“Mr. Daniels, with all due respect, it looks like you do not want to be here. So, why are you here? You’re free to go at any time. But If you want me to help you, then be here!”
As so began my first medical visit with Dr. de Mello. I had been brought to him by a friend who knew that I was, once again, on my self-destructive hamster wheel. I was more than 60 pounds overweight, had a recent heart attack, my blood pressure and cholesterol were sky-high, my diet was horrendously bad, and my gut was a mess. I was bloated, fatigued, and my brain was foggy. I was on the verge of becoming diabetic. Death was knocking at my door.
I told Dr. de Mello that I had grown up in a New York City housing project where gun violence and drug deaths were an everyday occurrence. He lovingly – yet decisively – looked me in the eye and said: “You have dodged many bullets in your life and managed to survive, Mr. Daniels. You are a Hollywood Icon, an Oscar-nominated director, and the father of two beautiful adult children, correct?”
“Yes, Dr. D,” I replied.
“So, Mr. Daniels, why do you keep dodging more and more bullets in your life, as if playing Russian roulette ? Do you have a death wish?”
How dare he, I thought! Who is this man who can see right through me? Although Dr. de Mello’s office was the last place I wanted to be, I told myself to stick with it. After all, no other doctor before him had confronted me so firmly about my stuff – my death-wish and my struggles with accepting love while running my health to the ground. He was right. As a Black man in America, the saddest thing is that I was doing to myself what the world expects of me: self-destructing by slowly killing myself. How could I continue to be the role model to African-American men if I do not look at myself in the mirror and say to myself, ” You can do better than this, Lee.”
My journey with Dr. de Mello has been like no other. By following his Gut heath and the RESET Program protocols, I’ve lost 50 pounds and counting, and committed to my sobriety like never before. I started “listening” to my body. My “firstborn child,” as he puts it. Meaning, I am the one who takes care of my body’s needs, feeds it, clothes it, and puts it to bed. “Mr. Daniels,” Dr. de Mello pressed on, “is it correct to say that you treat your children way better than your body?” He was right again. I, sadly, did take care of almost everyone in my family but me. He taught me that I am body’s father.
I have been on this road with Dr. de Mello by my side for almost seven years. I am more interested in my health, in what I eat, and how I care for my body in a way that I have never been before. As Dr. de Mello calls it, my beehive (gut health) is my barometer that guides me through life. His book, Bloated, not only gives you the knowledge that you need to make a difference in your health, it gives you the tools. The same tools that I have used over these past seven years to change my life and embrace my gut as the “seat of my soul,” as de Mello describes it.
I am alive today because Dr. de Mello told me what I need to do to stay alive: look at yourself in the mirror, tell yourself you matter, and that all the bullying, all the pain, all the abuse came out of people’s ignorance about accepting that you are not who they expected you to be. You are better. Now you have two options. To believe them and continue to self-destroy – or to show them that they were wrong, and prove that to yourself and the world by becoming the healthiest, most grounded person you can be.
I owe my life to this incredible doctor.
Writer, Producer and Director