(Editor’s Note: This personal story was shared with us by Dave Ficks, Ph.D., M.Ed., Associate Coordinator of Testing Services at Boise State University. Dave describes himself as a food hobbyist: “I love to grow it, cook it, and most of all, eat it!”)
It was September of 2009. It was all I could do to summon the physical energy to get out of my car after a troubling medical appointment. The doctor had recommended a tonsillectomy and plastic surgery to widen my throat to treat sleep apnea. He warned me that it would be a painful process and recovery.
I felt discouraged and started to wonder if my days on this planet were numbered. I went inside and turned on my computer (I was always on my computer). When the Yahoo home page came up, I saw a link to an article about eating what I love and feeling “vibrant” by Michelle May, M.D.
I didn’t always eat food I loved, but I sure ate a lot of food. And I ate it all the time, whether I was hungry or not. And vibrant? What would that be like? I was 39 years old and had three different jobs since misguidedly leaving a perfectly good job at Boise State University to start a web design business. At 5 foot 6 and over 250 pounds, I hadn’t weighed less than 225 pounds in fifteen years. I felt achy, lethargic, and old – waaaaay too old. The last thing I felt (ever!) was vibrant. Skeptical, I clicked the link and started reading.
Right away I could see that this mindful eating concept was something entirely new and different from anything I had heard before. I finished the article then ordered her book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.
My personal journey that year was intense, and not without its false starts and challenges. This program didn’t require will power but in some ways it was harder because I needed to figure out and act on the real reasons I was eating when I wasn’t hungry. Some of the problems and solutions I discovered were simple in hindsight, but besides eating to cope with every stressor in my life, I realized that I was lonely. For years I had spent all my time on the computer (while eating) and spent very little time with my wife or my daughters.
Now, instead of spending all my time on the computer, I love being outdoors and active with my family. I can only imagine what it was like for my wife! After 14 years of going to bed by herself, suddenly her loudly snoring husband was back! Fortunately she adapted, and thankfully, the snoring eventually went away. I lost 75 pounds and I didn’t need the surgeries after all since the sleep apnea was gone. At my last physical, my doctor told me that I had the heart stamina of a person half my age. I remember thinking, “Can I really maintain this?”
But this story does not end there.
Although I didn’t expect it, the mindful, non-judgmental approach to food served me well in other areas of my life. The next four years were more challenging than anything I had ever experienced. I tried and failed to start two small businesses, lost two jobs, and had the financial issues that go with all that.
Everyone goes through professional and personal challenges in their life; it’s part of the learning process. It’s how we deal with those challenges that is the true test. Dealing with challenges by eating was no longer one of my coping strategies. I enjoyed eating the foods I loved without succumbing to a cycle of overeating. In fact, I actually ate really well, even during my toughest times. I think that eating mindfully was one of the only things that kept me from becoming overwhelmed by anxiety or depression. I realized that although I was not in control of the things that were happening, I was in charge of how I responded to them (thank you, chapter 1!). (Editor’s note: Download chapter 1 free.)
My run of bad luck finally ended in November 2013. I was rehired by Boise State University. This is a long overdue step on my career path and I have been working very hard to get my financial life in order. I am finding that I have more time to be active and to live even more vibrantly and intentionally! Things are definitely on the upswing for me. There may be even tougher challenges again; after all, that is life. But I know I have the tools to manage it.
Another four years has passed and thankfully, maintaining a mindful approach to eating great food feels good. Like any other human, I like doing things that feel good!
I still marvel at how so much could have gone so wrong for these last five years, yet the one thing I had struggled with the most throughout my adult life has not been a source of stress at all since I began eating mindfully! It is truly one of the most amazing gifts I ever have been given. Thank you Michelle May for teaching me how to do this, and in the process, helping me get through five years of personal and professional challenges. I am prepared to eat what I love and love what I eat through all of the challenges and adventures to come!