No one ever said loosing weight is easy , however when I  understood why I overate, the process was not too hard. I knew I was overweight but I thought I had time to lose when I wanted to do so. My weight had seesawed from 125 to 145 , then back to 130 , again up to 150 or so. Because my  practice as an OB/Gyn Nurse Practitioner, full time and shooting photojournalistic weddings on weekends,  was very busy, I had no idea how large I had allowed myself to become! All together I had no spare time to call my own, but I loved all of it. I just couldn’t say no to food or to all the extra duties and long hours that medicine and photography required.

When my weight hit 205 and my marriage failed, I was devastated. I had just accepted a new position as a NP in a practice about an hour away from my current home.The plan was for my husband to lease the house , pay the house payment, have the house for sale then move with me to the new town when it sold. I had an apartment and commuted on weekends and eventually bought a second home.  Little did I know he had other plans.The number of weddings booked that spring were the most ever. Exhaustion set in and I was morbidly obese!

When he finally told me he was leaving to marry a woman in Tennessee, I was shocked and distraught, I ate more, cried at night  and prayed for help and guidance  In August of 2003, I felt I had to go “home” to North Alabama. I needed to see mountains, hills valleys, clear creeks and cotton blooms. I planned to visit Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman before making my way on to Huntsville.While at the Grotto, the clerk in the gift shop asked if I had been to” Our Lady of the Angels Monastery out in the country, in Hanceville?” I replied ,”No. I haven’t heard of it, maybe I will go sometime.” She handed me a detailed map and said there is time to get there tonite if you hurry.

I made the 20 mile journey in record time,  drove on small 2 lane roads then gravel roads. Just as I decided I must be lost, out of nowhere , I see the sun setting on a huge cathedral like building, with arches and a large open brick courtyard, much like in Europe. There were no cars anywhere. I quickly parked and walked rapidly toward the huge front doors. Suddenly, I was startled by a man with kind eyes, dressed in sandals and a brown robe , belted at the waist and long loose sleeves.  In a quiet, gentle voice, He said, “I have been waiting for you. The chapel is still open. Please come again  tomorrow morning, the nuns sing  at 7AM . I think you will find their voices like angels.” Stunned by his presence and words, I said.” I plan to leave first thing in the morning, I have to go home.” He nodded and said nothing as he walked slowly away. As I entered the chapel, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and serenity that overcame me. I sat for a moment on the last row of the last pew at the end .There was a booklet in the book rack that was titled “The Healing Service.” I said another prayer and left. Somehow, I finally made it back to the motel with the help of a full moon and  thinking about the man and how  I certainly need healing for my broken heart and soul.

I was at last at  my small motel by the interstate. The old motel reminds me of the old roadside type where the car parks in front of the door and there are only a few rooms.A real cooked breakfast is included in the very low price. I was too fat or large, to fit in any swimsuit so when I checked in and saw 2 kids splashing in the pool. I thought no way, but I certainly wanted to jump in! Late evening in Alabama in August is about as close to how hot Hell must be, no breeze , very humid and you know night time doesn’t change anything.

When the children left with their parents, I hesitated about 2 minutes then went to the side of the pool and jumped in with my shorts and shirt on! It was absolutely exhilarating and refreshing. Later, I learned the water came from an ice cold spring. I crawled in bed wet hair and all, but was so tired, I quickly fell asleep and planned to be up about 8 AM , eat breakfast , then on the road.

At 5AM, I awoke from a deep sleep and sat up in bed. I was wide awake and startled. It was still dark outside, time to be sleeping….but no , I’m awake.Why? I kept wondering what was happening when I remembered what the man at the chapel said about the nuns singing at 7AM. I considered if there was any connection but dismissed it. I tried to return to sleep to no avail. I had  recurrent thought to get up, eat at 6AM when the kitchen opened and head to the chapel. I struggled with the message but couldn’t ignore it. By the time I packed, ate and was ready to go, I figured I had just enough time to arrive by 7AM.

I made it just as the first peal of the huge bell started to chime, I ran to the big doors and went inside. It was packed with the faithful. Not one place to sit that I could see. As  I started to leave I moved past one of the large columns gazing toward where I had kneeled to pray the evening before. it was  the only empty seat in the entire chapel. I could hardly breath, it was the last seat on the last row at the end! I took my seat and followed “the Healing Service”, I could barely choke back my tears as the cloistered nuns ( Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration)  sang what  was  the most  inspiring sacred music I had ever heard.

As the service ended, I looked up at the huge round stained glass window with the Dove of the Holy Spirit surrounded with golden rays of light.We stood for the closing prayer and as I looked up at the window, I  realized the sunrise was flowing through the golden window shining an amazing beam of light directly onto my face. In that moment, I knew why I was there at that time, in that pew, in that seat at a healing service. I felt the burden of the past years fade from me and felt cleansed of the  misery and unhappiness that I had endured most of my life. My soul said a thank you prayer as tears rolled down my cheeks. I was struggling not to sob and somehow managed to hold myself together until I could shed tears of letting go of grief and despair later in private.

When I left, I felt light, happy and calm. A serenity and peace filled my earthly being. The Healing Service released me from my obsessive overeating to try to make myself happy or to feel better. My road to recovery  of mindless, poor  habits was broken. I didn’t fully  realize the change in my cravings for junk and sweets until I arrived back home from my trip.

I started by eating smaller portions, drinking unsweet tea, eating an appetizer rather than a huge entree. I eliminated  anything packed in a bag like chips, no simple sugars, rice, bread, white potatoes and limited crackers to 6 per snack with one tablespoon peanut butter. I read labels and decided if the ingredients were a paragraph long, it wasn’t for me. I ate apples and fruit but no more than 2 per day,  no fruit juices or soda. I kept pecans, walnuts and unsalted dry roasted nuts  close for a small handful for snacks. Lunch was usually chicken or other lean meat, and green beans. I ate cheese, lean meats, green and yellow vegetables, spinach, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes. Eating on small plate at a designated dining area rather than dinner plates  in front of a TV helped too.I didn’t weigh everyday, I know how counter productive that can be.When my clothes began to literally be too big, I knew I was on the right track and continued my new lifestyle.

The most important part was the healing of my heart and soul and knowing that eating “treats” was harming me, mentally and physically. ( increasing the odds of cancer and heart disease)! The pounds started to shed, I never said I was on a diet. I merely made a permanent lifestyle change, increased my physical activity by going up and down stairs, parking far from the stores, doing my own housework and yard as much as possible and dancing to 2 or 3 upbeat songs in private twice daily. I am happy to say, I have  maintained the changes since 2003  and  daily give thanks  for my healing experience that gave me the courage to change.