Fat Chance

Published by PaperStar (The Putnam & Grosset Group), 1996
Ages 10 and up

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Judi Liebowitz wants to be the thinnest girl in eighth grade and have a boyfriend. She’s convinced that if only she had “creamy thighs and amazing cheekbones that look like I’m always sipping through a straw,” her best friend Monica wouldn’t have stolen the boy she had a crush on. When Judi meets glamorous, thin-as-a-stick Nancy Pratt, she thinks her troubles are over. Nancy teaches Judi the secret to staying thin—purging—and Judi is thrilled she can “have her cake and eat it, too.” But soon Judi is caught up in the dangerous cycle of binging and purging, and as her eating spins out of control, so does her life. Judi’s eating disorder is no longer just another eighth grade problem—it’s a matter of life and death.

Fat Chance was awarded the Parents’ Choice Silver Medal in 1994.
It was also a Finalist for the Iowa Teen Award in 1997.

Why I wrote this book

When I was living in Colorado in 1980, a young woman I knew was struck by lightning and killed. Her parents found and read her diary, and were shocked to see all the writing in it was about her issues with food and weight, and how much she hated her body. No one knew this young woman had an eating disorder. Our society places too much emphasis on physical appearance and thinness. I wrote Fat Chance in the hopes that the young girls and women who read it would see that dieting doesn’t work, and is in fact dangerous. Instead of hating and trying to change our bodies because we don’t look like fashion models in magazines, it would be better if we could learn to love and accept ourselves just as we are.

Ode to My Hips

Look out boy
these hips are coming through!
These hips’ll knock you off your feet
if you don’t make room for them to move.
These hips sway
These hips sashay
These ain’t no size 3 1/2 slim Kate Moss
teenage boy hypocritical hips—
These hips are woman hips!
These hips are wide
These hips hypnotize
These hips fill a skirt
the way the wind fills a sail.
These hips have chutzpah,
they think they can change the whole world!
When I take these hips out
for a walk on the street
and the sun is shining
and my bones are gleaming
I place my hands on these two hips
and let them speak the truth.

“Ode to My Hips” © 1987 Lesléa Newman


Dear Diary:

I am so disgusted with myself. I weigh 129 pounds and I look like an elephant. I swear, if I wore a gray pair of pants and a gray top, they would definitely put me in the zoo.

What happened is this. I pigged out last night at the Aaronson’ house where I baby-sit. Before Mr. and Mrs. Aaronson left, they gave me like a million phone numbers in case there was an emergency, and then Mrs. Aaronson said, “Help yourself to whatever you want, Judy, you know where everything is.” I sure do, dear Diary. I really wish Mrs. Aaronson would say, “Now don’t eat us out of house and home, Judi,” or something like that. Then maybe I’d be able to behave myself. But me behave myself?

Fat chance. Everything was okay while Eric and Michelle were still up. I helped them get into their PJ’s and read them stories and made some shadow puppets on the wall for them, which they really liked. Maybe I’ll be a kindergarten teacher when I grow up—everyone says I’m good with kids. I don’t know though, that doesn’t seem too exciting.

Anyway, once Eric and Michelle were sleeping, there wasn’t all that much for me to do. I mean, I brought my homework along, but that was just too depressing, to be doing French grammar on Saturday night. I mean, Saturday night is supposed to be date night, everyone knows that. I’ll probably never get asked out on a date. I’ll probably spend every Saturday night of my entire life watching other people’s kids so they can go out and have a good time. And what am I doing while everyone’s out partying away? Eating of course…

© 1994 Lesléa Newman


“Judi’s convincing voice and true-to-life experiences add up to a compelling, thought-provoking narrative…This book should be required reading for adolescent girls.”

“A fabulous book which I recommend without reservation to people of any age who have asked themselves, ‘Why did I eat that?'”

“What Newman really gets right is the voice….the angst and the details are perfect.”