Three years ago, I reached a major turning point in my weight journey. I sat by my dad’s hospital bed almost certain he would die. He is an alcoholic and he nearly drank himself to death.
I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria about to eat a huge piece of carrot cake. I was ready for a mind-numbing eating episode. I had been doing that sort of thing since I was 16, but had never noticed the correlation between pain and food.
I was brooding over the calories in the cake, what I had eaten the day before, and how fat I was that week. I felt sickly excited that this crisis gave me permission to eat the evil stuff. Then I paused with cake grease still in my fingers, and the bleak hospital setting snapped into focus.
I thought, I’m worrying about calories while my dad is in the next room dying.
But what I can see now is that I wasn’t selfish. I was suffering just like Dad. He was addicted to alcohol and I was addicted to diets, food, starvation, running, body hate, body shame, and everything in-between.
I'm thrilled to say that my dad is here and better than ever. I'm proud of him. I have deep respect for those people fighting addiction. It ravages families and has a long and uncertain prognosis.
Once I started to view my own fight with food in that way, I felt more loved and human.
When he recovered, I did too. I didn’t stop eating cake and having tornado-style eating episodes immediately, but that even set in motion a total life change. I lost 40 pounds, I broke off a relationship and found new love, I created a new career.
Today I feel free and in control. I like myself. I allow myself to shop for cute clothes. I eat cake without a frenzy in my mind.
Why did getting scared help me lose weight? Because it gave me clarity. Life is precious. My body is a hell of a lot more than a jeans size.
Luckily you don’t need to have a loved one in the hospital to experience clarity. You just need an imagination. So here’s what you need to do:
Sit in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Think about the people you love most in the world. You could pick just one person. Now, think about him or her fighting life. Think about that person getting weak and physically fading. If you can, really take in that feeling.
That brief trip to tragedy didn’t feel good at all right? But, did it give you an idea of what’s important and what’s bullshit? When I think about my dad in that hospital bed, I am always jolted with a Jesus-life-is-precious feeling. It is a gratitude injection every time. And I feel blessed now, to have that perspective.
And once you have that clarity and gratitude ... the brownie is easier to put down. The obsession over your stomach goes away, even for a bit. It’s a quick tool that you can use when you’re deep in shame, body hate and all the noise.
Gratitude can be the gut feeling that gives you super-human strength to resist the things that are bad for you. Remembering the colossal love you have for your parents, nieces, nephews is adrenaline for your heart.