The Weight-Loss Diaries

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From Shape Magazine's popular columnist comes a look at the daily ups and downs of dieting.

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Overview

From Shape Magazine's popular columnist comes a look at the daily ups and downs of dieting.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932378818
  • Publisher: America Media International
  • Publication date: 11/15/2005
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 CD's, 4 hrs. 30 min.
  • Pages: 132
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Courtney Rubin has written for the New York Times, Marie Claire, Time, and other publications. For two years, she wrote the "Weight-Loss Diary" column for Shape magazine. Formerly a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine, Rubin is now a correspondent based in London for People.

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Read an Excerpt

THE WEIGHT-LOSS DIARIES

The Eve of the Diet

First, Pig Out

Short list of things for which there never seems to be an ideal time:

1.      Telling your best friend you saw someone wearing her favorite pair of pants--as part of a Halloween costume.

2.      Paying pesky credit-card debt (what is it they say . . . creditors can't get you when you're dead?)

3.      Telling a coworker he smells like some sort of dead animal

4.      Starting a diet

I know that a diet--excuse me, change of eating habits, as you're supposed to refer to it--has to be compatible with your life to be successful, but actually starting one seems incompatible with any lifestyle beyond that of a total hermit/loser/person-who-is-allergic-to-all-appetizers-and-party-snacks. Which I am not (allergic to all appetizers, anyway).

This week's reasons (excuses?) why I can't start becoming the New and Improved Me: two lunch interviews (ordering no-sauce this and substitute that always makes me feel like the superpicky Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, only not as adorable in my neurosis), a cocktail party, and a friend's birthday party. Oh, yeah--and I have three stories due by Friday, which for me means a lot of afternoon and late-night snacking (depending on the progress of the story, either a reward for job done or a bribe for getting one started). I could start tomorrow--OK, next week--but then I've got a dinner, a handful of bars to review, and another couple of parties. And so on.

At this rate, I'll be better off waiting to wake up looking like Jennifer Aniston than waiting for the ideal week to start a diet. As a kid, I couldn't cram my list of extracurricular activities into the space allotted in the yearbook. Now I'm still the girl who can't say no, except these days my long days and late nights come from freelance assignments and not wanting to miss out on dinners, movies, drinks, or anything else that sounds fun. I'm always afraid I'll miss out on something, and you can't get in on an inside joke after the fact.

So after years of "I'll start tomorrow," obviously I haven't. Now I'm 5{ft}8{in} and 206 pounds--a good 50 pounds overweight. I'm twenty-three years old and trying to hush my perfectionist inner voice and be patient with myself, because--if all the diet advice I've read and heard over the years is any indication--I'm gonna screw up.

Besides, learning to ease up on myself sure beats the alternative: another year gone by where I'm dissatisfied with my health and energy, not to mention my inability to wear sleeveless clothing. Another year where I go to parties and immediately look around the room for someone, anyone, who's fatter than me. Another year where I hopefully try on the largest sizes at the Gap, give up, creep into Lane Bryant, stand in front of the mirror in a size I cannot stand, and swear it's the last time I'm going to shop there. (And also wish that its bags did not say "Lane Bryant" quite so prominently. The bags might as well say "I AM FAT" in blinking neon. If they're so sympathetic to overweight women, can't they package their stuff in, say, Macy's bags?)

Easing up on myself also beats another year where I dread going to visit my mother and grandmother because I don't want them to see me so overweight, and sometimes even dread going to work, because I have nothing to wear that fits. Another year where I write things in my journal--as I did last fall on the eve of a diet I never actually started--like: "I feel gross and ugly and fat. Oh, yeah--and too full. And depressed. And like a big blob taking up space. I don't feel like thinking about this, much less writing about it. But I'm hoping writing it down means getting it out of my head for a while, like jotting down at night things I must remember to do the next day. Rule 1: no eating on the run. Rule 2: no eating anything anyone else cannot see me eat. I make myself ill sometimes. Honestly, I can hardly face myself in the mirror."

Sure, I've promised myself a million times to do something about my weight. And if I need any reminder of all my past failures to follow through, all I need to do is call my grandmother, who's been nagging me about my weight all my life. I know that Grandma wants me to be thin because she equates it with having lots of dates, as she did, and with being happy (both from the dates and because I'll be able to wear anything I want). But often, I am happy. I know I'm lucky to have some great friends and a job I love. But even I have to confess that I find it unbelievably ironic that I write the singles columns for the magazine, since some days I feel like the last woman any guy would focus on at a bar.

Grandma's not alone in her idea of "thin equals happy"--most of my friends think so, too--and that bothers me, because I know being thin won't solve other problems in my life (lack of clothing choices excepted).

Still, much as I rail against it on principle, I know deep down that being thin--or at least being fit--could make me happier. As hokey as it sounds, these days--my twenties--are supposed to be the days I'll always remember, and I know they can't be when I feel as though there's something (like about fifty pounds) keeping me from doing things I want to do, however small. I don't think anyone would say my life is lived in a holding pattern, but I hate knowing that I won't take up swing dancing or bike around the monuments in cherry blossom season. I hate feeling too self-conscious to walk up to a guy at a party, and I hate even more that I fall into the trap of letting my weight dictate my confidence. I hate buying outrageous black satin four-inch heels and then tottering around the Grammy Awards wondering if I'm going to break them--or burst out of my dress (and if I do, wondering if there is a single item in all of Los Angeles that will fit me). And I hate the lethargy that comes with being too full, my pants too tight.

Most of all, I hate that I've lost my sense of scale. No, not the bathroom one (I threw that one out years ago), but the one that would keep me from eating a rigid 800 calories for six days and then, the minute I eat a bite more than that, heaven knows how many calories for weeks. I hate that bad is good and good is bad, where I'm simultaneously happy to have a hectic professional and social life and then upset that appetizers and drinks and business lunches and late nights seem incompatible with getting thin. Realistically, I know they're not; it's just that I've forgotten--maybe never knew?--what an appropriate portion is, and I haven't learned that food is just food, not anesthesia for stress or boredom or frustration. But I know I need to learn.

The question of the hour, I suppose, is: why (and how) is this time going to be different from any other time? (Besides, of course, that I'm going to be doing it in front of a whole bunch of people, on the pages of a magazine.) I know I can lose weight: to paraphrase Mark Twain, starting a diet is easy--I've done it hundreds of times. It's continuing to lose weight--or at least, not putting on every last pound plus extras--that's always tripped me up.

Dr. Peeke, the diet doctor Shape has told me to consult with, says that before I can get started, I've got to put my diet history on paper so she can see what my blind spots are. She also wants a list of "toxic" relationships--people who make my life difficult--and what she calls "stress milestones," major stressors like deaths and illness. I ran Peeke's name through the LexisNexis news database, and it seems her mantra is that stress makes you fat. I hope she isn't going to be one of those doctors who tell you that you really shouldn't work late or take a weekend assignment or some such impossible-in-Washington-if-you're-young-and-trying-to-get-somewhere thing. Like doctors don't have to work late nights and live unhealthy lives to get through med school?

I'm not too eager to regale Dr. Peeke with my diet failures, but I suppose I can't expect this diet to be any different if I don't let her pick through what a dysfunctional relationship I've had with food in the past.

#

I don't remember exactly when I became conscious of food and weight--I think the feeling was always there. I have a diary I started when I was six, and in it are stars I drew in pink marker for days I didn't eat any more than my twin sister, Diana, did. By the time I was nine, I often vowed to "cut out snacks," but after an afternoon of sucking on ice cubes when I was hungry (a tip I'd picked up from reading my mother's Family Circle magazines), I'd give up. In my elementary-school diaries, in between tales of learning to dive and winning a spelling bee, are chronicles of clothes-shopping trips, which invariably ended in tears and then resolutions to diet. What I find amazing is that when I looked at pictures of myself as a kid the other day, I was shocked by how not fat I was. I definitely wasn't thin--I definitely weighed more than my sister, and probably more than a child of my height should have--but nor was I the little Oompa Loompa I seem to remember.

I must have imbibed the "I am too fat" mentality by osmosis, because for a long time my mother rarely commented about my size outright. To get her to lose weight, Grandma had nagged her, and her father had tried to inspire her with cash incentives. She always said she didn't want that for me. But somehow--even as a child--I got the message that everyone would be happier with me if my sister and I really were identical, if I could be the "skinny mini" that Diana was.

Somewhere between fifth and seventh grade, I crossed the line from baby fat to fat. In seventh grade, when I actually was overweight, my diary recorded my fear of ordering what I really wanted in a restaurant. It didn't matter that, unofficially, I was "the smart one" of the Rubin twins. My sister--who did well in school herself--was "the thin one," and I gladly would have traded. No matter how many science fairs and math contests I won, I'd still have to do it in clothes that never seemed to look as good on me as they did on everyone else. And when I walked up onstage to get my awards, the kind of music that accompanies dinosaurs stomping through video games often played in my head.

By the time I started high school, Mom was frequently engaging in what she considered subtle commentary about my weight: raising her eyebrows or narrowing her eyes when I reached for seconds, and an occasional "You don't need that" in a low, dark tone. One summer Grandma got right to the point, asking about a pair of shoes we'd bought together that I no longer wore: "What's the matter? Did your feet get too fat?" Later, Diana oh-so-helpfully reported that Grandma had told her I'd gotten "as big as a house."

I feared being caught eating. The tiles seemed to squeak impossibly loudly between my room and the kitchen, so I often sneaked food into the guest bathroom. When my parents left my sister and me home alone, we both gleefully raided the refrigerator--with its giant "He Who Indulges Bulges" hippo magnet on the door--but she never seemed to gain weight from it.

At the diet camp I went to the summer before tenth grade, I lost thirty-one pounds--the first time I lost a significant amount of weight. The camp recommended kids go to Weight Watchers when we got home. I lasted maybe a month. At the lone meeting that suited my schedule, I was the only person under forty, and I'd sit there feeling resentful that I had to spend an hour in a room of people my parents' age while everyone else I knew was out doing something fun. I also hated having my mother and grandmother--both Weight Watchers veterans--watching every bite that went into my mouth, seemingly waiting for me to fail.

So I'd eat what I wanted to in private. I'd go on an eating jag--"just this once," I'd tell myself, vowing to cut back the next day to make up for it. But inevitably I'd be hungrier than usual the next day, and in my black-and-white world any unplanned bit of food was evidence of my total lack of willpower. So I'd eat more, and pretty soon I'd gained back all the weight I'd lost over the summer, plus a little more.

I lost a lot of weight a handful more times--always on very low-calorie or very low-fat diets--but I'd never get down to my goal. I'd get close to it, but by then the months of deprivation would have me primed for months of bingeing.

The worst the diet-and-binge cycle ever got was two years ago, when I first moved to Washington. I'd just graduated from college and was determined to lose all the weight I had decided was holding me back from the life I dreamed of.

I began on a not-unreasonable 1,400-calories-a-day diet but soon grew frustrated with my plodding progress. So I began cutting out foods until I was down to 700 calories a day. Omelet made of three egg whites plus mushrooms for breakfast, Lean Cuisine frozen entr{e acu}e for lunch, Pillsbury frozen blueberry pancakes for dinner (250 calories and what seemed to me to be a whopping four grams of fat), and a Weight Watchers 40-calorie chocolate-mousse pop for dessert. I adored packaged foods because I could be absolutely sure exactly how many calories they had. I drank Diet Coke like it was my job.

I've always prided myself on doing unpleasant tasks as quickly as possible, and losing weight was no exception. If some cutting down was good, more was better. By August, I'd replaced both breakfast and lunch with two peaches, often "running errands" at lunch so no one would question what I ate. I'd exercise an hour every day. Anything less was total failure. Some days I was so light-headed and tired, I didn't think I could drag myself up the stairs to my second-floor office, but there was no way I would allow myself to take the elevator.

If I took the Metro, I tried to beat my time running up all 137 steps of the escalator at my stop. (I'd count them as I ran.) When I got home to the studio apartment I was sharing with my (size 10) sister, I'd try on her clothes obsessively, seeing how much closer they were to fitting. I'd fall asleep with my fist pressed into my stomach, feeling--and being inordinately pleased with--how hungry I was.

Come September, I was two sizes smaller than I had been at graduation. I'd lost about forty pounds in just over three months. That's when it all fell apart. I decided to eat half of an Au Bon Pain oatmeal-raisin cookie at an office birthday party, and it was as if a fire alarm went off in my head--loud, insistent, and a little frightening. I ate the other half. And then another one. When the cookies were gone, I couldn't think about anything except how I was going to get something else to eat. I couldn't turn off the alarm. I couldn't stop eating.

I began making myself pay for a day of bingeing with a day of starving (four peaches and sometimes, if I couldn't concentrate because I was too hungry, a soft pretzel). Except pretty soon I gave up the starving part and just binged.

These were the days when even seeing the words all you can eat terrified me, because I knew I could probably eat a buffet seven times over, and sometimes felt as though I had. I'd start out allowing myself to eat whatever I craved, but I'd grow frustrated trying to choose among all the things I wanted. So I'd get it all--or as much of it as I dared to order--going from bakery to restaurant, ready to snap the head off a cashier who so much as fumbled with my change. I wanted it all, and I wanted it that instant.

When I was done, my skin would feel so tight I'd give anything to rip it off. Several times, I tried to throw up, but my body wouldn't cooperate. I'd lie in bed, my sense of disgust and failure complete. I couldn't even succeed at being bulimic.

I'll never forget what those binges felt like. That "I can't do this/I have to do this/I'm going to hate myself/I do hate myself" tidal wave. That fear that I was a size 10 today but could be a size 16 tomorrow. That struggle to finish whatever I was eating, no matter how full I was, because I wasn't going to eat any of these things again. I'm absolutely, positively never going to do this again, because I'm starting a diet tomorrow, I would think. I even thought the diet would be easy, because I was so sure that I'd never again want to feel as horrible as I did at that very moment.

But somehow that was never incentive enough. And there I was again, so full and more disgusted with myself than last time--a level of disgust I never thought possible.

#

This time has to be different. I'm tired. And annoyed. And angry. And sad. I think about how much time and energy I've wasted adding up calories, measuring, exercising, berating myself for missing a workout, and generally feeling that I can't leave the house because I hate the way I look.

I'm thinking about how many things I missed--one trip to San Francisco, in particular, where almost all I can remember is how much time I spent worrying about how I was going to exercise and what I might eat if we went to such-and-such restaurant. And finally, I'm thinking about the lies I told, ridiculous ones, to go off and binge or exercise or not eat--whatever my craze was at the moment.

Why can't I just overeat like a normal person? Why does one cookie suddenly have to become six? And why must I torture myself mercilessly after I eat these things? Why can't I just pick up and get on with it? These are the things I know have to change if this weight loss is to be any different from all the other (failed) attempts.

#

Toxic relationships. I don't want to call my grandmother toxic, exactly, but she does stress me out about my weight, which she never fails to ask about (on the phone) or comment upon (in person). Call her the typical Jewish grandmother: she nags me about weight and at the same time pushes food on me. In a single dinner, she'll tell me I shouldn't eat bread, then insist I have to eat some of her meal because she can't possibly finish it all.

My sister is probably my most difficult relationship. Diana constantly talks about food and weight and what she's craving and is forever talking about how fat she is, which of course she isn't. I know some of that is normal girl--and normal sibling--behavior, but it goes beyond that.

The summer I went to diet camp, she wrote me letters detailing what she'd eaten for dinner or where she'd gone for ice cream. Later, whenever I'd talk about starting a diet, she'd drag me out for cupcakes at a grocery store whose buttercream icing we both loved. The summer I came home from college after losing forty pounds, my mother suggested I try on Diana's clothes, since I didn't have anything to wear. They fit--and I don't think my sister spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

That whole summer Diana kept nagging me: You're not eating enough. You go to the gym too often. Just this once isn't going to hurt you. When we were home over Thanksgiving this past fall, we shared a car, so I told her not to go to the gym in the morning without me. She went without me anyway. And these days, if we go out to dinner and I order a salad or otherwise don't eat a lot, she snaps at me not to be such a martyr and asks pointedly if I'm starving myself.

Besides looking like my idealized version of myself, Diana is the voice that says aloud every negative thing I've ever privately thought about myself. I can't just ignore her--as more than one person has counseled me to do--because what she says are my deepest fears realized: Fat is the first thing people notice about me; I really can't leave the house looking like that; it is a fluke I have done as well as I have in school or work; I am boring; I am bitchy; I am rude. And so on. No matter how much outside confirmation I might get to the contrary, Diana can negate it in an instant. I hate that I allow her this power, but I do it because I can't help thinking that she's known me my entire life. Maybe it's just taking everyone else I know a while to catch on.

#

Stress milestone: my mother. For years when I was growing up, no one could figure out what was wrong with her. The battery of doctors she went to always ended up ascribing her fatigue, listlessness, and inability to do much--get out of bed, take a shower, finish a conversation--to Epstein-Barr virus, otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome. I was often angry with her. Why didn't she pay any attention to me? Why didn't she seem to care about herself or the house or us or anything? Why did she call my sister and me into her room only to ask us to fetch her something from the table at the foot of her bed? I remember half crying, half screaming at her one afternoon that she wouldn't care if I never came home again, since she never seemed even to speak to me. She gestured limply toward a spot on the bed, as if telling me to have a seat; then she fell asleep.

My sister and I date the beginning of the worst of it to the spring of 1987, just after our bat mitzvah, when we were twelve. I couldn't understand how anyone could be so tired from planning a party--the excuse Mom gave--but she took to her bed, seeming to have given up even pretending she cared about anything at all. On the rare times I'd hug her, I'd hold my breath, not wanting to smell her unwashed odor. My father, a doctor and professor of medicine, worked long hours at a hospital. He refused to believe Diana and me--or maybe couldn't let himself believe us--when we told him how bad she was. In English class at age fourteen, for a teacher I'd also had the year before and therefore trusted, I wrote essays about Mom where the emotion was so raw that a few times Ms. Clark said there was no way she could put a grade on them. I wrote about leaving Mom's room one afternoon and standing in the bathroom, listening to the plip-plop of my tears as they fell into the sink: "I force the sharp corners of the counter into my palms, as if hoping for a pain that hurts more than Mom, but a pain I can at least stop when I want."

In the fall of 1990, when I was fifteen, Mom went for an MRI as a last resort. No one was expecting much--at that point it was just another test to cross off the list.

"See anything?" my father asked the technician casually as my mother lay in the tunnel of the machine, fighting claustrophobia.

Yes. A brain tumor. Two of them, in fact. So big that her surgeon later said if they had gone untreated any longer, at some point in the not-too-distant future, my sister and I would have come home from school and found Mom dead.

She had two daylong surgeries, though doctors couldn't remove all of the tumors because they were too close to the hypothalamus and the optic nerve, which meant a millimeter slip of the knife could blind her--or kill her. I remember going to visit her in the neurosurgery intensive-care unit, where the condition of each patient got worse and worse as you got closer to the nurses' station. Mom was directly in front of their desk.

The whole rest of the year--my junior year of high school--is disjointed, time expanding and contracting at painful intervals. Time at the hospital lasted hours. So did conversations with my father--awkward ones where he tried to catch up on what was going on in my life while he'd been working late the past ten years. "Haven't seen Susie much these days," he'd say, unaware that my friend Susie had moved to Wisconsin two years before. As a fifteen-year-old girl, I found it an awkward time to be left with just my father. One of many cringe-worthy episodes: my sister and I explaining in fits and starts that we had to buy more tampons--that the supply of pantyliners in the closet would not do, because no, you could not just use two of them stuck together.

My father's own mother had died of breast cancer when he was sixteen, and in his effort not to keep us in the dark about Mom's condition, as his father had, he explained everything in the sort of excruciating detail that only a professor of medicine could. He told us how the surgery worked and what she might be like afterward and all of the possible complications. I didn't want to hear any of it. I'd sit there concentrating on not crying or otherwise doing anything that might prolong the conversation. I'd nod at him while my mind skipped over his words as if they were a foreign language, my thoughts drifting to the way I'd behaved toward my mother over the past few years--how angry I'd been. When she'd call to ask me to fetch her something, I'd often sigh loudly and stomp across the house. If it wasn't a drink, sometimes I'd throw it at her. Once I snapped that she needed a servant, not a daughter.

I tried not to think about the situation at all. I must have had twenty lines of extracurricular activities next to my picture in the yearbook that year. I stayed late to work on the school newspaper and ran away to debate tournaments on the weekends. I was working at the Miami Herald after school twice a week, and I never missed a day. I focused on school and all the things that would, I thought, eventually get me away to college and as far away from my family as possible.

And of course, I ate. Who was going to say anything to me about my weight at a time like that?

At night, I lay awake worrying about my mother--and about myself. I am, as everyone has always said, a carbon copy of her. Pictures of me look so much like my mother that visitors to my grandmother's apartment, upon seeing a picture of my mother as a child, often ask: "Why do you have a picture of Courtney and not of Diana?" I wondered: what if what my mother has is lying in wait for me?

I remember when Mom finally came home from rehabilitation in January 1991, her head shaved and a blank, almost mean expression on her face. Diana and I avoided her. We were afraid of her--afraid, I think, of finding out what the next few months might be like. She was alive, and she was home, and for that we should have been grateful. But it was easier to be grateful the less contact we had with her, because we could prolong our ignorance of how different she was. Until she came home from the hospital, the focus had been first on her not dying and then on her slowly regaining basic functions: breathing on her own, brushing her teeth, walking--specific tasks where it was easy to measure her progress and pretend things were returning to normal. But with each interaction--each question she had no idea how to answer, each situation that required an emotion she didn't seem capable of feeling anymore--we felt more acutely that things would never be the same. And each week, my sister--a better, more confident driver than I was, though we both had only learners' permits--drove my mother an hour each way to her radiation treatments, sometimes in awkward silence.

To doctors, my mother was a miracle patient, eventually driving, talking with friends, volunteering with a Jewish women's organization, helping my sister and me pack for college. But I couldn't help focusing on what was missing. Small things, like writing a check, often required what seemed like enormous concentration. She didn't seem to have any emotions besides anger--she never cried or was ecstatic, something my father attributed to the location of the tumors affecting the parts of the brain that deal with mood and personality. I could tell at times she was unsure of herself, looking around for cues to the appropriate response to what someone had just said.

"Love you," I said to her one night before going to bed.

She paused. "OK," she finally answered.

I wanted to be grateful for what I had, but I couldn't. I felt as though she'd been gone for so much of my life--lying in bed, listless--and I hated that she still didn't look and act like other people's mothers. She still didn't shower very often. Her clothes were disheveled. Diana and I desperately wished she'd wear her wig, but she complained it was too hot. When her hair grew back, she often didn't comb it, and she still nodded off in the middle of dinners and movies and conversations. Why, I wondered, couldn't I have a mother who got her hair done every week and asked me if I'd done my homework and remembered which of my friends was dating whom?

Outside the house I constantly felt as if I was going to get caught not knowing something I should have known--something my mother should have taught me. My mother wasn't up to talking about makeup or men or even small things, like polishing shoes. I'd visit my friends' houses and watch their mothers fuss over them--whether they needed a haircut or whether their T-shirt had been washed too many times and ought to be retired--and I'd wonder if I were the one who really needed the tune-up.

Even now, it seems, every day a friend of mine will talk about something she learned from her mother--a special way of folding laundry, an expression, a shortcut--and I'll search my own memory for something similar. I come up empty, and I realize again how awfully little time I really got to spend with her.

That's because, even when she'd recovered, chunks of her memory and personality were gone. I hear stories about my mother in her twenties and thirties--this smart, capable woman who changed her own tire ("in jeans!" my grandmother says with awe) on Fifth Avenue in the 1950s and was the first person her friends called when they needed to know anything about anything--and I can't help wondering if I ever knew her. I'm supposed to feel lucky that she's around at all, but so many times I feel as if she's here but not really here, and I feel cheated instead. And then I feel guilty.

One of the toughest bits about her illness is knowing how hard my mother worked when I was young to shield me from pain. She knew I was terrified of doctors and dentists and needles and would request that the dentist do whatever needed to be done all in one visit, so I wouldn't have to spend a week or so dreading a filling or having a tooth pulled. When I had to get my tonsils out, she didn't tell me until two days before, so I'd have less than forty-eight hours to worry about it. And in the hospital before my surgery, she got my father to ask that I be given general anesthesia using a mask, so I wouldn't have to feel the IV go into my arm.

I don't know which makes me sadder: that she can't protect me from the pain of watching her or that there's nothing I can do to help her.

My father is almost terrifyingly smart and rarely wrong, but no matter how much he insists that brain tumors are not genetic and that I won't have one, I don't believe him. I don't think about it every day anymore, but when I'm feeling melodramatic, the idea of ending up like my mother adds an extra urgency to a lot of things.

Like many people with whom I went to college, I want to be successful--and if I can be young and successful, so much the better. But I also want not to regret things--and I'm pretty sure that at some point I'm going to regret how angry I've been with myself about my weight and how much time I've wasted feeling that the extra pounds keep me from doing things I want to do. In truth, I end up doing almost everything I want--going to the beach, dancing with friends, ordering dessert--but I do it almost defiantly, my enjoyment tempered by fear and a constant internal voice telling me what an idiot I look like. I'm convinced the voice would shut up--or at least quiet down--if I didn't feel so conspicuous, so fat.

#

So on to the diet, and what I can do to make this one go differently--more successfully--than the ones before it.

For one thing, this time I'm even starting differently. Instead of saying, "I'll start tomorrow" or "next Monday" or "when I get back from vacation" or "January 1," I'm starting now. Which means no night before to pig out and eat everything one last time, swearing that I'm never going to eat these things again. I hate waking up to that sick, full feeling, and I've already got a good fifty pounds to go--so do I really need to pig out and add another couple of pounds to the pile?

Here's another way this time will be different: I'm not starting in a flash of rage or humiliation or disgust.

I've had many bring-on-the-celery-sticks moments over the years: when Bruce the Spruce--one Florida mall's answer to Santa Claus--told me to eat my vegetables so I'd be tall and thin like my sister. When my mother yelled at me for being fat as I dove into the Halloween candy, spilling it all over the kitchen floor. When my grandmother yelled at me for taking a second helping in front of an entire table of Passover guests. When a pair of size 18 jeans was too small. When, as I was standing with two friends at a party, two guys walked up to the three of us and treated me as though I were invisible.

But diets that started out of, essentially, revenge haven't worked. A few weeks later, the moments still stung--in fact, they still sting today--but somehow that has never been enough to keep me going. Losing weight is hard enough--painful enough--on its own. Adding the constant mental replay of my most embarrassing moments somehow has always driven me into the arms of something sweet, instead of away from it.

This diet isn't starting from the pit of despair, either. Instead of a flood of tears and a flash of "I must do something now," this diet has its roots in a gradual realization: I'm tired of feeling out of control. As I reread old journals one dark afternoon last week, I was struck by how much my weight figured into everything I thought and did. No matter what else I was writing about, somehow I'd end up writing about weight.

Me writing about a party where I drank far too much: "I have a hangover this morning, which would be a more than fair price to pay if something fabulous happened, but nothing did. And it isn't that I don't remember it, either. Being drunk may loosen everyone else's inhibitions, but unfortunately it does nothing to rid me of this terrible self-consciousness of being fat. When you're fat, it all just hangs out."

On looking for a new job: "More than plowing through piles of awful clips or trying to come up with ridiculous action-verb synonyms for 'wrote' (penned? ick) for my resume, the thing that always stops me from getting too far is the idea of having to find something to wear. I need a black pantsuit, and I hate the idea that probably the only one I'll be able to find will have an elasticized waist."

On a concert: "One of these days, I will find the perfect pair of shoes to wear to the 9:30 Club. The bottoms of my feet always hurt after concerts there--you have to stand the whole time. Is this a fat thing or does this happen to everybody? I know, I know--I should just wear sneakers. But every time I go to put on sneakers with normal clothes, I can't help thinking about this one very fat woman I read about who had to wear sneakers everywhere--her feet were too fat for normal shoes."

I read page after page, horrified by what I had become. I felt trapped by my own body, literally weighed down by it. I was saddened by the things I wrote: my (somewhat sick) wishes that if everyone has his or her way of dealing with stress, why oh why couldn't mine be smoking or not eating? My disgust with myself that although I was fat enough that losing all the weight I wanted to lose would take seemingly forever, somehow I still wasn't fat enough for obesity surgery, aka stomach stapling, which required you to be 100 pounds overweight. There were times when I went so far as to wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to gain the weight needed for the surgery than to try to lose all I had to lose.

Other people, I realized as I read my journals, measured their lives in birthdays or graduations or major purchases (cars, apartments). I measured mine in weight. Anyplace I went--restaurant, city, whatever--I could remember what size I wore (I usually avoided the scale) when I was there last. Holiday memories were divided into ones where I ate whatever I wanted (nasty comments and sharp looks from family members be damned), ones where I ate exactly what Diana ate but then ended up late at night in the kitchen eating everything I hadn't eaten earlier, and ones where I was so restrained and "good" that I was cranky and grumpy the whole time.

So here goes nothing. Tonight I'm off to go grocery shopping for the first half of the week. I know it would be more efficient to buy for the whole week, but the idea of a refrigerator that full . . . I can't handle that right now. I must be the only person on the planet who--out of lack of cookies or crackers or pretzels--could manage to pig out on low-fat string cheese and nonfat yogurt and raspberry preserves, but if that's the way I am, I might as well recognize it.

I'm also going to buy--I admit it--my usual pile of fitness magazines. Their "lose five pounds with these five easy changes" articles always appear to be geared for those people who need to lose only five pounds yet somehow still regularly drink whole milk ("substitute skim!" the mags tell us oh-so-wisely) and eat fried chicken ("substitute grilled chicken"). Who are these people, and if they eat so much fast food for these changes to add up, how is it they have only five pounds to lose, anyway?

But I digress. Paging through the magazines often keeps me from stuffing my face (at least for one night), so if the tips actually worked for me, I guess I'd have to consider that a special bonus.

Anyway, enough. I'm off.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2004

    Great Book

    This book really makes you feel like you are not alone on the jounery to losing weight. I would HIGHLY recommend this book!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2004

    A Weight Loss Book Straight from the Heart

    This is an awesome book that will make you feel like you're not alone in your self-doubt or worry about weight/looks. The author tells about her lifelong personal struggle with weight. She's painfully honest, but the book is funny at the same time. This will definitely spark discussion among your female friends. It's a quick and enjoyable read, and it's nice because it's a dieting book that doesn't preach at you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2008

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