Living Large: The Effect of Diets for Children

I was a chubby child, placed on my first diet at age six.

“No more desserts,” decreed my father, as a waitress placed an enormous hot fudge sundae before me on my birthday. I burst into tears of shame, which dripped on the whipped cream as I spooned it all up, swallowing the sweet, rich, soft forgiving ice cream.

By sixth grade, I learned to hoard my allowance for forbidden treats. I walked home from school each day (“It will help you lose weight,” my mother told me hopefully), and I passed the 7-11 store on the way. I quickly learned which aisles contained the caramels, the chocolate-frosted cupcakes with the squiggly white frosting on top and the soft white filling inside, the individual cups of ice cream, and I would buy them and stash them in my book bag.

“I have homework – I’ll do it in my room,” I would tell my mother, and she would nod as I trudged upstairs, lugging my books, my notebooks, and my stash.

“Fatty, fatty, two by four, can’t get through the bathroom door,” chanted the nasty little boys next door as I walked awkwardly back and forth to school each day.

“Hold your stomach in – you look pregnant!” taunted one of the cheerleaders as I carried my lunch bag to the cafeteria at noon. I sat at a table with the other misfits, the too-tall, too-skinny girl, the awkward bespectacled daughter of the wealthiest man in town, and the stuttering offspring of a former Miss America.

Gym classes were the most painful hour in my school life. Clothed in pink polyester dresses that my mother bought me in the Woman’s World department of JC Penny’s, I walked into the mildew-scented locker room dreading the minutes ahead.
“You know, you’ll never have a boyfriend if you don’t get skinny,” warned classmates, my grandmother, and the chirpy leader at the Weight Watchers meetings that my mother took me to.

The message was clear: Weight Watchers, gym classes, and the sacrifice of chocolate-frosted cupcakes were all required if I wanted to achieve the glory of a boyfriend.

The good news? They were wrong. Ask the average male and he’ll tell you that a curvy, Rubenesque woman who happily dives into a thick slice of chocolate cake is highly preferred to a scrawny, bony, ribs-showing woman who considers a plain green salad (“Hold the dressing”) and a glass of designer water to be the perfect dinner.

You say you’re a man struggling with your teddy bear appearance? Buddy, set aside the fat-free cottage cheese and diet soda and dig into that steak sandwich. From my mother to the college girls next door, most women prefer a man of substance to the Scarecrow.

I’m not advocating for obesity; I’m just stating the facts. The key is balance, not to attain looks-great-on-TV-and-in-the-movies-but-too-thin-in-real-life pseudo-perfection. So enjoy your food, stay at a healthy weight, and remember: You’ll find love when you learn to appreciate and accept yourself.

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