The carcass stared back.
When I saw that pile of bones, it felt like a bucket of ice water dumped on my head — bucket included. That was when the switch flipped.
Screenwriters call this awakening “the inciting incident,” the moment when the protagonist reaches a fork in the road and chooses one of two paths. That fork for me was both figurative and literal. One night for dinner I bought one of those XXL rotisserie chickens from Costco. What happened next was all reflex and muscle memory. I planted myself in front of the TV and proceeded to hack into the bird with fork and knife. Half an hour later, I looked down: Three-quarters of the chicken was gone. I had no recollection of tasting anything.
The realization came that eating had become an act with no conscious thought involved. Millions of people who struggle with their weight know this all too well. For me, being overweight my entire adult life was exacerbated by my career choice as a food writer.
For many food writers, the line separating “eating for your job” and “eating to eat” blurs. I’d go to Whole Foods and expense a $35 ribeye steak on my corporate card, then justify it as recipe development. Or I’d stop by Wendy’s and try whatever new monstrosity bacon burger on the menu, convincing myself I had to stay informed on the fast-food beat. The battle of self-control vs. human biology is a lopsided fight, especially when satiating hunger gets involved. So for the better part of 15 years — throughout jobs at the Chicago Tribune and Onion Inc. — I ate and ate, stayed fat, and shrugged it off as a job hazard.
For some reason, the Costco chicken I ripped into was the last straw. I had already considered leaving my job at The Takeout, the food site I launched for The Onion, hoping to pivot to a career in marketing (I also wanted to pursue my MBA). So in September 2019, I bid farewell to food media. But I left out one important detail: I was leaving because my relationship with food was spiraling out of control.