I come from a dysfunctional, Italian family. My sister was the firstborn and the princess. My brother was the only son and was God. I was the middle child — the ugly duckling — with funny teeth we didn’t have money to fix, sexually assaulted by a stranger at age nine and always goofed on by my older sister and younger brother. Both siblings will admit that my mother had favorites and I was not one of them.

My mother never hugged or kissed me. My dad was away in the service. Eating was the only thing under my control and the only stress relief I had. I was dragged to every weight-loss program from the age of 11, including one that sent you home with a wooden pig when you gained weight. I was sexually active at a young age, looking for love and affection wherever I could find it.

Finally, my parents are gone. After years of therapy, I am finally rid of my demons. I have gone from 322 pounds to 172 pounds. I understand the dynamics that set my mother up, taught my siblings and created my negative behaviors.

I thank God for the healthy time I had with my children, now grown, and that all was not negative.

I have retired from being a registered nurse. It is now my husband and my American Staffordshire dog “Harvey,” that walk with me every day. My most comfortable places are in the Caribbean or Jamaica when my husband and I travel.

It is most important for me to have a higher power and know why I eat.