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.1