Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and I was eating my way through them. By 2001 my marriage to Eddie Van Halen was over after more than twenty years of competing with his rock-and-roll lifestyle for attention. Our fights about his drinking had taken a toll. Discussing and solving our problems used to bring us closer, but now it wore us out. Ultimately, when he failed to help himself by giving up cigarettes after mouth cancer had threatened his life, I knew, sadly, that one way or another I was going to end up on my own.
By then I was working and living in Utah eight months of the year. Full of anger and frustration, I spent at least three nights a week on a plane so I could see our ten-year-old son, Wolfie, who stayed home in Los Angeles to be in school with his friends. That wasn't the way I wanted to live or the type of person I wanted to be. But instead of helping myself, I did the opposite. I ate my misery and turned my misery into a reason for eating.
Overweight, alone, and horribly depressed, I kept eating poppers and everything else in my path. After Touched went off the air, I returned home and became a hermit. I hid from the world, hoping no one would see that I'd gotten fat. In reality, I was hiding from the one person who could help solve my problems: me.
That was hard to believe. Over the years, I'd tried every diet on the bookshelves—from the grapefruit diet, to Weight Watchers, to the lemon juice and cayenne pepper fast—and all of them had worked as long as I stayed on them. But once I stopped, the weight came right back, and, unfortunately with a little extra. While I hate to admit it, I was on the verge of giving up and accepting that I was never going to look the way I wanted to—or feel the way I wanted to either.
I used to say half-jokingly that I was going to give up, move to the mountains, and be the quirky old fat lady down the street with forty-some-odd cats.
I'm glad I didn't. Instead I ended up outing myself on the cover of the April 4, 2007, issue of People magazine by declaring, "I know what you're thinking—I'm fat." Publicly, it was the start of a diet where the stakes were total humiliation and embarrassment if I failed to reach my goal. Privately, it was, as my fellow Jenny Craiger Kirstie Alley promised, not just a diet but really the start of a journey. She was right.