By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)
When I started Spark People, I honestly never expected to lose 10 pounds, let alone 120. I’ve known people who have lost 100 or more pounds, I was just never one of them. I was one of those people that would lose weight for a few months and then regain it with a vengeance. It took a week of eating to undo a month or two of dieting
I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease, herniated disks, pinched never bundles, fibromyalgia, knee problems, osteoarthritis, neuropathy, hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolarism and the list continues sadly. It became a daily battle just to get out of bed. Reclining in bed was the only was to relieve the pain, so I spent nearly all of my time in my bedroom where my body hurt less and steadily gained up to 460 pounds.
Me, at 460 pounds
As a child, I was very obese by third grade and teased unmercifully until senior year of high school and college. By then I had developed bulimia to control my weight and felt in control for the first time in my life. The sad part was that I was just above 200 pounds and never did see myself for the pretty girl that I was. By the time I got help and my bulimia was “cured,” I found myself binging and not purging. Excessive weight became even more of an issue as I reached over 300 pounds.
At this point I started trying different diet centers with short lived success. I went to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, Physician’s Weight Loss, and L.A. Weight Loss, some of them two or more times. Nothing ever really stuck as a lifestyle change, it was always a diet. A diet is something to get on and off of, not the same as a new way of relating to myself and food. That’s what I really needed.
I tried gyms, too. I joined several over the years, and to tell you the truth, they were more effective at keeping weight off than the diet centers. I mostly stuck to water aerobics, the elliptical trainer, track, and treadmill. I also enjoyed the weight machines for strength training. Over time, I quit going little by little as a membership would expire or life would get in the way.
Progressively my body became more painful over the years and when I hit my desperation point. My body literally seemed to be falling apart, and I was crying alone in my bedroom most days afraid that I would be stuck there to die. I could no longer shop or go out with friends. My whole life was in my bedroom, and I was depressed, very depressed.
Every doctor I saw begged me to have weight-loss surgery, but I didn’t have the right mindset. It’s stomach surgery, not brain surgery, and most of my issues were in my head. I did attend some surgery group meetings where I became convinced that surgery is right for some people, just not for me. I already had enough pain going on and had digestive issues already due to diabetes and irritable bowel. A few people at the meetings were also complaining of the same issues I had: the desire to keep eating after they were full, wanting to eat when they weren’t hungry, and not wanting to follow their diet plan. That didn’t seem that much different from me without the surgery.
Spark People came into my life about that time in a serious manner. I had heard about it before and thought it was probably the same old junk as everything else I had tried. I didn’t give it much thought until that desperation point I was telling you about, which happened to coincide with my investigation into weight loss surgery. I read about a tip of changing to organic milk to avoid growth hormones that might cause weight gain in Dr. Oz’s book “You on a Diet.” That was my very first SparkPeople Fast Break goal, and I lost about 10 pounds just doing that alone. From there I started using 9-inch plates instead of dinner plates, drinking more water, eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain, ordering small and moving 10 minutes a day minimum. Each of these things were added one at a time Fast Break style. As I succeeded at making SparkStreaks, the weight came off.
I followed the SparkPeople meal plan to the letter, which is not so much a diet, but a way of setting up successful streaks, setting up your environment, learning healthy habits, and helping others become healthier too. It’s through following those steps that I learned to stop dieting and make a lifestyle change.
Controlling my appetite was very difficult. I had to learn to eat the right things, like lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and dairy. While I didn’t eat strictly, I ate better than I had. I cut out as much processed junk as I could because it made me hungry. Anytime I indulged in really sugary food, I got cravings for more, so I am sure to eat extra fruit after that to squash the cravings. Nuts and water seemed to help control snack cravings, as did apples and peanut butter. Basically I looked for a protein and fiber mix to stop hunger and add fruit for a sweet touch.
Exercise was seemingly impossible at 460. I basically got tired of my old doctor and interviewed a few doctor’s offices on the phones, especially those that were internists or dealt with bariatric patients. I asked point blank if the doctor had trouble dealing with fat people and if I could count on the office for my whole health care. I found a doctor who was an internist and was also affiliated with a bariatric hospital. After running many tests, it was determined I was too disabled to even go to physical therapy, and they had home physical therapy brought to me. That’s where my exercise started.
Today I am beyond the halfway point between 460 and 225. I’ve lost 120 pounds. I use an arm cycle to exercise because my legs don’t work well and have gone up to 16 miles in a day. I’ve come from bed ridden to a wheelchair, to a walker named “Freedom.” I walked short distances on my own, despite the pain. I don’t eat perfectly, but I eat better than I used to and I am so much more picky about what I allow into my body. I no longer treat it like a garbage disposal for leftovers or stuff it to clean off a plate. It’s the little things that got me here.
As a reward, I got a porch swing. Not only does it get me outside, but it burns calories when I rock. I can also do leg extensions by placing my feet directly under me and then pushing back until my legs are straight. Just rocking toe to heel will work the calf muscles and none of it is standing. I’m sure I’ll invent more exercises with my new toy. I also plan to buy a bangle bracelet because at my heaviest I was not able to wear one. It would be a great reminder of how far I’ve come.
I still have pain and I still spend most of my time in my bedroom to relieve the pain, but I have hope and much more variety in my life now. I am actually more in control of my body again. Maybe I can’t cure the incurable, but I can make my life the best it can be.
The lessons I learned from all of this are that small doable changes work, while sudden life overhauls don’t. Consistency is going to show. It doesn’t matter if you do 10 more minutes of exercise or eat just one or two less things a day. It will make a difference. Life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now!
How did you celebrate when you hit your halfway point?
More From SparkPeople