatican II approach was thoroughly in play by then, and I was only too happy to be coddled by the “Spirit of Vatican II.”

Even though I had clearance from On High, I always felt a nagging dissatisfaction with my raven-haired Twist ‘n Turn Barbie. Her most beautiful feature was that long hair, and one day I decided out of the blue that she needed a haircut. I cut off all of her hair, almost certainly a form of self-created penance. I never stopped playing with her, though.

I played Barbie by myself a great deal, but I also I loved playing with my sister Susan and my cousin Kathy. The summer of fifth grade, Kathy and I stayed at Mommy Mayme’s apartment in Chicago for two glorious weeks. It was one of my best vacations ever, and we had a very specific routine for our days. Upon waking, we would amble down to Lake Street and stop at Woolworth’s for lunch. (We slept late.) Kathy would order a hamburger, fries and Coke and I would order a hot dog, fries and Coke. After we polished off lunch, we would stop at the candy counter and buy a pound of Tootsie Rolls each. (My father used to call our time together “The Bobbsey Twins Visit Calorie Farm.” He had reason to do so.) The bag of Tootsie Rolls was our sustenance until dinner, or until we reached the Carriage Trade, an ice cream shop on Lake Street. We loved sitting inside actual carriages and ordering our Junior Hot Fudge Sundaes. On Carriage Trade days, we often had some trouble working up our appetite for dinner. Usually, though, we managed. After dinner, we would set up our entire Barbie universe in my grandmother’s front hall and play for hours and hours; one night we played until dawn, creating story after story together.

I did enjoy playing Barbie with Susan and with Kathy, but as the years went by, first Susan became too busy and grown up to play Barbie; then my cousin Kathy ‘outgrew’ Barbie. I held on much, much longer than anyone else, until my mother finally laid down the law and told me it was time to pack it up. Externally compliant but feeling frustrated and sad inside, I began the task of wrapping Barbie, Ken, Francie, Skipper, and Tutti in tissue paper and boxing up their clothes, shoes, houses and cars. My father happened by my room as I was doing this, and he quoted the Bible to me approvingly: “When I was a child, I had the things of a child, but then I put childish things away and became a man.” Since I was doing this task under protest, however, I scowled at him until he went away.

Putting away my Barbie dolls was not easy. I mourned all the stories I had invented and acted out with them, and I wondered where I would ever again find such an outlet. I was, so much of the time, ill at ease and unhappy in the “real” world. Anxious and clumsy, I felt awkward nearly all the time. I didn’t fit into my own skin, and I felt as if everyone else had been given a playbook at birth with the rules of how to behave and how to live. When I made up imaginary worlds, all of that awkwardness and anxiety disappeared. Those moments of make believe were some of the best moments of my childhood, and I had no idea how I was going to survive without them.

writer-gilrSitting on the floor, surrounded by the dolls I was sending to their final rest, I was suddenly struck by a lightning bolt. “I could be a writer.” I stopped dead in the middle of my sad chore and gazed down at my dolls, now wrapped in their tissue-paper burial clothes. I could, I realized, still make up stories, still imagine alternate worlds. Instead of acting out those tales with my dolls, I could write them down. If I wrote the stories down, they wouldn’t be tall tales any more, or the lies for which I used to get punished on a regular basis. With utter clarity, I saw my future. Barbie had been my Muse for many years, and my love for her caused me to sin and even to enter a life of crime. I could redeem my criminal past—and survive my actual life—by bringing my Barbie stories inside my head and writing them down. I would grow up and become a writer.

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Lane Bryant And a White Nightgown: My High School Graduation.

 

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I was a chubby child from the time I was seven years old, always hovering at about twenty-thirty pounds overweight. It was in high school that my weight started to increase exponentially rather than arithmetically; when I received my driver’s license at the age of sixteen, I was able to get to grocery stores and bakeries that were once too far away to walk or bike to. I had a greater variety of “goodies,” and with a car, I had to exercise a great deal less in order to obtain them. When I started high school, I weighed 133 pounds (I was 5’7”) but by my senior year, I weighed about 190 lbs.

Food was my steadiest, most loyal friend, but it was a friend who called far too many of the shots in our relationship. I didn’t want to binge, but I did. I didn’t want to hate how I looked, but I did. I didn’t want my thighs to chafe whenever I wore shorts, but they did. I was consistently miserable in my own flesh.

At Divine Savior-Holy Angels High School, we wore uniforms; for freshmen and sophomores, it was a green plaid skirt with an ugly long green vest and for juniors and seniors, a blue plaid skirt with a more palatable navy sweater. My first uniform was no problem, because I was a size 10 when high school began. When the time came to change uniforms for junior year, however, I was rigid with dread. Size 18 was now a tight squeeze, and I was positive that there would be no uniform skirts that fit me. Of course, I should have known that was a ridiculous fear, since there were plenty of DSHA upperclassmen fatter than I, and none of them came to class naked. Nonetheless, I fretted, and I was hugely relieved when I discovered that the uniform store did indeed stock skirts in my size.

By the time I reached the end of my senior year, even my plus sized uniform skirt no longer fit, and I had to resort to closing it up with a chain of safety pins. Luckily, my blue sweater covered my waistline, so no one was the wiser. I knew it, though, and I hated it. I had to pull my sweater down many times a day in order to cover the open zipper, and I lived in fear that my secret would be exposed. For some reason, closing my skirt with safety pins resulted in one side being shorter than the other, so I was also constantly yanking at the one side to keep it from hiking up any further.

Having a uniform at all was a blessing, because I didn’t have many other clothing options once school ended for the day.  In the 1970’s, regular department stores did not carry any clothes larger than size 18, and I had no idea that there were stores with nice clothes for fat people. This degree of ignorance seems impossible today, or at the very least monumentally stupid, but there was no social media in 1976, and no Google Shopping. We shopped at Marshall Field’s and occasionally at Gimbels, and I had no idea what would happen if I should gain even more weight and no longer fit into size 18. I shuddered at the thought and hoped I would never had to find out.

DSHA was an all-girls’ Catholic high school, and the tradition there was for graduates to wear long white dresses and carry long stemmed red roses. A lovely ritual, but for me just another cause of Great Fat Dread. By the spring of my senior year, I weighed 184 pounds. Other than my safety-pinned uniform and a blue sweater from the Men’s Department at Marshall Field’s, my entire wardrobe consisted of the few size 18 outfits I was able to find.  My shopping trips were never about what I liked or what might look good on me; the only criterion I really had was: did it fit? If yes, I bought it.

Starting in March that year, I started casing the stores in search of a long white dress that would fit me. There were none. I never told anyone that I was going on these reconnaissance trips; I was humiliated enough. As far as I could see, no one made long white dresses in anything approaching my size. What was I going to do? I had no idea. Apparently, I was too fat to graduate from high school, and as May loomed ever closer, I resigned myself to the brutal reality that I was not going to lose enough weight to solve my problem.

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These were going to fool no one.

Finally one day, I hit upon my only solution: I would have to find a white nightgown and pass it off somehow as a dress. This would not be an easy task; I didn’t have to look around Lingerie Departments for long in order to realize that they had no size 18 white nightgowns that even remotely resemble dresses. I was terrified that I would have to choose one of these nightgowns to graduate in, and the other girls would howl with laughter when they saw me. Seeing no other alternative, I pressed on, visiting mall after mall in search of a “graduation dress.”

 

About three weeks before the big day, my mother announced that we were going to Lane Bryant to find a graduation dress and then out to lunch at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. I had heard of Lane Bryant, and seen their ads in the Milwaukee Journal, but I was pretty sure they would have nothing suitable for me. Their newspaper ads convinced me that Lane Bryant was a store for grotesquely lb-uglyobese old women who had a fondness for rayon, polyester and lots of wild prints. (It is much easier now to find cute clothes in plus sizes; in those days, I think the mindset in the fashion world was that fat women either didn’t care how they looked—I mean, there they were, fat—or that fat women did care how they looked but needed to be punished for being fat in the first place.) My nightgown strategy was not working out, so I agreed that yes, lunch and a trip to Lane Bryant was in order.

On the appointed day, my mother and I drove downtown, parked the car and walked over to Lane Bryant. I was rigid with shame as we walked into the store. It was awful enough that I had to walk through those doors; much worse was knowing that my chic and stylish mother had to cross that threshold because of me. As we entered the store, a sales clerk said something to my mother and her whole face lit up. She turned to me and said, “Did you hear that? She just asked if I was looking for the Tall Section! She thinks we are here because of me, not you!” My mother was so happy that she was the assumed shopper, that the clerks didn’t find me fat enough to warrant being in the store for fat people. I loved my mother in that moment with a purity I can still feel. As much as she hated the idea of being fat, of being around fat, of having a fat daughter, she was happy to be mistaken for a Lane Bryant Shopper if it meant I would not be marked as one.

The sales clerk directed us up to the Junior Department on the second floor. As we exited the escalator, I was stunned at what I saw. There were racks and racks of clothes, some of them very cute, all of them in sizes I knew would fit me. I had had no idea. They had an entire rack of white dresses, including several that I had seen in Seventeen Magazine, my book of dreams—just in larger sizes. I was actually in the smallest sizes in this store, and what a feeling that was! I tried on several dresses, and bought one of the dresses I had seen in Seventeen—a long white eyelet dress with a simple bodice and a ruffle at the hem.

I was happier that day than I had been in a very long time. I felt beautiful, and—even more wonderful—I felt normal. My mother was happy, too, and she triumphantly handed her credit card to the sales clerk, who put my new dress in a shopping bag and handed it to me.  We sailed out of Lane Bryant, and I felt positively buoyant, a rare sensation for someone who weighed 184 pounds. The Milwaukee Athletic Club was just a few blocks away, so we walked over there to have lunch together and celebrate.

We took the elevator to the dining room and I sighed happily as I placed my shopping bag on one chair and sat down in another. My mother ordered a martini and I ordered a TAB, and we talked about the upcoming graduation party and who would come. The waiter came over to take our order and I eagerly ordered my favorite thing on the MAC menu: a cheeseburger and french fries.

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Truly wonderful cheeseburger and fries.

Without realizing it, I had broken the spell of our happy day. My mother’s forehead furrowed, and she sighed, “I don’t understand why you would eat that after what we’ve just been through.” I was hungry, and now I felt defensive; for a moment, I considered changing my order to the MAC salad, but I wanted that cheeseburger. I wanted those fries. When our food came, I ate every bite, but the buoyant feeling was gone for both of us.

Even though the mood of the day had changed, I was grateful to have my beautiful white dress and relieved that I could stop shopping for nightgowns. My mother had really come through for me by taking me to Lane Bryant. Thinking about that amazing Junior Department, I asked her why she had never told me they had cute things at Lane Bryant. My mom thought for a moment and said, “I was afraid if you knew that, you would be less likely to lose the weight.” Ah.

I felt beautiful on the night I graduated. I kept my dress for years; I even had it remade to be a smaller size when I lost a lot of weight later on. After taking in the dress, the seamstress gave us the yards of extra fabric she had removed, and my mother used it to have Christmas ornaments made for her grandchildren—little babies with white eyelet Christening gowns.

I no longer have even one picture of myself from my graduation night, although I know that there were a few taken. Years later, when I had lost the weight, my siblings and I were looking through some family pictures. We came across one of our family’s infamous “couch pictures”—we all jam ourselves onto the living room couch for a family portrait—and there was a picture of me in my graduation dress, surrounded by my brothers and sisters.  “Oh God,” my brother Jamie laughed, “Who is that in the big white dress?” We all laughed, but I couldn’t help but sneak a look at that girl in the big white dress and amgelremember how very pretty she felt that night. I don’t know what became of the picture, but after that night I never saw it again. To this day, the only place I can find a memento of my high school graduation is on my family’s Christmas trees, in the form of tiny eyelet-clad baby ornaments.

 

Jobs I Have Loathed V: Going a Little Crazy Costs Money

crazy1When I began my graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University, I had a full tuition scholarship and a Research Assistantship. I was assigned to two professors in the department, and ordered to carry out ten hours of research a week, five for each professor. For this work I was paid 66o.00 per month, which was nothing to sneeze at back in 1980. Since I was living at home, I was able to devote my entire salary to cases of TAB, new clothes, novels and movie passes. It was pretty close to an ideal situation for me, except for one thing.

In my last two years of college, I had dedicated myself to losing weight, successfully taking off 100 pounds with a rigorous regimen of diet and exercise. Once I had lost all that weight and returned to “normal” eating, the weight started to come back, and quickly. I had become accustomed to overwhelming positive feedback from people about my new body, and the experience of being a fat person who became a thin person was terrifyingly instructive. When I weighed 228 pounds, I heard myself described by others as “loud,” “belligerent,” and “aggressive.” At 124 pounds, suddenly I was “vivacious,” “lively,” and “charismatic.”  A neighbor (ironically, the very same woman who started my mother’s fixation on my weight with a comment about my stomach when I was 7 years old—see here) saw me at my new weight and said, “I always thought you were a nice person deep down.” To which I replied in my head, “Deep down beneath what? Fat? Fat made my niceness questionable?” Out loud, I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

It came as no surprise, then, that I was grimly determined not to gain the weight back, which is what had happened on every other diet I had been on. I was a thin person, yes, but I was also a spy from the Country of The Fat, and now I knew what people were actually thinking when I was fat and they said I had “such beautiful skin.” When I started to regain weight, I not only went back on my original diet; I cut back even on that rigid regimen, taking myself from two meals a day to one. Because I was eating so little, I guarded that meal with religious zeal: the food had to be exactly right, weighed and measured, and I had to eat it by myself so that I could savor every single bite. This routine threw a serious

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My Daily Intake

wrench into my social life, but I didn’t care. Whereas Scarlett O’Hara clutched a carrot in Gone With the Wind and vowed that she would “never be hungry again,” I clutched my 1 ounce of low-moisture/part skim mozzarella cheese, my hard boiled egg, my Akmak cracker, my 1/2 cup of strawberries and my 1/2 cup of broccoli and swore that I would “never be fat again.”

skinny2I was, of course, hungry all the time, sometimes so hungry that it was hard to sleep at night. I stopped dreaming about potential boyfriends and dreamed only of food. I planned “someday” meals in my head, food I would eat “someday” when I was so thin that I could risk gaining a few pounds by eating normally. I fantasized about baked potatoes with butter and salt, a kosher hot dog on a bun, a Morning Bun from La Boulangerie, chocolate covered peanuts. I stopped reading novels and started reading calorie counters, figuring out how much I could eat and still consume less than 900 calories a day. I was slowly going nuts, but of course I didn’t realize that. In my mind, I had never been healthier.

In my first year of graduate school, my weight dropped to 104 pounds. I was 5’7”, yet when I looked in the mirror I still saw fat. I concentrated ferociously on my coursework and my research, using every ounce of energy I had to continue my track record of earning straight A’s. Socializing with my fellow graduate students was torturous; not only would I not eat while all around me my normal new friends ate pizza and grazed at all-you-can-eat fish fries, I would order tea while they drank beer: tea has zero calories whereas a Miller Lite had 90 calories.

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Me Not Having Any Fun

I forgot how to have fun. I forgot how to relax. I forgot what “normal” felt like. I knew I wasn’t happy, but my starving brain managed to convince me that the problem was that I wasn’t yet thin enough. Whatever weight was five pounds less than my current weight was the magical Golden Snitch, always just out of my reach no matter how doggedly I pursued it.

Every now and then, my body would stage a full out rebellion against my crazy mind and stage a coup d’etat, and I would eat all the foods I had been craving. Near-instant remorse would kick in almost immediately, and I would be terrified at the thought of the weight I would surely gain as a result of my weak will. I developed a strategy of swallowing a handful of laxatives after such binges, which forced everything through my intestines at breakneck speed and carried a lot of water weight out with it.

One particular night during that year, I was in my bedroom, feeling sick from all the food I had consumed and the laxative chaser. I couldn’t tell anyone I was sick, because I didn’t want anyone to know that I had eaten all that forbidden food, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to know I had swallowed a handful of Correctol. On this night, however, something new was happening and I could tell that it was Very Bad. My heart was flipping around inside my chest and I thought it might even be skipping some beats. I really, really didn’t want to die, and so I pulled myself out of the bed and lurched into the family room, where my mother was watching television.

“Mom,” I croaked. “I feel really, really sick.” I stumbled over to the couch and fell onto it, clutching my stomach. My mother got up and started asking me questions. What had I eaten? Did I have a fever? Was I nauseous? I answered her last question by turning my head and throwing up a pile of bright green bile on my mother’s couch.

That spurred her into instant action. My poor mother had not a clue about how to deal with a daughter who was starving herself to death before her eyes. She had no idea how to talk to a daughter who cried if she dared to eat one Pepperidge Farm Cookie. She had no idea how to broach the topic of laxatives when she cleaned the toilet and found empty boxes of Correctol in the trash. But one thing my mother knew, and knew well: how to respond when someone makes a mess of her couch. When she saw the vomit spew out of me and onto the couch cover, she screamed, “MY COUCH!” With the strength of ten men, she picked me up and dragged me down the hall to the bathroom, heaved me into the bathtub, pajamas and all, and turned on the shower to COLD. Then she went and got the couch cover and scurried down to the basement to get it into the washing machine before the stain set.

Other mothers may have reacted differently to the situation, and when I have told this story in the years since, people have often said that my mom’s response was….odd. Whatever her motivation, whatever her limitations, my mother did what she knew how to do, and somehow it turned out to be the right thing. The cold water roused me, the nausea passed, and I got out of the bathtub under my own power. As I toweled myself off and put on some dry pajamas, I admitted to my mother, who was by now up from the basement, that I was in trouble and had no idea how to fix it.

The next morning at 9 a.m. I was in the office of Dr. Hayes Hatfield, our family doctor. He told me—and my mother—that I was anorexic and needed to go to a psychiatrist. Despite her overwhelming distrust of all “head doctors,” my mother trusted Dr. Hatfield and really wanted me to be better. I walked out of there with an appointment for the following day at a place called “Dewey Center.” I would be seeing someone named Dr. Bedi.

I drove to the Dewey Center the next day and checked in at the reception desk. My mother’s daughter, I was very skeptical about this whole endeavor. We simply were not one of “those” families who went to therapists. The only person I knew who had ever gone to a therapist was Woody Allen, and (1)I didn’t actually know Woody, since we had never actually met, and (2)Even in my hunger-addled stated, I could see that Woody Allen was no poster child for mental health despite his thirty years of psychiatric care.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site
The Dewey Center

Nonetheless, there I was. I had exhausted all my other “go-to” strategies: will power, denial, prayer, self-help books. Dr. Bedi was the only thing left. As I sat in the waiting room, staring at the carpet in order to make sure I didn’t make eye contact with any other lunatics in the room, I saw a pair of legs moving toward me. The legs were connected to feet, and on the feet were an aggressively ugly pair of Hush Puppies. “Please,” I prayed. “Let those Hush Puppies not belong to the man who is going to be in charge of my mental health for the forseeable future.”

The Hush Puppies stopped in front of my chair and I heard a lilting Indian-accented voice say, “Are you Anne Maloney?” Reluctantly, I tore my eyes away from the carpet and looked up to find a slight, formally dressed Indian man with an inverted bowl haircut and round

bdei1
Dr. Bedi in 1980

rimless eyeglasses. Dr. Bedi. I stood up and followed him back to his office, where I sat on the couch and he sat in his chair and he asked me, “Why have you come here?”

My response was a twenty minute diatribe about how we didn’t believe in psychiatrists in my family because they were expensive, useless and probably pretty nutty themselves. In fact, I continued, we didn’t have much use for doctors in general, and for good reason. My grandmother broke her arm once and they set the wrong arm. My great aunt died when she was 34 years old because the doctor let a bubble into her arm when she was getting a transfusion. As a young woman, my mother visited the doctor and was told she would never have children. I am the fifth of five children. Another time, my mother went to the doctor with a chest cold and he put her in “the neck-stretching machine” because they got her file mixed up with someone else’s. In my own life, I suffered through serious pain for years because of an ovarian cyst that was diagnosed by my pediatrician as a “spastic colon.” (For that story, see here)

“So, believe me,” I said to Dr. Bedi, “I’m not here for some frivolous reason. I’m not here because I think you can help me. In fact, I’m pretty sure you will be useless. But I’m afraid I’m dying, and I don’t want to die. You’re my only option.”

After I finished this Charm Offensive, Dr. Bedi said, “So you need to be very sick in your family in order to get medical care? Medical care is the last resort in your family? This is correct?” “Well, yes,” I said. He leaned forward a bit. “And you became very sick the other night, yes?” Yes. “So you are now sick enough to justify finding some help for yourself without forfeiting your family identity?”

Whoa. This guy just met me, I thought, and he already seems to have met my family. Growing up, the family motto when any one of us spoke of seeing a doctor for whatever ailed us was “You had better be really sick.” We said it to each other so often that it could have been etched into our Coat of Arms. And this doctor had talked to me as if he knew that already. I was officially prepared to take Dr. Bedi seriously.

dewwy2My visits with Dr. Bedi every week for two years did, in fact, help me a great deal. He was worth every penny he charged, but he charged a lot. I had health insurance through Marquette, and my policy covered some mental health treatment, but not 100%. I had to satisfy my deductible, and then pay 20% of every charge thereafter. Suddenly my 660.00 research stipend didn’t seem like very much money. As the summer of my first year in graduate school approached, I realized that I was yet again going to have to get a summer job.

My sister Susan had joined a law firm several years earlier, and they needed someone at their office to summarize depositions for the lawyers. Since summarizing depositions was a close cousin of all the Reading Comprehension Exams I had always excelled at in grade school, she suggested me. I took the #31 bus downtown and met with the three attorneys in charge of hiring someone. They liked me, but even more importantly, they liked Susan and trusted her recommendation. I was hired.

Diets I Have Known: The Early Years

little-girl-on-scaleI am pretty sure that there is not a diet that I have not been on. My life as a dieter began without me; when I was seven years old, a neighbor commented to my mother that I was “getting a stomach,” and my concerned mother decided that Something Had To Be Done. My father was always battling with an extra twenty pounds; in fact, after my mother’s first date with my father, she asked her sister Bernadette if Jack Maloney was too fat. My Aunt Bernie considered the question for a moment and then said, No, he wasn’t. Close to it, but not too fat. Sometimes late at night I lie awake and ponder the fact that I owe my very existence to my Aunt’s judgment about the relative fat-ness of my future father. Even though he wasn’t “too fat,” my father did struggle with an extra twenty-thirty pounds for most of his life. Periodically, my father’s doctor gave him a mimeographed sheet with a diet on it and recommend that he take off a few pounds. This “doctor’s diet” was a healthy 1800 calorie eating plan; after Mrs. Van Beckum’s declaration that I had a Stomach, my mother decided to solve my problem  by putting both my father and me on the doctor’s plan.

If my mother had asked me, she would have discovered that I had zero interest in going on my father’s diet. I had perused the “food plan,” and confirmed that it contained nothing that I liked. The lists of “acceptable foods” were all things I hated, like vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins. The suggested menus were ridiculous, suggesting desserts such as “one-half cup of ice milk.” “Ice milk” sounded like something I would scrape off the front steps in February, and I knew of no human being who ever ate just one-half cup of anything. Besides, I was nowhere near as bothered as my mother was that Mrs. Van Beckum had strong opinions about my stomach. In my mind, everyone has a stomach, so she was stating a pretty obvious fact. Hey, I thought, you have a stomach, too, Mrs. Van Beckum.  No one was waving lists of Food No One Wants to Eat in front of your stomach.

But my mother didn’t ask me; I was seven years old, still firmly in the category of “years when your mother calls the shots.” I knew with certainty that this diet business was a done deal the day I sat at my desk in Mrs. Lane’s third grade classroom and opened up my barbie-lunch-boxblack patent leather Barbie lunchbox. Up until that day, my lunchbox consistently offered me a sandwich, a wax paper bag of potato chips and a cookie or two. On this bleak day, my lunchbox contained a baloney sandwich. Period. Life as I knew it had ended.

I spent the few weeks that I was on this Food Plan in mute rebellion; in true Bartleby fashion, my response to this diet was “I’d prefer not to.”  My mother knew that her strategy wasn’t working, and so she made a tactical retreat, wisely concluding that no diet was going to work unless I was actually interested in following it.

scaleNot surprisingly, I continued to gain weight, and eventually I felt as miserable about my weight as my mother and Mrs.Van Beckum did. By the time I started third grade, I weighed 101 pounds. which meant that I was the second-fattest girl in my grade. I knew this to be true, because Christ King School had a ritual twice a year in which each class was marched down to the gym and told to line up. In front of the stage there were two desks, spaced about thirty feet apart and manned by the School Nurse and the Assistant Principal. Next to the Nurse’s desk was a scale—one of those Serious Scales with weights and measures. Each student at Christ King School had to march up to the scale and step on it. The Nurse then shimmied the silver things around on the bars and determined our weight, which she then shouted across the gym so that the Assistant Principal could write it down.

Looking back on this practice, I wonder what on earth they were thinking. Did some of the meanest Nazi Camp Leaders escape their just punishment after World War II and hide out in our elementary schools? I don’t know. But boys who struggled to pay attention to anything that involved reading, math or spelling watched avidly and listened intently for the announcement of everyone’s weight. This was the research they conducted in order to know who to torment for the rest of the year.

It was my luck and Carol Taibl’s misfortune that she was consistently the fattest girl in the grade. Because of that unasked-for notoriety, she endured years of walking down the hallways of Christ King School listening to the boys screech “Run! Taibl Wave!” I always felt an uncomfortable mixture of feelings—empathy and sorrow for Carol Taibl, and deep relief that she existed and therefore took some of the heat off of me.

mrs_lane_s
The Second-Fattest and Fattest Girls in the Third Grade

Christ King School was deeply committed to the health of its students. Those shouted-out weights must have caused real concern to the administration, because starting in second grade, we were marched down to the same gym for “Exercise Class.” Exercise class consisted of our regular teacher putting a record on the turntable and leading us all in calisthenics choreographed by a man on the record who yelled at us a great deal about having “chicken fat!” (If you would like this man to yell at you for being fat, click here: https://youtu.be/EFofqe26t-4). I came to despise that record and that man, and I was none too happy with Christ King School. To this day, I have a deep aversion to chicken fat in all its guises.

chickenfatfrontSeeing how miserable I was about being the Second Fattest Girl in the third grade, my mother tried valiantly to limit my food intake and prepare healthy food for me, an initiative that was consistently foiled by my deep love for sugar and salt. Then my father went on the Stillman Diet, which was also called The Drinking Man’s Diet–a plan my father could really support. The Stillman diet as practiced by my father involved bacon and eggs for breakfast, about ten cups of coffee throughout the day, two bunless hamburgers for dinner every night, and several glasses of bourbon while he watched the Johnny Carson Show.

stillman
Health Advisor?

My dad lost a lot of weight on the Drinking Man’s Diet, and he looked healthier. In fact, he looked a good deal healthier than Dr. Stillman himself, who did not, in my opinion, look like a man who should be giving out health advice. A lot of compliments started rolling in and I noticed. I wanted some of that love, and so I wanted to go on that diet. My mother agreed that I could join my father on the Drinking Man’s Diet, apparently unfazed that the martinibook outlining the Food Plan had a picture of a martini on its cover. Of course, the martinis and the glasses of bourbon my father enjoyed were not part of the diet for me, seeing as I was in the third grade.

Dr. Stillman ordered me to eat a great deal of D-Zerta Diet Gelatin and as many bunless hot dogs and hamburgers as I wanted; I could also have eggs, bacon, cheese and butter. Not really a typical third grade diet, and difficult to pack into my Barbie lunch box. Because I was young and still growing, Dr. Stillman allowed me two eight ounce glasses of milk a day and one cup of loosely packed lettuce leaves.

I lost about eight pounds on the diet, but I couldn’t sustain it. It was just too hard to live my third grade life on a diet that allowed me butter but no bread, hot dogs but no buns, cheese but no pizza crust. It was also too difficult to do without my primary source of comfort—food.

The first time I made my own decision to lose weight was when I was in the eighth grade. I was going to graduate from Christ King School in June of 1972, and in April of that year, I decided that I was going to wear a size 11 graduation dress. Size 11 was, for me, a magical size that would mean I was thin and beautiful; if my Francie doll were human-sized, I was pretty sure she would wear size 11. I invented my own diet: every morning, I had a half English Muffin with a tiny smear of butter for breakfast, followed by a lunch of twelve strawberries and a two cups of undressed lettuce. For dinner I would eat a tiny bit of whatever my mother cooked, and that was it. I rode my bike through the neighborhood for an hour each afternoon after school. I lost about twenty pounds on this diet, and I did indeed buy and wear a size 11 graduation dress—from The Limited– for my graduation. I also I bought my very first pair of size 11 Levi’s. I felt amazing in those jeans.

Over the summer, though, I started to gain the weight back, and when I started high school, I was about ten pounds over my “ideal weight.” The pounds kept inching back, and I spent my first two years of high school struggling with the same twenty pounds, always somewhere up or down on that scale. During those up-and-down years, I made the decision to go on the Weight Watchers diet. In those days before the Internet, the Weight Watchers diet was a state secret, given only to those who attended Weight Watcher Meetings.  The Weight Watchers Organization insisted that attending weekly meetings was essential to the dieter’s success; in order to be granted access to the Official Weight Watchers Materials, dieters had to go the meeting, pay the dues, get weighed, have their weight recorded in a little book, and listen to a pep talk from that particular group’s Leader. In my mind, this approach combined the anxiety of those public weigh-ins at Christ King School with the weekly demand that I show up for my Brownie meetings with my dues in my Official Brownie Coin Purse. I wanted no part of the meetings. I wanted the diet.

Luckily, my sister Marbeth’s mother-in-law Martina had paid for the program and she was willing to share her Official Materials with me for free. In preparation for my trip to Martina’s house, I bought The Story of Weight Watchers by Jean Nidetch, the Founder. I was hopeful and excited by this diet; my cousin Kathy had joined Weight Watchers the previous  year, and lost forty pounds even though she worked in an ice cream store after school. Kathy looked and felt fabulous. Even more impressive, she had a boyfriend. I wanted what Kathy had, and I was confident that if she could do this, why then so could I.

ww-story
My Catechism

Marbeth drove me to her mother-in-law’s home in the suburbs of Milwaukee so that Martina could hand the Weight Watchers Holy Grail to me. She had quit the diet by then, so I didn’t even have to copy the diet from her pamphlets; she let me take them home. My two clearest memories of the pamphlet with the diet in it are these: on a page listing my options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Martina had written, “at least three hours” between the choices for breakfast and lunch, and “at least four hours” between the choices for lunch and dinner. When I asked her what these notations meant, she explained that her Weight Watchers Leader had told them that is how long they had to wait between meals. Forty-four years later, I still look at the clock when I am thinking about lunch or dinner to see whether enough time has expired for me to acknowledge my hunger.

The other thing I remember clearly from the pink card-stock WW pamphlet were the words on Page Three: “Let your conscience be your guide. Let Weight Watchers be your conscience.” As a Catholic girl, I was familiar with the phrase “informed conscience.” The Church teaches that every Catholic is duty-bound to follow her own conscience in matters of faith and morals, but she is also responsible for forming her conscience properly, by reading and studying the teachings of the Church. The Catholic Church now would have to compete for space in my brain with the teachings of Weight Watchers.

It was a good diet—healthy, balanced, and effective. I lost twenty-five pounds in three months, and my skin cleared up, my hair got shinier, and my fingernails grew. For me, it was like a religion; The Jean Nidetch Story in paperback was my Catechism; I covered it in blue fabric so that no one could see that I was carrying a diet book with me everywhere, and I re-read Jean’s story so many times that the pages of my book began to separate from the binding and fall out. The diet itself was very different in the early 1970’s than it is today, when Weight Watchers has a Points System and lots of flexibility about things like eating in restaurants. When I was on it, the Weight Watchers Diet did not value flexibility.

In those days, there were no points, but there were a great many rules. Every day, I was ordered to consume three pieces of fruit, five servings of vegetables, one teaspoon of fat, two pieces of bread, and two glasses of milk. Certain fruits and vegetables were forbidden: bananas, potatoes, and corn were off the diet. I was allowed unlimited amounts of water, diet soda, salt, pepper and bouillon. I was limited to four eggs a week and two servings of beef, none of which could be—ever–hot dogs, lunch meat or bacon. I could have a total of four ounces of cheese a week, but none of it could be high fat cheese. I was obligated to eat fish five times a week, but it could not be shellfish, which was high in fat, and the tuna had to be packed in water rather than oil. I was mandated to eat liver once a week.

Out of this collection of rules and choices I constructed my menus for each week. Up to that point in my life, the only fish I had ever tasted were the fish sticks my mother sometimes fixed for us on Friday nights, which I doused heavily in ketchup and enjoyed very much. Neither fish sticks nor ketchup, of course, were allowed on the Weight Watchers Diet.

My mother didn’t cook fish, and did not want, under any circumstances, the smell of a “fishy house.” Thus, nearly all of my five “fish meals” per week were tuna from the can or, as a treat from my mom (because it was expensive and she had to figure out how to cook it), halibut. My mother would purchase the pricey halibut steak for me once a week and bake it. Weight Watchers did not allow any oil or butter, and cooking spray was still years away from being invented. In my mother’s view, fish only improved its flavor with baking time, and so she baked my halibut steaks for a very, very long time. Sometimes the fish would be so thoroughly stuck to the cookie sheet after a few hours in the oven that we would have to pry it off with a large flat knife, leaving an outline of the fish, like a chalk outline of a crime victim, on the pan.

Since I had never tasted tuna in my life, I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, and the only way my mother ever ate tuna was mixed with a healthy dollop of mayonnaise (not allowed on Weight Watchers—also something I had never eaten in my life nor had a desire to), so I guessed at how best to prepare it. I packed a lunch every day, and so every day I brought a tuna “sandwich” with me to Divine Savior-Holy Angels High School. I had the one piece of allowed bread, and on top of that I mixed my four ounces of tuna with chopped celery, cucumbers and radishes (the vegetables most reliably in our refrigerator). Cucumbers are watery, and so my “sandwich” was always a bit of a watery, tasteless mess. I didn’t mind, though, because to me that sandwich tasted like hope.

As I continued on the diet, I started looking for some variety in my limited menu, and thus it was that I searched out and found some sanctioned Weight Watchers Recipes. (At this point in the Evolution of Weight Watchers, there were no such things as frozen meals or Weight Watchers brand snacks. I was on my own.) My go-to breakfast became my Weight Watchers “pancake,” which I made by putting my piece of bread in our blender with some of my allotted milk and one of my allotted eggs for the week. I’d whir it up and cook it in a nonstick Teflon pan. Voila! Pancake!

On the weekends, when I was home and had access to the oven (there were no such things as microwaves), I looked forward to my Weight Watchers Pizza, which had to be constructed according to strict Weight Watchers Rules. First, I toasted my allotted slice of bread, and topped it with “tomato sauce,” which I had to make by boiling tomato juice (allowed vegetable) in a pan to reduce it by half and thus thickening it. Atop that I was allowed to place one ounce of sliced American Cheese and as much oregano and garlic salt as I desired. I would then broil this “pizza” until the cheese melted and I had my very own cheese “pizza.” I adored it. Especially when I could accompany it with one of my sanctioned Weight Watchers “milkshakes.” These also required a blender, and necessitated the buying and using of something called “chocolate extract,” which could be found in the aisle with vanilla and food coloring. Into the blender would go my allotted cup of milk, three ice cubes, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and one teaspoon of saccharine. I would whip that up into a froth and enjoy. It didn’t taste exactly like a chocolate milkshake, but it was filling and sweet in a chemical way, and I loved it. Sometimes I mixed things up and left out the chocolate, instead adding a teaspoon of vanilla.

mackerel
The Words “Mackerel” and “Pudding” should never be linked.

After mastering these amazing basics of Weight Watcher Cooking (these recipes had been in the pamphlet that Martina had given me), I was ready to take on some new challenges, so I went to the Wauwatosa Public Library and checked out the Weight Watchers Cookbook. That initiative was less successful than my first forays, because the Weight Watchers Cookbook was full of recipes I knew I would never, ever attempt because either they sounded disgusting (mackerel “pudding!”) or involved ingredients I didn’t have or want to buy (liver paste) or would never figure out how to prepare (multi-step Weight Watchers “white sauce.”) Once I narrowed the recipes down to the ones I could prepare and was willing to eat, I had just a few left. I remember two of them total clarity: Weight Watchers Root Beer “Floats” and Weight Watchers “Roasted Peanuts.” The Root Beer “Floats” were simple to prepare: pour a can of diet root beer into a bowl and whip it into a foamy frenzy with an electric mixer. Pour six ounces of the resulting brownish-grey foam into individual dessert glasses and freeze. After a few hours in the freezer, share and enjoy. This was not a recipe I made more than once.

 

The recipe for Weight Watchers “Roasted Peanuts” was the high water mark for honestyww-peanuts in the Weight Watchers Universe. It entailed purchasing canned whole mushrooms from the store (mushrooms were another thing I had never tasted until the Weight Watchers Diet), salting them liberally (as anyone who has ever tried them knows, canned mushrooms are already extremely salty), spreading them on a cookie sheet and baking them for several hours in a low oven until they are brown(er) and shriveled (“resemble cashews.”) At the very bottom of the recipe were the words, “Do these taste like roasted peanuts? No. But you are on a diet!” Somehow, I always remembered and respected that level of honesty, especially from Weight Watchers, who exponentially increased world-wide use of quotation marks with its books filled with recipes for “pudding,” “ice cream,” “soup,” and such.

I did not swerve from my Weight Watchers diet even once for the several months it took me to lose twenty-five pounds. I brought my own food to outings with my friends, or ate before I left and drank diet pop for the rest of the night. I felt good, and I looked good. Then I got sick. It wasn’t Weight Watchers’ fault; I caught the flu. But I got very sick, and missed nearly a week of school. I was too sick to prepare my Weight Watchers meals, and my mother was working part time by then for the University of Wisconsin, so I started eating food instead of “food.” By the time I got back to school, I was eating sugar again and remembering why I loved it; I had lost my momentum.

thyzfyztztThe Weight Watchers diet worked for me, but when I went off of the diet I gained all the weight back. Mine was the typical pattern for dieters: I would go on a diet, lose weight, then gain it all back along with a few more pounds besides. By the time I finally went on my last diet when I was a junior in college and lost the extra pounds for good, I had been steadily dieting from the age of seven. After the Stillman Diet and the Weight Watchers Diet, I moved on to the Sweet Roll Diet, the Buttercream Diet, the Last Chance Diet, the Distilled Water Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, and the Atkins Diet. Stay Tuned.