Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
I've been struggling with my weight since I was 22. I'm now almost 49, and ready for the battle to be over. I've lost and gained too many times to count. I've used food to relieve stress, for comfort, and to momentarily stand in for joy.
In 2001, when I was having chest palpitations, I really started to understand that too much weight is too hard on your heart. I took my own advice and made the connection: There is no true love of self if you're abusing your health.
In the past, every time I'd started a weight loss regimen, it was out of vanity. But I'm not a vain person by nature—so it was difficult to maintain a healthy weight just to stay a certain size (preferably 8).
In 1988, the nation watched while I starved myself (using a liquid diet) for four months so I could fit into a pair of jeans. I got down to 145 pounds—and stayed there for one day before the regaining began. I reached my highest weight in 1992, wobbling around at 237 pounds.
I couldn't stand to look in a mirror or look strangers in the eye—I was that disappointed in myself. So I started working out with Bob Greene, who from the beginning told me that my issues were not about weight. Weight was the symptom of a much bigger problem: my unwillingness to fully love, support, and give to myself on a daily basis what I so freely give to others.
We worked out together for a year. I lost the weight. Ran a marathon, and, give or take ten pounds, kept it off for four years. Then came my beef trial and my devastating disappointment over the box office response to Beloved. I emotionally ate my way back to around 200 pounds. That was my weight in August 2001 when I walked into my doctor's office complaining of heart palpitations. My blood pressure was 180/90. My doctor gave me a grave look and said, "You need to lose weight." "Tell me something I don't know," I thought smugly. I didn't take her advice seriously. After all, I'd been heavier and had never felt my heart racing. I'd had perfect blood pressure—110/70—for years, even at my heaviest.