Nancy Motes: Learning Lessons From a Tragedy

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • If you read the first installment of When conquering obesity leads to eating disorder or even death, you know that an attempt to lose excess weight can often result in disordered eating, or even more worrisome health consequences.


    Julia Roberts' half-sister, Nancy Motes, has struggled with weight.  From what I can tell, the 37-year-old battled excess weight for most of her life.  She may have also had an ongoing struggle with prescription  drugs, and she may have progressed to the use of illicit drugs.  She recently made headlines when her body was found by her fiancé.  Authorities were initially investigating the theory that it was either a suicide or an accidental overdose.  In the past few days, a five-page suicide note was found.  She had clearly struggled in her relationships with her half-sister, Julia Roberts, and Nancy recently tweeted out some very vitriolic messages with regards to their "nonexistent relationship" (her words) and the supposed weight judgment and teasing that she (Nancy) had endured (by Julia).  In one of her tweets it’s clear that she craves a family that doesn’t judge her, that forgives mistakes, and one that “loves me for who I am.” 

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    Nancy Motes may have actually suffered from self-loathing and some mental disturbances, and she seems to have placed blame on everyone except herself. Her eating may have instigated some of these feelings, or they could have been a symptom of her internal battles.  


    It can be difficult to have any meaningful clarity when you are in the throes of an eating disorder or when your judgement is clouded by drugs.   Many times, family members want what’s best for you, and they don’t express love clearly in their communications; sometimes family relationships can be challenged by individuals struggling with such deep issues surrounding their weight – which is a clear outward sign of those struggles – that they are forced to distance themselves, for the sake of their own self-preservation and mental health. 


    I don’t know the full story here.  I do know that Nancy Mores did have bariatric surgery, had finally lost a significant amount of weight, but appeared (through tweets and other statements) to still be a very angry, frustrated, and confused woman.  Maybe marrying her fiancée and a new role as a wife would have helped her to achieve a certain level of self-love that could have provided the inner peace she craved.  Or maybe, the many issues fueling her weight struggles would have continued to be demons, offering a never-ending emotional roller coaster in her life.  Not a good recipe for sustained weight loss and better family relationships.  


    I don’t know why some people who conquer weight are able to strategize and navigate the necessary boundaries required to keep the weight off, long term, without developing "issues with food."  In some cases, I have clients (who have lost over 100 pounds) who lock their kitchen cabinets and padlock their refrigerator, because they know they cannot hold back from night eating, unless there are physical barriers.  That may sound crazy to the average dieter, but it works for them.  And if their families endorse it and support it, then why is it any more bizarre than breaking friendships with drug addicts, when you decide to go drug-free?  Or deciding you can’t handle the bar scene if you join AA?  Those are just more acceptable boundaries for most of us.  At the same time, I can tell you that some big losers (as in weight loss) end up living their life, thinking about food from minute to minute, 24 hours a day, and having the food fight consume their lives.  Or they can become obsessive exercisers, working out constantly trying to "catch up" to their eating habits.  That kind of disturbed existence can interfere with fully living life and enjoying life and it can also get in the way of normal social relationships.  It can also ultimately lead to a full-blown eating disorder. 


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    Finding the pathway that lets you keep weight off without it diminishing or encroaching on daily life is a huge challenge.  It can require seeking therapy, short term or long term, to help you achieve balance.  Can you be a loser without losing the pleasures of life?  That’s is the ultimate question in weight loss.


    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience.  Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts.  Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch?  Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at










Published On: February 14, 2014