O besity is in my genes. My grandmother was liberated from Auschwitz weighing 140 pounds — twice what other people weighed. My entire family is heavy. We like food. My sisters and I are always exchanging recipes and talking about what we’re making for Shabbos. Every occasion — Shabbos, Yom Tov, a siyum, a birthday party — is invariably celebrated with lots of good food.

Yet at the same time, because weight is a chronic problem in my family, I’ve always felt pressure to eat less and lose weight. At eight years old, I was ushered, bewildered, into Weight Watchers. At 11, my mother took me a psychologist to fix my dangerous relationship with food. I detested having to go to a shrink, and after the first session I refused to go back.

For lunch in school, I brought whole-wheat tuna sandwiches from home, while my friends munched on the school kitchen’s calorie-laden macaroni and cheese. To get even, I raided the freezer and pantry behind my parents’ backs, stuffing my face with rugelach and cookies.

When I was still in elementary school, well-meaning relatives clucked about how I could possibly get married if I was so fat. “You have a beautiful face, Nechama,” they would tell me. “When is the rest of you going to match it?”

What they were saying, basically, was that no one could ever love me because I was fat. I can’t even begin to describe how painful that was. And that was before I even hit my teens.

In general, however, my home was permeated with simchah. My parents went to great lengths to make Yom Tov special for us — and not just with nosh, although there was plenty of that — and to take us on fun family trips. Although weight was a huge issue in my family, my parents, siblings, and I were also blessed with great personalities and a roaring sense of humor. In school, I was the stereotypical fat class clown, but I was genuinely popular and had tons of friends.

It was in high school that I developed the maturity to realize that I had to take responsibility for my weight. I hated being the girl in the biggest-size uniform skirt who waddled through the halls while my thinner friends sailed past me. I began waking up at six in the morning to work out with exercise videos, and at night I went for brisk walks through a local golf course.

While in seminary in Eretz Yisrael, I decided to surprise my parents by returning home thin. I didn’t go home for Pesach, and since there were no cell phones or digital photos in those days, my family didn’t see me from September through June. I lost 60 pounds that year, going down from a size 24 to a size 14. I gave away all my clothing in Eretz Yisrael, bringing just one outfit home with me. For the first time in my life, I was eager to go shopping for clothes.

When I stepped off the plane, my parents almost fainted. “You finally match your beautiful face,” people in my family crowed. I had arrived.

I got married shortly afterwards, moved to Yerushalayim, and had three babies in quick succession. I did not gain any weight during pregnancy; I actually lost weight each time, because I was terribly nauseous and sick. After I gave birth, however, my appetite returned with a vengeance. After nine months of near-starvation, I was like a bear coming out of hibernation.

I didn’t feel the weight coming on; it crept up on me slowly, until I didn’t fit into any of my clothes. Busy as I was juggling three kids and two teaching jobs, who had time for exercising or planning nutritious meals? Cutting up a salad and eating it took a lot longer than downing a can of Pringles. We were living on a shoestring budget, too, and fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were not exactly cost-effective.

Weight was a big issue among my friends at this point, because even the ones who used to be thin were struggling to keep the weight off as they had babies and spent hours every day in the kitchen. Once, I was sitting in the park with a few friends and one of them commented, “You know, I’m the fattest one here.”

I felt my face turning hot. Did she not realize that I was sitting on the same bench as her? She had 30 pounds to lose; I had well over a hundred.

Any time the topic of weight came up when I was around, I wanted to bury myself. I remember sitting at a family simchah with some of my thinner cousins when the topic turned to dieting. I couldn’t get up and leave, but at some point I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I started crying. “How can you talk about this when I’m here?” I asked them.

After my third child, something strange happened. All the young families around me were continuing to have kids, but I was stuck. When my baby was three, I went to see a doctor, who diagnosed me with secondary infertility. “It’s because you’re so heavy,” he said bluntly. “And we can’t give you any type of treatment until you lose weight.”