Shonda Rhimes just finished having the best year of her life. She became happier, healthier -; and over a hundred pounds lighter. What's her secret? All it took was one word: "yes." The Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder creator committed to saying yes to everything for an entire year.
As recounted in her new memoir Year of Yes (Simon & Schuster, 336 pages, Nov. 10) this journey was not something the Queen of Thursday night programming wanted to do; it was something she needed. After waking up in the middle of one night in 2013, she realized she was "miserable."
"I used to be a really happy person. A vibrant person," writes Rhimes. "I may have been shy and introverted but I had a rowdy, fun crowd of friends, some of whom I'd known since college and, with them around me, I was dance-on-the-tables-Shonda, drive-to-New-Orleans-at-a-moment's-notice Shonda, adventurous and always up for anything Shonda. Where did she go?"
Her older sister had the answer. On Thanksgiving morning 2013, the eldest Rhimes sibling told her baby sister, "You never say yes to anything." It dawned on Rhimes that by turning down opportunities that forced her out of her comfort zone, she was closing herself off from countless joyful moments. The self-proclaimed introvert had become so accustomed to hiding behind the walls of her own imagination and rejecting the world outside of her TV writing rooms, that she became numb to the excitement of life.
But she was ready to change. On her birthday (Jan. 13), she texted her closest friends: "Am going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until I get scared to death and you have to bury me. Ugh." Here are five things Rhimes did for the Year of Yes:
She lost 127 pounds.
One night, after what she refers to as "The Airplane Seat Belt Incident of 2014" (when she couldn't get her seat buckle across her waist in a first class airplane seat), Rhimes found herself lying in bed eating warm chocolate-chip cookies when it hit her: she had been saying "yes to fatness." Food had created a "nice topcoat" over her emotions. "Underneath the food, everything inside me was smooth and cold and numb. I was dead inside and that was good ... Putting food on top of it casts a spell to make the feelings go away." After reaching the point where she had knee and joint pain, sleep apnea and high blood pressure, she said "yes to her body."
She said no to getting married.
"No is powerful. It's a big weapon to have in your arsenal," Rhimes writes. "But it is a very tough weapon to deploy." During the year her boyfriend raised the "what are we" and "what are we doing" questions, she realized it was not what she wanted. So, she said "yes to telling [her] truth" and admitted to her boyfriend that her first love is writing and that she would never be able to pour that same level of energy into a devoted marriage.
She survived an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
When Rhimes heard her publicist say, "They want you to be on Kimmel," she panicked. "You know what happens on live TV? Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Boob happens on live TV. Adele Dazeem happens on live TV ... Shonda walking out to greet Jimmy and instead of walking like a normal person, I trip over my own feet, falling and cracking my head on the corner of Jimmy's desk, causing my cerebrospinal fluid to leak out as I lie twitching on the ground with my dress bunched up around my waist, revealing my double Spanx to a national audience," she writes. For the first yes, she did Jimmy Kimmel Live! (as long as it was pre-recorded).
She said "poop" seven times in a speech.
When the president of her alma mater, Dartmouth College, asked if she could give a twenty-minute commencement speech in front of about ten thousand people, her first thought was, "Ummm. Universe? Are you freaking kidding me?" But she said "yes," and NPR named it one of "The 25 Most Promising Graduation Speeches of the Year."
She acted on one of her favorite shows, The Mindy Project.
Mindy Kaling reached out to Rhimes asking if she could do a cameo on her show, The Mindy Project, which happens to be one of her favorite shows. Since Kaling is what Rhimes calls "a member of the mafia" (or a fellow Dartmouth alumna), she really had to say "yes" to this one.
Is the "Year of Yes" over? Far from it. "I am only just beginning to understand that the very act of saying yes is not just life-changing, it is life-saving," writes Rhimes. "Saying no was my own slow form of suicide ... I don't want to be done with my Year of Yes. I am a work in progress. I can't stop now."
See more from Shonda in the gallery below!
5 things that happened to Shonda Rhimes after she said 'yes' to everything for a year
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends ABC's TGIT premiere event on September 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Creator/Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes speaks onstage during the "Greyâs Anatomy,â âScandal,â and âHow to Get Away with Murder" panel at the Disney/ABC Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21: Producer Shonda Rhimes (L) and actress Kerry Washington attend the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends the 8th annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Producer Shonda Rhimes attends the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Actor Scott Foley (L) and honoree Shonda Rhimes pose during the 2015 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 14, 2015 in Century City, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 13: (L-R) Actress Lena Dunham, ELLE, Editor-in-Chief, Robbie Myers and writer/producer Shonda Rhimes attend ELLE's Annual Women in Television Celebration on January 13, 2015 at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood, California. Presented by Hearts on Fire and Olay. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for ELLE)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Shonda Rhimes receives the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre on September 30, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
EDGARTOWN, MA - AUGUST 19: (L-R) Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Shonda Rhimes attend the Root 100 2014 List Release Reception on August 19, 2014 in Edgartown, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for The Root)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Robin Roberts gets a behind-the-scenes look at 'Shondaland' - Shonda Rhimes and her stable of hit series for ABC Television, which will air on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, starting Thursday, Sept. 18 (7-9am, ET). (Photo by Todd Wawrychuk/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11: Writer/producer Shonda Rhimes (L) with actress Kerry Washington, Lucy Award for Excellence in Television recipient, attend Women In Film 2014 Crystal + Lucy Awards presented by MaxMara, BMW, Perrier-Jouet and South Coast Plaza held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on June 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Women In Film / MaxMara)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 25: Producer Betsy Beers (L) and writer/producer Shonda Rhimes accept the Diversity Award onstage at the 66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 25, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Actor Tony Goldwyn and Producer Shonda Rhimes attend the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) Presents The 51st Annual Publicists Awards Luncheon at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on February 28, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 02: Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers at The Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences 'Welcome To ShondaLand: An Evening With Shonda Rhimes & Friends' held at The Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on April 2, 2012 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/WireImage)
Television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, addresses the audience after receiving the W.E.B. Du Bois medal during ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The DuÂ Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Actor, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, center left, and television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, right, embrace on stage during the W.E.B. Du Bois medal award ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The DuÂ Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. Winfrey and Rhimes both received the medal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
From left, Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes pose backstage at the 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 18: Director/Producer Shonda Rhimes receives the Elenor Roosevelt Award at the 10th Annual Global Women's Rights Awards at Pacific Design Center on May 18, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)