Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Previously: Shevi’s experience at the dance class was a humiliating one; she spent most of her time in the bathroom crying.

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I waited for Monday, for my scheduled appointment with the pediatric dietician, the same way people wait for the day they’ll come home to find an armed robber lurking around their house. The same way people wait for the day they’ll walk into a house with a thousand million poisonous snakes on the floor. The way people wait for… well, you get my point.

The dietician had a crazy name for her profession. Her name was Mrs. Rich. I wondered if she was the money kind of rich or the moist chocolate cake type of rich. Against my better judgment, I found myself hoping it was the latter.

There was no way I could hide out this one in the bathroom. Mommy was there, leading me into the doctor’s office like a child being led to the principal’s office. Like a person being led to the gangplank… OK, maybe I was exaggerating.

Or maybe not.

The receptionist gave us a thin smile and directed us to a small waiting area. She picked up the phone and murmured something into the receiver. Then she nodded at us. “Mrs. Rich is ready to see you. Room 3.” Mommy thanked her, and I followed her dolefully into the dietician’s office.

“Hi, Elisheva!” Mrs. Rich said with a bright smile as we entered the room. It was painted in a soothing, pastel green with accenting chairs in a brighter shade of green. Nutritional posters decorated the walls, and an entire cupboard with glass doors was bursting with samples of… food. My mouth started growing wetter as I gazed at the display, until I realized all the boxes were empty, and they all said things on them like “LOW SUGAR!” “LOW SODIUM!” “NO CHOLESTEROL!” Now ,I had no idea what sodium or cholesterol was, but suddenly I was sure that they were very desirable things to have in one’s food. And then I decided, right then and there, that I hated Mrs. Rich as much as I hated Dr. Segal and the exercise teacher.

“Shevi, someone said hello to you.” Mommy gave me a sharp jab in my shoulder. I set my jaw and stared at her.

“Sorry,” Mommy said to Mrs. Rich, and I could tell she was embarrassed of me, her rude and overweight daughter. “Shevi isn’t taking this too well.” She laughed, trying for a light tone and failing dismally.

“Well, I can understand it being a bit intimidating,” Mrs. Rich answered, looking directly at me. “No one really wants to be told that there’s something wrong with the way they’re eating.  It’s very normal to feel resentful.”

I felt a teeny bit better when she said that.

“It’s really hard to change habits,” Mrs. Rich continued, “and Shevi knows this is going to require a lot of change. That’s uncomfortable.”

I gave a slight nod of agreement. She had no idea how right she was.

Mrs. Rich invited us to take our seats. Mommy and I sat down. The seat wasn’t hard. It was more comfortable than I expected it to be. I felt myself relaxing just a little.

“But Mrs. Sanders, it’s important to understand this isn’t only about Shevi. You understand, of course, that we will be discussing important tools for a healthy lifestyle for the entire family – father, mother and any other siblings, too.”

I glanced at Mommy. She looked nonplussed.

“Yes,” Mrs. Rich continued. “You can be very grateful to your Shevi. Your entire family will benefit from these changes. You see, Shevi, Mrs. Sanders, the things that we will be learning here in this room are not only about weight loss. They’re about health. And health is equally important for every member of the family. So you can all thank Shevi for the opportunity to learn about a healthy lifestyle.”

Mommy made a face that looked somewhat like a pout. “I understand that, Mrs. Rich, but I don’t quite see what the connection is. We’re here for Shevi’s weight. She’s not at a healthy weight, you understand.”

“Yes, I understand.” I could tell Mrs. Rich was trying to smother a smile. “That’s exactly why you’re here. But based on the forms I asked you to fill out as preparation for our appointment, which I have gone over at length, I see that Shevi is not the only one in the family that needs guidance.”

“What do you mean?” Mommy asked, pursing her lips.

“I mean that we are not going to focus only on weight. We’re going to focus on a healthy lifestyle, which in turn will lead to a healthy weight. And a healthy lifestyle is critical for every person of every age. For Shevi, for her parents and for her siblings.”

All of a sudden, I felt I didn’t hate Mrs. Rich anymore. Mommy might not like her too much now, but here was someone who wasn’t singling me out. She didn’t say there was anything wrong with me. She said that our whole family will have to make adjustments.

I wouldn’t be alone.

To be continued…

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Chaya Rosen is the author of two poetry compilations, Streaming Light and Scattered Stones.