From Lazarus to Leia: My Year of Losing 100lbs of Cargo…
Posted on January 30, 2017
This is dedicated to anyone who is battling their weight, the heartbroken and the perpetual New Year’s “resolutioner”… those who began the year with a resolution to finally lose the weight or achieve a life goal and after one month into 2017 are ready to dock your ship in a port of no fucking results. This is your official order to get back on and sail that bitch back out to sea. Right now. I was you… I too carried more hope in that damn ball in Times Square every New Year’s Eve for as long as I can remember. The hope to change in a new year…to transform to a healthier version of me. ..and by the end of all those January’s up until the first or 3 plates of wings at a Superbowl bash…I… WOULD…. FAIL…but…Last year… last year I did something miraculous. I held onto my last rope of hope in my heart and pulled my ship in. I’m sharing this saga because I was that person… who NEVER ever thought they could attain a goal like this. EVER. I need everyone who struggles with weight and depression to know that it is possible. You can do this. I did.
When I began this journey last January I was 283 pounds… 40 years old and MISERABLE. I was the queen of procrastination, excuses and I was addicted to eating my stress and grief away. I barely moved. I hadn’t “exercised” since my guidette years in the early 199o’s and danced to Freestyle music in my fitted black Z. Cavaricci pants.
I won this battle and I’m really proud of myself. Something I never dreamed of gaining out of this experience. Being PROUD of myself. After a lifetime of self-doubt. Proud. First time for everything right?
While I knew the year would be a MAJOR year of transformation for me, I never imagined that it would also be the year that iconic performers and artists of my childhood would no longer exist by the time that giant crystal ball began its next descent. This ever present death parade would only further my determination to live this life. Not just exist in it. So, in essence, those same icons I grew up listening to and watching… inspired me in their deaths during the most self-developing journey of my entire life. For that, I am grateful to them. I am indebted to them. When I decided to “take over my ship” David Bowie had just passed away … and the last day I weighed myself after a year of learning what “beast mode” in the gym actually means and feels like…(resembling a Nick Nolte mugshot photo along the way) we lost the first female icon my earliest memories of playing pretend are preserved in …. Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan…aka General Leia Organa aka one of my all time favorite writer’s most of all… Carrie Fisher. The day she died I had reached a weight loss of over 120lbs. Although she never knew me…I know she would be proud of that little girl who once wrapped herself in her Mother’s good white curtains from Bambergers and jumped from couch to coffee table pretending to be that badass royal princess …slaying and fighting and battling… still. She was my Obi Wan Kenobi.
I was frozen with heartache as her own mother passed the next day… and all I could do was reflect on the similar titanium love bond I had with my own gorgeous beloved Mother who by the way looked as glamorous and glitzy as Debbie Reynolds ever did.
The Bereavement Buffet: A History of My Grief Eating Addiction….
I had always battled my weight as a kid… always the chubby tap dancer at the recital. My family ran legendary bread bakeries and restaurants over the years, so my exposure to awesome food began at birth…and the bad eating habits snowballed from there..until… my eating addiction went into full force in January of 1996 when my Mom passed due to a four year battle with Coronary Artery Disease, Type 2 Diabetes after a lifetime of stress and hardships that she endured like a warrior. She was only 51. At 20 years old, my world was shaken, stirred and devoured… and then… the food came. Deliveries arrived with those overflowing shrink wrapped sausage and cheese gift baskets filled with globs of sodium and sugar infused treats in shiny ugly wrapping. It was like a buffet of bereavement at our doorstop. My Dad was a waterfront hiring boss so we would get at minimum three baskets a day for a week from fellow delegates and teamsters. Non-stop. They were the equivalent of crack cocaine for me. Our neighbor brought a tray of baked ziti that I sat and ate with a fork in my room in the middle of the night before the funeral through crying fits. An entire tray of baked ziti. GONE. It was full steam ahead on the “ship of gluttony” to suppress a raging case of a broken, grief stricken heart. By April of 1996 I had gained over 60 pounds and weighed 201 pounds. I would hover over the 200lb mark for the next twenty years. I would also be a walking testament to every failed diet scam on the market. I’ve tried them all. There was even a time I jumped on the Phen/Fen train as well… and took those pills determined not to be an overweight bride on my wedding day. I managed to lose 70 pounds (and not get a heart valve issue that those pills were known for) … Then, on our honeymoon I gained 20 pounds in two weeks because I simply refused to accept that my Mom wasn’t alive to be at my wedding or any part of my future. I couldn’t shake her absence so I decided on room service…and so the eating continued…
The year after we were married, my already dysfunctional relationship with my Dad took an bizarre and twisted turn. After an investigation in organized crime and racketeering in North Jersey led to a separate case against him that ended in a murder trial that would rival even the most outrageous court scenes in any film. It was a surreal, devastating, strangely comedic and emotionally torturing circus ride all at once. To follow that, months after he had been incarcerated, he was diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer. My older sister and I had only a short time to rally together and forgive him for some heavy trauma he caused us over the years as he was dying in a state prison. How did I deal with this? I ATE. Late night binge eating became my Prozac…my personal prescription for keeping this trauma at bay.
I managed to have a healthy pregnancy in 2000 while gaining another 40 pounds and by the grace of God gave birth to a healthy 9lb baby girl without complications. I still cannot fathom how I didn’t have gestational diabetes. Blessed with a healthy daughter began to heal my heart but at the same time, being a mom without a mom absolutely SUCKS. Being a new Mom with your Dad also dying in a prison …well… that sucks even more. A girl wants her Mom when she’s a Mom. It’s a brutal and bittersweet truth. Ask any motherless new mom. It simply sucks. There is no eloquent way to say it. It blows. In the months following my Dad came to the end of his life only able to see a photo of his new granddaughter instead of holding her. When he passed the loss catapulted me into a month long binge fest. It was another bereavement buffet. The crushing reality that my parents would never know my children was one of the most disastrous heartstorms I would sail against. It cracked my spirit into an abyss. I continued to eat right through it.
Six years later I would go on to help my husband battle and beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2006 while pregnant with our son. Six months of chemotherapy with him while we anticipated the birth of our second child AND raised our six year old daughter despite weekly visits to the cancer center. It was another circus ride for us. That was ten years ago. He remains a cancer survivor and I am in awe of him every single day. My greatest strength in every storm has been my husband Gary. He is my tugboat. He has pulled me and pushed me when I couldn’t move myself. Looking back on that battle now, I realize that I was strong enough to be his tugboat too. Despite my own depression and anxiety. We conquered it.
So. By now you’re probably saying “ok… that is a ridiculous amount of hardships ..WTF does this have to do with losing weight????” ……Everything. In these past twenty years I ate my way to 283 pounds to COPE with all of this hell. Why am I sharing this raw account of all this emotional eating baggage? Because I need people who struggle with their weight and have had deep emotional traumas to see that they can survive. That they can do this. Because I was missing life. I was removing myself from it. I was sabotaging myself…and I was in denial of it. From my sister to my aunts to my mother in law to my closest friends…. they all tried to help. FOR YEARS. All the love my amazing husband gave to me and my children…couldn’t crack this behavior…. I suffered from extreme depression. Physically I was shot. Barely able to breath while talking and walking at the same time. Pain? Everything hurt. ALL THE TIME. The only thing that hurt worse was knowing that my living this way would no doubt shorten my life. My kids and my husband, the three people I live for and who have healed my heart in every way would go on without me. It was a reality that I was ready to face. The fact that I’ve lived these 20 years obese and have had no diagnosed medical issues yet was a pure MIRACLE. Heart disease is so embedded in my Mom’s family that it’s like a relative. A mean, nasty, greedy relative. My Mom passed at the age of 51, her Dad was only 49 when he passed of a heart attack and her eldest brother also passed in his early 50’s from heart disease. I was literally playing a death game with this heart gene….. AND THEN IT HAPPENED……
The week before the 20 year anniversary of my Mom’s death everything finally changed. When suddenly, I viewed for the first time David Bowie’s “Lazarus” video. It was the most haunting and electrifying video I had ever seen. I’m an 80’s kid, raised on MTV. Bowie videos are like gold. So as I’m watching him, his movements, rushing through the final moments of his life and casting out his final creative treasures before his death…a death he was ready for..the lyrics to his song…”Look up here, I’m in Heaven…I’ve got scars that can’t be seen…I’ve got drama can’t be stolen” ….these words scared me to my core. I still search for the reason why this was my epiphany but … It hit me. If I continue on this path of self-destruction, I won’t be here. Anymore. I will be a remembered loved one at family functions and holidays. My kids will mourn and suffer the loss of parent gone too soon same as me. That book I’ve been writing and re-writing for what seems to be forever will never be known because I’m too exhausted with depression to forge through my final edit. One I’ve been trying to master for over nine fucking years. My husband, the love of my life who literally saved me at the darkest times of my life will be alone to raise our kids while continuing his own journey to remain cancer free. Without me. WITHOUT ME.
The same week that I saw the Lazarus video, I encountered several people in my life who approached me about my obsessing over my Mom’s 20 year death anniversary. They were instrumental in helping me evaluate my grief laden identity. THEN..as if my Mom herself was sending messages through loved ones, I was approached by my cousin who was my Mom’s Goddaughter whose daughter is also my Goddaughter. Full circle. She broke down sharing her concern for my well-being and reminded me of how heartbroken she was when her Godmother died. She didn’t want her daughter to experience that loss. She got into my head and introduced me to renowned trainer, John Wardell, Owner of Body Chemistry Fitness in Norwood, NJ. I met with John and his team and was honest about how I got to 283 pounds and asked for their help. I left all my excuses at home, I only brought a sense of commitment and determination to lose 100lbs without surgery. I chose to follow John’s guidance and wisdom without question. I was scared beyond words. Food was my drug. I’m Irish and Italian and potatoes and pasta were my main “dealers”. I would eat French fries as if my life depended on it. I said goodbye to them that day …And so my journey began on January 16th 2016 at 40 years old. The irony for me was surreal, on that same day, twenty years earlier I buried my mom in the remnants of the great blizzard of ’96. The blizzard of Birthday and Sorrow as call it. My Mom passed on my Dad’s birthday. It was a haunting date. The grace in this theory as I write this is my own revelation that I know she is finally at peace now BECAUSE I am at peace NOW. Finally. Never imagined that twenty years later I would reinvent myself and I have never looked back since. I follow the Evolution Program created by John ….and I’ve Evolved… It is a lifestyle program of healthy eating, weight training and guidance that has provided me the tools I needed. It took me at least three months to overcome the behavior of eating while stressed with walking instead. I’m allowed one cheat meal per week. That cheat meal is the key. I OWN that cheat meal (usually Ramen and Sushi because I love them lol)… a big contrast to the late night, couch and tv binge eating meals I used to depend on to deal with stress and depression and GRIEF. I’ve lost over 120 pounds so far. I move around without gasping for air. I have a new found love of BOXING … I have energy and can sit in seats without spilling over the arm rests. I don’t bump into things. I can BREATH. I went from a size 28 to a size 12. I fit in a size medium. I haven’t seen a size medium since I was seven years old. CRAZY. I feel like I’m living and not just existing. I’ve made my family proud and secure in the knowledge that I’ve extended my life. The depression I’ve once suffered from has been replaced with a new found strength in making new memories with my family and friends, writing and working out. I’ve developed my own discipline and focus that has driven my ship into a better horizon. I’ve inspired others and helped them to begin their own journey. I’m privileged to be able to say that. Never dreamed of inspiring others. I hope to continue to inspire people and make them laugh along the way with this blog. Now stop wasting time…get back on your ship …OWN YOUR SHIP……….SAVE YOUR SHIP….we only have one life…. revamp your resolutions and goals .. and make this your year…. Anchors Aweigh!!!