A year later the 5'5" sixth–grader was up to 220 lbs. and a size 22, limiting her back–to–school shopping trips to women's stores like Lane Bryant and prompting a doctor to classify her as morbidly obese. "I used to think of myself as a giant balloon," Brooke, now 13, says. "Always expanding."
She tried to lose the weight; in fact she had dieted most of her childhood. There was the $1,400 low–carb plan her parents enrolled her in during third grade. Then Richard Simmons's Deal–a–Meal in fourth grade and Weight Watchers in the fifth.
Her parents tried to help at home by "getting rid of all the chips, crackers and cookies," her father, Joey, says. But regardless of any success she had, the pounds always came back. "Brooke seemed to be the kind of kid who gained weight from just looking at food," says her mother, Cindy.
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But when she brought the idea to her parents, they were less enthusiastic. "I thought, 'Do we really want to put our child through this? There's going to be considerable pain.' But Brooke was determined," says Joey.