I hail from generations of serial dieters and have become the worst of all. My fear is that if I don’t stop the cycle, my daughters will repeat my mistakes. From the time I can remember, my mom was always on a diet. In our household, the Grapefruit Diet was replaced by Deal a Meal, and that by the Mayo Clinic. Diets came and went, but one thing was a staple: diet pills. Over-the-counter diet pills were taken every morning, sometimes twice.
I can remember my mother’s weight going down and up and back down, but she was never skinny. When I was ten, she took me to a “diet doctor,” as I was a little chunky. She took me weekly to this physician, who would weigh me and give me a vitamin shot and a mild diuretic. She probably gave me some nutritional advice, too, but I don’t recall it. This went on for a few months. At the time, I enjoyed it because it meant that I was getting out of school early with a medical excuse.
Within a few years, I was dieting alongside my mom, taking diet pills and diuretics, trying to lose a few pounds, but was ultimately unsuccessful. When I reached high school, I decided to eat one meal a day to lose weight for a trip to Disneyland. I lost about twenty-five pounds, which I thought was terrific. Unfortunately, every time I ate anything during our trip, it made me sick. But I was not deterred. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed in at 190. With college looming in the horizon, I desperately wanted to be thin. By this time I was taking four diet pills a day and bumming Lasix (a diuretic) from my grandma, who gave it to me willingly.
While in college, I made a conscious decision to lose weight no matter what. I didn’t care about my health; I wanted to be noticed. I ate as little as possible and exercised feverishly. My self-image was so poor that I quit going to class because I was too fat. Instead, I would go the gym twice a day and walk at night. At 5 feet, 9 inches, and 160 pounds, I convinced another physician to prescribe a diet pill for me. I thought Phentermine was the answer. It gave me more energy to exercise. It also made my heart race and my hands shake. Soon, I was unable to climb the stairs to my apartment without resting because I was so weak. I was too tired to go to class, but I was really looking good and buying new clothing styles that I had never been able to wear before. I finally had what I thought I wanted: to be thin. My grades were terrible, but I didn’t care. I was at the point that I was afraid to eat. As if one bite of chicken would render me obese.
I finally left college and became a live-in nanny for a family in New Jersey. My parents were embattled in a divorce, and I didn’t want to return to a home that was no longer there. In New Jersey, I began eating a little more and gained probably fifteen pounds. It didn’t bother me so much there, because no one I knew would see me. But when it was time to visit home, I was busting my butt at the local gym. It was harder for me this time. I began seeking out a better, quicker method to drop the weight, and I found it: Ipecac. I would go to different pharmacies, claiming to need it for my first-aid kit at home. I used it until I couldn’t stand the taste. To this day, it’s hard for me to eat pancake syrup because of the similarities in taste.
After leaving New Jersey, I moved in with my mom. We would take turns buying diet pills and laxatives. When she found approximately twenty empty laxative boxes in my drawer, she confronted me. As if I should know there was a proper amount of laxatives to take before it became abusive. So I hid it better. I no longer stored the empty packs; I rolled them in newspaper and put them in the trash. Problem solved.
I continued this self-destructive behavior for a few years and then I added alcohol to the equation. I was going out and having a great time using my slender body like it was an object I possessed but was not a part of. It was a separate part of me, as I would always be a fat girl. I had what I wanted; I was that girl in the bar everyone noticed. The compliments reassured me that whatever I was doing, I should continue.
I was never promiscuous and had only steady boyfriends. I guess I should be thankful that I didn’t sleep around to feel better about myself. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t feel sexy. After I lost the weight, I found self-criticism in other places such as my teeth not being straight enough or my breasts being small. I was on a quest for outward perfection while emotionally I was a trash heap.
I am now married to a wonderful man and three great kids. I find myself policing what my girls eat, making sure it is low-calorie and low-fat, and making sure they are active. They don’t know the difference, I keep telling myself. Deep down I am afraid that they will end up with a weight problem. Abby is five and Ashlyne is four. They have never tasted Kool-Aid or soda that wasn’t sugar-free, and they are allowed snacks of fruits or vegetables only. I pray that I am not obsessing too much too early on and that they will turn out just like their mom. Who, by the way, is overweight again and looking into bariatric surgery. But that’s another story.