But that initial transformation was only the beginning. Like all other people who have difficulty controlling their weight, I've been up and down the scale for most of my life, and it's only now, at the age of forty-three, that I honestly think the worst of my struggles may be behind me. (I do hope that writing that down doesn't jinx things!)
The reason for this change? For the first time in my life, I've been given the honor of feeling truly unconditional love. I'm not talking about "love" in some vague, spiritual sense. I'm talking about hot, sexy, uncompromising, passionate, emotional, terrifying, gratifying, mind-blowing human love. Love from a gorgeous man, for both what's inside me and what I look like on the outside. From the first time I went to bed with my fiancé, Christian, I realized I had never truly known what it was like to be inside myself experiencing real pleasure—the kind of pleasure that unifies the body, mind, and spirit in passion and total care for another human being. I'd always been watching myself from outside—acting out the experience of pleasure without truly feeling it.
Since the beginning of time, a woman has needed a man—in some form or another—to create human life. Even the creationists and the Darwinists have nothing to argue about on this one! In no way do I mean this to sound antifeminist, but I believe that I needed Christian's help in order to give birth to my truest, happiest self. We met each other at the wrong time in each of our lives to have a baby together, and for a while, this made me sad. But then I realized that Christian had already helped me to create a new life: my own.
If I could help women to achieve anything when it came to their bodies, it wouldn't be fitness or weight loss; it would be self-acceptance. I don't blame you if you're rolling your eyes right now: I would be too. People said it to me all my life, but I didn't really grasp the truth of the following statement until I experienced it myself: Unless you love yourself for who you are right now, you'll never become who you truly want to be. It may sound cheesy, it may sound paradoxical, but to me, it finally makes sense. Real, lasting change can't be negatively motivated; it has to be powered by positivity.
Before I met Christian, if you ever would have told me I'd agree to appear weekly on national television in skintight costumes, attempting complicated, athletic choreography in front of a live studio audience, I'd have said you were crazy.
"Never," I'd have replied.
But you know by now what I have to say about the word never: I've learned to never say it.
Chapter 1. I'll never be anything special.
I grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, a small town in Westchester County not far from Manhattan, but far enough away from the city that Manhattan always seemed like an exotic and magical place. We were the classic 1970s family of four. My father, Barry, worked as a pharmacist; my mother, Jill, was a stay-at-home mom; I was their firstborn; and my sister, Jennifer, came along just fourteen months after I did.
A few years ago, an interviewer for a parenting magazine asked me, "What's the best trick your mother ever taught you?"
"How to heat up a Hungry Man for dinner!" was my reply.
The person from whom I did get unconditional love was my father's mother, my Grandma Sylvia Lake. Doesn't the name sound as if it should belong to a famous person? It just belongs in lights: