In my case, though, this conviction came during graduate school, when I was fulfilling coursework, teaching as many classes as some full professors, writing a thesis, and abusing the goodwill of my dear siblings, who stepped in constantly to look after my young daughter. As I recall, I rarely slept and was ill a good deal of the time with ear infections, colds, flu, and the general malaise that accompanies exhaustion. Expressing parental guilt one day to a friend, I said, "I see my little girl only 30 minutes a day." The friend said, "That's more quality time than a lot of kids get," and I responded, "I'm not talking quality time. I literally see her 30 minutes a day, driving to and from day care." Meanwhile, I was working out with Jane Fonda, skipping breakfast and sometimes dinner, and once in an aeon (on payday) splurging on an egg-salad sandwich in the student union. I weighed 250 pounds.
I had been put on my first diet at 9 years old, after I'd spent two six-week periods in a hospital bed while some grafts healed, and I expanded (not surprising, given my Slavic ancestry) from an undernourished thinness into a moderate plumpness. My younger sister had been chubby since birth, so both of us were fed an egg at breakfast, bread and bologna at lunch, and something minuscule at dinner. At play, at rest, and in church, hunger was a scratchy, raw sensation, obscuring most other perceptions. I recall my mother saying that if I could stick to a reducing plan for three months—an eternity, I thought!—I would lose "all my weight" and be back to normal. I also recall I lost almost nothing, and eventually our money ran out anyway and we were all back to bulk-purchased noodles and wild mushrooms from the woods.
Between then and adulthood I pursued dozens of diets, both informally and under medical supervision. Regardless of the regimen, the pattern and results were the same: a brief, sudden weight drop, followed by an inching down of the scale indicator, followed by a plateau. Food is constantly on any dieter's mind, but in plateau times it becomes an obsession. A cousin of mine, who'd dieted down to 102 pounds and wanted to be an even 100, literally leapt backward one day at the sight of a carrot. Waving it off with her hands, she said, "I can't eat anything. Yesterday I had just one glass of orange juice, and today I'm 103."
"The diet production was over"