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How Debra Conquered Pain and Chased Down Success

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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Some of our success stories are dramatic. They focus on people who have achieved triple-digit weight loss, performed at Carnegie Hall or overcome a food addiction. But not all accomplishments are larger than life. The smaller successes deserve some fanfare, too—in fact, without the tiny triumphs, the grand ones wouldn't be possible.
 
Debra (DEBRAJ61), 56, runs a home-based crocheting business in Enfield, Connecticut. The wife and mother of three first joined SparkPeople in 2009, but due to some unique medical issues, her activity has been sporadic. This year, after a recent pain-relieving surgery and a renewed love of running, Debra is pleased with her progress and confident about the future.
 
In the past two years, Debra has lost a total of 25 pounds. While that number might not seem like a huge amount compared to some of our other stories, it's been life-changing for Debra.
 

Running Toward Her Goals


In 2010, Debra discovered running and never looked back. "I used to just walk every day, and one day I thought it might be fun to run a 5K. So, I learned to run, started training and ran a 5K,” she remembers. “I was hooked after that. I ran a 10K, a half marathon and finally the full marathon."
 
For Debra, running has been more than just a way to burn calories. Sure, it has helped to keep her weight steady, but she also credits the sport with keeping her depression at bay, staving off sickness and boosting her overall well-being.
 
"I think anyone who exercises on a regular basis, whether it is running, walking or bicycling or what have you, is going to feel healthier," says Debra. She also uses a step counter as motivation to squeeze in extra activity throughout the day. "I wear mine all the time; it reminds me when I have been sitting for too long," she says. "Even getting up to march or jog in place for a thousand steps helps.”
 
In 2013, Debra ran her first marathon in Hartford, Connecticut -- but the outcome wasn't quite what she'd hoped. "I came in an hour after the cutoff time of six hours," she recalls. "My kids had to come find me out on the course and walked the rest of the way back with me for five miles."
 

Facing a Painful Challenge


Just as Debra was hitting her stride with running, her progress was derailed by a rare and painful condition. In 2014, she was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a disease that causes severe facial pain that is exacerbated by physical activity.
 
“Even walking would cause vibration that would trigger the pain,” she says. “I was taking medication for it, but every few months the pain would return.” To avoid the pain, she cut back on running and walking, which resulted in some weight gain.
 
Debra recalls a day in 2015 when she was walking up the stairs and noticed how fast her heart was beating. "I knew that I was carrying more weight than I should be, and that I should be able to walk up a flight of stairs without that happening." Right then, she decided to get back on SparkPeople and to stop letting a fear of pain dictate her exercise routine.
 
Earlier this year, Debra underwent surgery to help alleviate the pain, and she has now been pain-free since April. This past October, she ran her second marathon. This time, she focused more on her training and was determined to improve her performance—and it paid off. Not only did Debra run the entire race, but she also beat her time from her 2013 marathon. Her sights are set on the Philadelphia marathon next year.


Debra's Nutrition Plan


Debra describes her daily meals as pretty basic. Breakfast is usually oatmeal made with milk and brown sugar, sometimes with fruit added. For a mid-morning snack, she often has a banana, which provides a carb boost to help fuel her running. Lunch is different each day: Sometimes she'll have soup if she prepped a batch for the week, along with a salad, or tuna fish on wheat bread. A typical afternoon snack is homemade energy balls. For dinner, Debra tries to cook as healthy as possible while accommodating her husband's prediabetic condition. They keep potatoes, rice and pasta to a minimum, with an emphasis on chicken and veggies.
 
Debra has learned to keep her trigger foods out of the house. "Potato chips are my complete downfall," she admits. "I can eat an entire bag in one sitting, so we just don't buy them. Having a couple is fine if you work it into your food plan, but I can't just eat one or two. I will eat the whole bag!"
 

The Importance of Community


Throughout her journey, Debra has found SparkPeople to be an invaluable resource—not just the articles and recipes, but for the camaraderie and support.
 
"It was the encouragement of all my Spark friends that has kept me going during my real down times," she says. "Support is so important when you are traveling down this road of weight loss. Even if it is a small gesture of saying 'keep pushing' or 'way to go', it still makes you smile and know that others are watching and are happy for your little victories."
 
After joining the Spark Connecticut team, Debra eventually became one of the team leaders. She has even had the chance to meet some of her Spark friends in person—one of whom became Debra's walking buddy. They started a friendly weight-loss competition, which helped motivate her to reach her goal faster.
 
"I also enjoy encouraging others to reach their goals," Debra says. "Having others going through the same journey really helps."

If she could give one piece of advice to someone who is struggling in their weight loss, it would be simply "Don't give up," which was Debra's mantra throughout her journey. "If you are feeling hopeless and cannot seem to do this any longer, repeat my mantra," she suggests. "Or find one that works for you, that helps you keep going. And remember, it takes time—and celebrate every little victory."

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