Story & Photo by Lisa Anderson
Sudden loss has been an unfortunate theme in Vicki Sheerin’s life. Her mother became sick in her late thirties from an infection caused by breast implants, and three days later, she was gone. Vicki’s grandmother and grandfather grieved the loss of their daughter every day for 18 years. When her grandfather suddenly passed away from pneumonia, her grandmother willingly let herself go, and soon, she too was gone.
Reeling from the loss of her grandparents, Vicki took a vacation to Europe to relax and regroup. Upon her return, her husband’s seemingly innocent doctor’s appointment took a dramatic turn, and on November 8, 2019, the couple’s wedding anniversary, Vicki’s world came crashing down, as she learned her husband was actively dying. Two days later, she lost her husband, father of her two young children, and her best friend for over a decade.
Vicki handled every loss with emotionally-charged binge eating, except for her husband’s death. She was halfway through her 200-pound weight loss goal at the time, and before he slipped into unconsciousness, he made Vicki promise she would not give up and to stay healthy for their children.
Before the Promise
“I have been an emotional eater pretty much my entire life. My attachment with food stems from very early on–being a middle child and feeling like I never fit in anywhere.”
Vicki, like middle children portrayed in sitcoms from the early Nineties, craved validation but could never seem to find it. So, she sought comfort in food. “Over the years, my weight kept going higher and higher.”
Overweight and nearly six feet tall, Vicki was told she would always be the big girl. “I accepted that as my normal, and I hated it. I hated it so much, because I [was] missing out on so many things my older and younger sister[s] could do. So, I was always seeking validation.”
Shortly before her grandmother passed away, Vicki had experienced an extremely stressful and emotional event while visiting with her grandmother on Mother’s Day. She turned to food to find comfort, once again, and found herself eating until she became sick. It was the beginning of her wake-up call. “I saw myself in this full-length mirror, and I had this flash of ‘if I don’t do something now, I’m looking at the end of my life.’ It scared the shit out of me,” Vicki recalls.
The Rabbit Hole
While working at chiropractic offices, Vicki would coach people on weight loss using methods that had been slightly successful for herself, but ultimately, weren’t sustainable. She decided to research the ketogenic diet more thoroughly. After falling down the YouTube rabbit hole, Vicki came across a testimonial on intermittent fasting. “Most people’s initial reaction is that you’re starving yourself,” says Vicki, but one video led to another, and soon, she became highly motivated.
“I did what’s called a 16:8 method for two weeks. I didn’t change anything I was eating, but obviously not binging on the foods I was eating.”
Before this, Vicki had been eating nearly all day and felt constraining her eating times was a good way to begin the journey. “In two weeks, I went down 20 pounds like it was nothing. I got such a fire lit under my butt. I just wanted to continue to learn more.”
She did just that and continued to tweak and try varying fasting times—from 20:4 to 24 hours or more. “It was something I looked forward to every single day.”
Being in the Moment
The events in the weeks leading up to her husband’s death could make anyone return to unhealthy habits—seeking comfort wherever you could find it–but this time, Vicki chose to stay in the moment. After her husband’s terminal diagnosis of an infection in the heart, they had a conversation that would keep Vicki on a healthy path through her grief. “I don’t even know how we had the frame of mind to have that awareness to tell me to not let myself go. Not to willingly pass like [my husband had seen] and experienced with me when my grandmother let go after my grandfather [had passed].”
Vicki chose to fast instead of binging on food. “I was able to be emotionally present more than previous deaths or losses that I had experienced. What I have learned is that we can control how we react to these external life circumstances.”
In the summer of 2020, she met her 200-pound weight loss goal and has maintained it for over a year. She’s not obsessed with numbers from the scale; she’s never counted calories or obsessively worked out. She’s done some keto-style eating, but she’s not overly consistent, as she enjoys bread and French fries. She keeps herself at a healthy BMI, looks forward to her fasting schedule, and is completely comfortable in her body. “I’ve got the curves I want. I’ve got the body that I’ve always wanted and thought I could never get,” she says with a smile and satisfaction in her voice.