He looked like Frankenstein's mini-me. Chad Lee was a pale, square-faced boy with inky black hair. He also had a small mouth out of which he spat the word, fat. I don't remember clearly how he said it, whether it was "you're so fat" or "isn't she fat?" but I remember the word, and I remember his saying it while looking at me. I was eight years old. We were in the same third grade class, and there wasn't a day during the school year that I didn't either hear his critique of my size or live in fear of hearing it. It was a struggle of a year.
In fifth grade I still wore Husky jeans and cried looking at my rounder self in the mirror. My mom decided to fix me by taking me to Weight Watchers. I was five feet tall and weighed 121 pounds. My leader wanted me to lose 20 pounds. I secretly wanted to lose 30 so I could eat cake. Looking at that time and the person I was then, I wish I'd learned to be a good eater. Instead, I learned to be a good dieter. I became a very good dieter.
Unfortunately, as most people know, good dieters become exceptional re-gainers, and the truly talented go on to be yo-yo dieters. So it was with me. I embraced diets as my salvation. They were my key to bodily perfection. Success wore a size 8; failure shopped for plus-sizes, and I had wardrobes for both. I tried a lot of weight loss plans over a whole lot of time and failed all of them. For 30 years I tried desperately to be a skinny cake eater … until two years ago.
Give up what?
One morning in November 2007, I asked God for a challenge. I wanted to do something for a year, and I wanted to write about my experience along the way just for fun and to see if I could do it. Brainstorming, I came up with a couple of forgettable plans when into my head popped the most ridiculously insane thought in the history of thoughts: give up desserts for a year.
I love desserts. I don't have a sweet tooth; I have a whole mouthful of them. I'm an equal-opportunity dessert-eater. I tried giving up sweets five years earlier and crashed and burned before January was through.
I don't do repeats, I told myself. But the thought stayed. Like a seed in my brain, it planted itself and immediately took root. I don't want to, I said. The thought began to sprout. No … I whined. It was too late. God had me where he wanted me.
When I began my New Year's resolution in 2008, I told myself that it was first to see if I could do it and second to be healthier—both noble goals. But really, inside, what I wanted was to lose 30 pounds (so the next year I could eat cake). Things seemed to go well at first. It wasn't as difficult physically as I expected it to be, and while the social aspects of dessert-eating were a tougher adjustment, I had the self-satisfaction of knowing that I was being transformed into the thinner person I always longed to be. By March, though, I still looked the same and my clothes weren't any looser. I was mad, and struggling with what it all meant—expectations and disappointments, success and failure, wanting and denial—they were all wrapped up in something as simple as eating. I couldn't help but wonder how it happened that nothing happened? I couldn't help but question the point of continuing on. The answer was I had a profound desire to see the resolution to the end and felt a push to move forward that came from something greater than me. So I kept going.