On April 11, in 1998, Holy Saturday the eve before Easter, my Mom had a massive stroke. My life has never been the same. She lived on four more years paralyzed until she passed away on February 7, 2002.

Time does go on, I’ve learned.

This past Sunday Easter morning I walked my dog Sage, and of course without fail my mind wandered, as I recalled the night I got the call from dad that mom had a stroke, but quickly I was distracted by loud commotion. A small child bellowed, “It’s mine!”  Looking his way, evidence of melted chocolate oozed down his lower lip dribbling to his chin. His frantic Mom seized the chocolate earless bunny, which brought on the rage, in her attempt to salvage his Easter outfit.

This scene was all too familiar, with the exception it was this little boy rather than me, a grown woman stuffing chocolate into my mouth as fast as I could—and don’t anybody dare try and take it away from me. Back in my eating frenzy days I was like a wild animal gnarling and hissing to protect my goods. As I marched on past the little teary eyed boy, personal memories continued to flood my thoughts as I replayed chocolate binge eating often brought on Easter morning with baskets of available goodies.  

Today, for me, times have changed. Easter this year fell on April 8 and I moved through it like it was any other day with food—I honored it as a holy day filled with grace and serenity. Before mom’s stroke, we spent every Easter together on the west coast at our family-owned beach home, with my then young son Benjamin, where I feasted on anything and everything I could get my hands on to eat.

Yes, I recall all the good times and the not so good times as I walked on.

I fought excessive weight and binge eating most of my life from adolescence to well into my thirties. At times I was a hundred pounds over my “normal” weight. Up and down I went. I think it was my Mom’s weight that prompted me to focus on my own health and weight. I believe her obesity shortened her life. I believe today I understand weight and eating disorders as a result of my Mom’s life and my genetic line. I also understand we don’t have to take our gene pool as the written law.
We can change it!

As a result of my compulsive eating, it was inevitable I’d be at risk of severe obesity, which put me at a greater risk of obesity-related problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and possible colon cancer—with the enormous amounts of foods passing through my digestive tract, not intended to process at such a drastic rate. As I neared 235 pounds on my five-foot, six-inch frame, I knew I was in deep trouble in every respect.

I learned for me I could make choices and live my life in a healthier manner, or…I could struggle forever. I decided to change my thinking. I believe in the power of the mind. I believe we can be anything we want to be. I decided to put my energy into learning about the subconscious mind and made a shift. I found hypnosis and my connection to a Higher Energy great tools to assist with the changing of the mind and ultimate change with my relationship with food; hence the weight corrected.

I began my self-healing through changing my thought pattern stating, “I am thin” as opposed to “I’m fat” and began to visualize and imagine a thin me—to “be” thin and ultimately act thin which opened and connected me to my Divine Source with miraculous results. My food choices slowly changed and sugar, flour, and wheat were eliminated. It was a slow process of progress not perfection. In time, slowly and steadily, my weight corrected, cravings disappeared, and I became quite happy living my best life.

Today, my weight ranges between 136 and 140 pounds. I went from dire obesity to a weight considered normal for my height. My motivation for earning a master’s in mental health and a PhD in addictions was to work with the eating disordered–to bring help and hope through hypnosis and psychotherapy to the many who fight this insidious disease every breathing moment of their lives.

While I worked on the initial gathering and digestion of information for my dissertation—and ultimately, In God’s Hand: Release the Obsession with Food, I took several long weekend retreats in the little sleepy town of Madeira Beach, Florida and stayed at my family beach house—the very same house I shared many Easters with mom—filled with childhood memories of losses and new beginnings, tears and laughter, binges and diets. I took long walks along the seashore, steeped in self-reflection over what I’d discovered from my research and from re-reading personal accounts of the various stages of my eating disorder, both in full bloom and in recovery.

On this anniversary week of my Mom’s massive stroke, I think about what if Mom would have caught the blessing I did, and she ate clean and healthy. Would she be here today? Who knows! I know I can’t go back and do the “what ifs,” but I can live in the now and learn from her mistakes and spread the news there is recovery for all.

My own spirituality and recovery from addictive eating has enhanced new ways of accepting my life of living in my world and of understanding that this is my life—living vigilant, ever awake and alert, abstaining from trigger foods, in constant search of spiritual growth.


Photos taken by: Lisa Ortigara Crego

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