The SparkPeople Blog

How I Started to LIVE Again

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/22/2011 1:00 PM   :  229 comments   :  20,095 Views

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

This is my story of how I learned to live while I was just waiting to die.

I don't have an abundance of will power, nor am I a mega strong person. I am definitely willful and strong-headed, but those aren't the same things. I gained 100 pounds each decade of my life and that is one problem I have never been able to solve, until SparkPeople. Now I’ve lost 144+ pounds and have another 75-100 to go.

I have low thyroid (slowed metabolism), fibromyalgia, a degenerating spine, herniated discs, pinched nerve bundles, arthritis, knee problems, and clinical major depression--and the list goes on. For several years, the pain and depression were too much for me. I resigned myself to life in my bedroom, where lying down hurt less. My bedroom became, for all purposes, the family room. It was where we spent time, entertained company and did most things.

Diets did nothing more than torture me long enough to lose some weight and then regain even more. A person seeing me regain weight was even worse than being fat in the first place. Why would I torture myself starving, when it would do no good and I would regain the weight anyway? So, I kept eating and resigned myself to my situation.

When you've had a lifetime membership and repeat visits to all the popular weight-loss clinics and companies, joined several gyms, read all the latest diet books, tried the theories, fads and medications... and still fall into the morbidly obese category, there nothing is left to believe. This is true especially if you have succeeded on these plans to some extent and then regained all of your weight and then some.

There did come a day, however, when it just became easier to stay in the house and hide from the world than to go out and suffer the looks and comments from people. My home was my sanctuary and my prison, where for 20 years, due to increasing physical pain, I slowly stopped moving and ate for comfort. The lack of movement, low thyroid, and emotional eating took its toll. I ballooned up to 460 pounds.

To say my self esteem was low would be an understatement. It breaks my heart when I imagine others who may feel how I've felt in life because of weight. Sometimes I haven't even felt like a human female, but like an “it” or a monster. The self hatred and deprivation cycles with binging. SparkPeople can change all of that. This isn't a site about learning to diet; it's a site about creating the life you want to live by making healthier choices one by one and building from there.

I even considered weight loss surgery before coming to SparkPeople. I attended the meetings and found that for me, personally, it wouldn't work. I needed to change the emotional eating and deal, or I wouldn't do well even with the surgery. They say many people gain their weight back and others have complications because they can't follow the diet after surgery. I would have been one of them. People in the group I attended still reported feeling "head hunger" and the desire to eat more after being full. I knew that, surgery or not, I had to deal with those issues. It's stomach surgery, not brain surgery.

I had heard of Spark People several times before I joined and even before I took it seriously. At the time, the mention of another site or book would make my eyes glaze over and my brain shut down in hopelessness.

Feeling desperate, I signed up for SparkPeople, but it would be another year or two before I realized it wasn't a diet and it had nothing to do with willpower. My exact "A-Ha moment" came when I was looking on the internet for a picture of someone so big they couldn’t get out of bed or walk to motivate me not to get that bad. It was then I realized I was that bad. I was that person.

Besides the wonderful social support for a person unable to leave their home, I found fabulous tools. The SparkDiet taught me how to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle, not a quick-fix diet. I tried one change at a time: dinner plates for luncheon plates, ordering small, etc. Each change yielded results and gave me excitement to try another.

I learned to track my food daily and get a reality check. Having battled bulimia, the cure left me binging without purging and still having that "all or nothing" thinking. If I slipped up even a bit, the guilt would be unbearable. Eventually I would feel so guilty that I would binge as some convoluted way of trying to make myself feel better. One night I ate a small order of fried rice and the guilt started. I tracked the rice and found out that it fit into my meal plan. I hadn't overeaten! I learned two things:
  1. Always order small
  2. Always track your food for a reality check.

My friends and family are very understanding of my pain issues, but living in bed is not a life I wanted for myself. I could do nothing for myself and I honestly mean that. My pain issues were so great that my caregiver was worn out from helping me. My friends visited me in my bed. I could no longer leave the house much at all. It was a big enough chore to go into the next room. I thought to myself, "I’m going to die in this room," and I was very depressed and hopeless. Eventually I made up my mind that I didn't want to die in my bed. I was going to have to move.

I found a nurse practitioner, who set up in-home physical therapy and pain management for me. Soon I was able to do a few simple things and created more from there. I started with bed exercises and moved to using a roller chair and a stability ball. Movement wise, I've gone from bedridden, to wheelchair and a wheeled walker I call "Freedom." As of 2011, I'm working out with a new arm cycle, a mini trampoline to walk" on, since I can't use my legs or back well. I still work very closely with my doctor to manage my health issues. It is great to feel in control of something again. No matter how much I lose, my spinal degeneration is incurable, but I can do my best to live my best.

Besides making small changes, tracking my food, and moving, I also learned to eat better. The quality of food that I eat determines how full I get from it, not so much the quantity. For example, the less processed junk I eat and the more lean proteins, grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, the less hungry I am. I still indulge upon occasion, but I am quick to count it in my tracker and move past it. Quality foods are ones that are closest to nature. Although there are many who can eat a perfectly “clean” diet and some who can eat all raw or whole foods, I am not one of them. I choose to eat cleaner and eliminate as much junk as I can without stressing.

Eventually out of all of these changes, five years later I am 144+ pounds thinner. It may take a normal person less time if they can move more, but starting small and keeping to small goals has really made this a lifestyle change for me. I no longer have the fear of falling off the wagon or regaining the weight. It feels so new and freeing.

No matter what obstacles you have to overcome, there are answers to your health and fitness issues are out there. You may have to search in several places, but never give up. You are worth the effort.

What prompted you to start "living" again?


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Comments

  • 179
    Thank you for sharing your story, it is very motivating. It really touches the heart. It inspired me to continue to take my lifestyle journey very serious. - 3/23/2011   6:54:38 PM
  • SCOTIA01
    178
    So the next time I think I can't do it....I'll think of you. Thank you for inspiring. - 3/23/2011   6:32:08 PM
  • SKINNYMISSY2008
    177
    This entry made me cry, because I've often felt like I couldn't lose weight. Some days it's like, why bother eating right, I'm just going to die anyway, better sooner than later. God has shown me that I need to love myself enough to eat right & exercise, whether I feel like it or not. He gives me motivation to live again, even when I'd rather stay in bed all day than exercise. Praying to God and walking my cat outside (yes, you've read that right) helps me to remain focused on what's important in my life. - 3/23/2011   6:27:26 PM
  • TRYINGHARD1948
    176
    I've been maintaining for a couple of years but a viral infection has brought me low. Reading this blog has reignited my motivation and has belief in this wonderful lifestyle. The reason I first started with Spark People was for similar reasons to yourself. I suffered from diverticulitis, osteoarthritis and tendinitis. Life had just become too hard. I did have an op for the diverticulitis once I had lost weight and with exercise helping the osteoarthritis and tendinitis I would not want to return to those yesterdays. Thank for writing the blog and sharing your journey with us. - 3/23/2011   5:20:29 PM
  • 175
    What a wonderful story and I should say the start of your journey. You are very inspiring and wish you lots of luck in the coming months. Take care! - 3/23/2011   4:52:03 PM
  • 174
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have gotten discouraged because of health and mobility issues, and seeing all the fit people working out and losing weight just makes me feel worse. You are an inspiration because you did not choose to let disability win! Yes, I am worth the effort, thanks for the reminder. God bless you! - 3/23/2011   4:29:59 PM
  • 173
    You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story! - 3/23/2011   3:10:17 PM
  • 172
    Awesome share and Congrats on your progress so farwhat an inspiration - 3/23/2011   3:06:31 PM
  • 171
    thank you for your honesty and sharing --- you helped me a lot today - 3/23/2011   3:05:51 PM
  • 170
    What an AMAZING journal. Thank you for inspiring us all.
    God Bless You! - 3/23/2011   3:03:15 PM
  • 169
    WOW...Thank you for your awesome story! You have inspired me! I was ready to give up but reading your story has made me realize that I can do this, maybe not as fast as everyone else or even as fast as I'd like but I can do this with small steps and small changes...I CAN DO THIS!!! Thank You ! - 3/23/2011   3:00:18 PM
  • 168
    Wow, IndyGirl...now this is an amazing story and a real testament to how SparkPeople can work for all of us who binge and have no will power. The most powerful realization is that we all need to start small making one change at a time, and thus allowing our brain to embrace and nurture that change. I truly wish you a health recovery and continued success. - 3/23/2011   2:48:22 PM
  • TRAYCEO
    167
    Beth, First I want to thank you for the inspiring story..Second, I hope you succeed in your goals and start to live your life instead of waiting to die (the later is promised to us all so, I try not to push it too much). Your story and others like yours is getting my butt in gear to do something with my weight instead, of the yo-yo between too heavy and real heavy. Thank you so much Bet and Spark People. - 3/23/2011   2:38:11 PM
  • 166
    Awesome testimony! Keep it up! - 3/23/2011   2:37:10 PM
  • 165
    This is a wonderful story-thank you for sharing-so happy to see the positive changes you've been able to make under such difficult circumstances! I, too, began to live life again, 5 years ago. I was 300 lbs, and was just going through the motions of life-a good day was one where I knew I didn't have to leave the house for any reason. My bed was my favorite place to be, and I really would be exhausted from just showering and getting dressed! My huasband was diagnosed with Type2 diabetes and he was experiencing complications from the disease, I became his "food police" while I was eating everything under the sun, and he wasn't too thrilled with me-he called me on it, and I made hime a promise to get myself fit and healthy--and here I am 5 years later wondering why I wasted soo many years being obese! - 3/23/2011   2:30:03 PM
  • 164
    I have been so sick but I"m back now its been a long road and I haven't completely recovered yet. But I can at least get back in the kitchen and fix the food we need to eat. My Hubby fixed lunch for me today his meal consisted of swiss rolls and pecan halves, diet pepsi and I added a cup of water. The rest of you seem to be doing really well and I am happy for you durring the time my hubby was feeding me I gained another 5 lbs. I am so angry with myself for eating all that junk food he fixed for me. I had bought some new clothes and now I can't fit into them at this point I feel like I have failed but I will get back on track as soon as my doctor completely releases me. You see I had a bad bounce with my COPD and then the small valve going into my heart desided it would start leaking worse then it ever has I have been to weak to get to my computer. I am back now but I will have to go slow on the exersizing, so starting today I will take a short walk around the block or at least as far as around as I can go may have to cut through the allie to get back but at least it is a few steps more then going to the bathroom and back to bed. It feels good to be back monung the living was able to go to church sunday first time in a long time. - 3/23/2011   2:22:14 PM
  • 163
    Thanks for sharing! The beginning of your blog could have been written by me. - 3/23/2011   2:09:41 PM
  • 162
    Thank you for sharing - 3/23/2011   1:56:01 PM
  • 161
    So inspiring thanks! - 3/23/2011   1:11:17 PM
  • YNOT4EVER
    160
    After my doctor told me that "our metabolism slows as we age, medication, genes" ETC "have to do with being overweight" and that I should "get used to wearing larger clothes sizes" settled in the back of my mind as 'What??? Simply accept this???' Which is what I had done. Until that day. I believe God put the reaction there to spur me on. I had gained during my years of grief over my husband's death; then I quit smoking - and gained; then my doctor prescribed inhaler of steroids which I did not know, until reading Spark blog, caused more weight gain. My doctor is a dear man, but I was meant to hear that. At the moment, I felt 'at least he is not in judgment of me'; but, the thought lingered that I mentioned already.

    I stumbled across Spark within that year. God, indeed, has always been my strength. He, alone, was my reason for the ability to quit smoking and to stay non-smoking for ten years now. I also have the health issues you mentioned, not all, but quite a few. I am glad that I am stubborn because that is what has got me through the loss of 50 pounds and it has taken 2 years, as my body is also stubborn. I have 30-to-40 lbs to go which will probably be over another year. Rather than bemoan how 'long' it will take, I try to focus on what I have read here...take it easy. I do get impatient with the plateaus, but I focus on keeping my resolve. These beliefs have been re-affirmed by reading your blog and others here on Spark. I realized that it is 'not' just me whose body holds on to weight for dear life.

    I was much plagued with shortness of breath while walking up my stairs; back ached horribly when walking or cleaning or washing dishes, any time spent standing [degenerative disc disease and the weight added to that]. Also, I went off all meds...for the high cholestrol and high blood pressure and asthma. I joined a gym as I know I can not exercise outdoors with my copd problems; I work out 5 days a week for an hour. I felt God's strength in that as well, and now my lungs are stronger, no more shortness of breath except on humid days, no more back pain while standing etc [unless it is for prolonged periods]. I only use my inhaler a few times a month as opposed to a few times a day back then. My blood pressure is good, too. Just as I felt when I quit smoking, I feel that my life would have been ending very soon had I not been graced with the sudden knowledge and strength to take action and to get moving. Like many others, I could not afford weight loss 'techniques' nor could I afford to continue the meds as I had been laid off from my job and still had 2 years before Medicare etc. I can pay for the Medicare "insurance" but could not pay the few hundred dollars 'more' for cobra. Thus, God provided my 'insurance' and I now know that I can indeed live without those added meds.

    I was very disheartened, especially when I was told to simply 'accept'. I continued to think of those still counting on my being around a few more years at least. There are cancer and strokes etc in my family and I knew I was a very likely candidate were I to 'accept' being overweight. As I read blogs of yours, all I can say is God bless you. You have struggled immensely and you are over-coming! May your resolve never waver; you'll be there before you know it! - 3/23/2011   1:01:48 PM
  • 159
    Beth, your story is absolutely amazing. You are such an inspiration for the rest of us to remember to do what we can with what we have and go with the positive. I have felt practically all of the emotions that you shared and am so pleased that both you and I have started down a sunnier road. Great job! - 3/23/2011   12:59:36 PM
  • 158
    This is just a wonderful, fabulous, story. You are certainly an inspiration to me. I have a lot of joint problems, and feel that I can't exercise like I used to, but I'm going to change that today, and try for some small amt. of exercise. I quit my aerobic class at the pool, due to joint pain, but there is nothing stopping me, from going back and walking in the water. Thank you so much for your great story, and all of the best of luck in losing, the rest of your weight. - 3/23/2011   12:47:30 PM
  • PAMROPER
    157
    What a wonderful, amazing, inspiring story! Thank you for sharing. - 3/23/2011   12:37:53 PM
  • 156
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have experienced many of the losses and fears you describe, and saw myself going in that direction. Until I found SP, I too felt unable to affect my weight. Your experience and hope are very inspiring. - 3/23/2011   12:33:12 PM
  • 155
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I now know that if you can do it, so can I. I have a spinal cord injury that inhibits a lot of my movement, but maybe now I can be a little more inspired to try moving. - 3/23/2011   12:16:50 PM
  • 154
    Thanks for sharing your commitment to making a change, it is REALLY hard and difficult to change emotional eating patterns. Congratulations on your success, and best wishes on your continued journey. - 3/23/2011   11:59:46 AM
  • 153
    Well done on your journey. You are an inspiration and a strong woman! Good luck, you can and will get there! - 3/23/2011   11:59:28 AM
  • NINABEAUBINA
    152
    Thank you for sharing your story. Doing that takes tremendous courage. - 3/23/2011   11:54:08 AM
  • 151
    WTG. You are mentally stronger than you think. Keep up the good work and positive attitude. It is not a race to your weight goal, it is a race to win the rest of your life back. Thanks for sharing your story with us compadres here on spark people - 3/23/2011   11:45:31 AM
  • 150
    You are truly and inspiration. Thank you for sharing your journey and may it continue to be one of progress - 3/23/2011   11:43:16 AM
  • MINDELA62
    149
    You are an amazing person, and I know that your attitude and determination will lead to continued success. Thank you for inspiring me! - 3/23/2011   11:39:07 AM
  • 148
    I am so inspired by your determination. I have 100+ lbs to lose and I know the spiral I was headed in, of staying home more and more and living vicariously through others. You have done an amazing job. Keep it up. - 3/23/2011   11:20:31 AM
  • 147
    You are such a strong person! Congratulations on your hard work and keep it up! - 3/23/2011   11:07:08 AM
  • 146
    "The quality of food that I eat determines how full I get from it, not so much the quantity."

    Well said. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You are truely inspiring. My hats off to you. Namaste - 3/23/2011   11:02:47 AM
  • BIGDEE3
    145
    Congratulations and thank you so much for your honesty and inspiration. - 3/23/2011   11:00:29 AM
  • 144
    You are such an inspiration! You have such courage. I wish you much success and an improvement of your health issues! Keep up the good work! - 3/23/2011   10:54:24 AM
  • 143
    Amazing story and inspiring honesty! You go girl! - 3/23/2011   10:47:24 AM
  • LIGHT512
    142
    Congrats on becoming the person & role model that you were looking for. May your life experience continue to get better every day. - 3/23/2011   10:38:47 AM
  • MARYKE10
    141
    Thank you for sharing your amazing, inspirational, and motivating story. I am trying to get started living a healthy lifestyle again and you have helped. - 3/23/2011   10:12:53 AM
  • CHERRYYLLAANN
    140
    Thanks for your article. I was on a good spark streak, then I had a weekend of not eating right and felt lots of guilt. The guilt made me not want to track my food so I stayed away from the site for a week and felt worse. I have finally gotten back to the site, read your article and what you said about tracking food anyway - your example was the rice. I am encouraged now to see if my "binge" was really as bad as I thought it was. It probably was not. Thanks for giving me the courage to look and find out :) - 3/23/2011   10:00:21 AM
  • 139
    WOW!!!! That is AWESOME!!!!! Keep going!!! WOW!!! Your ARE amazing!!! - 3/23/2011   9:52:06 AM
  • 138
    What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing your journey! You say you have no willpower, but with the long list of ailments you suffer, the fact that you have made a 180 degree turn around states the opposite. You should be proud of your willpower, because it is substantial! - 3/23/2011   9:35:06 AM
  • 137
    You are just awe inspiring! Wow, thanks for taking the time to share, to care. How strong you are. What more is there to say. - 3/23/2011   9:29:57 AM
  • TAJONES57
    136
    I love how you ended your blog by saying never give up, because you are worth the effort. Those are powerful words. I know your story will help motivate many to keep on track and not to give up. Your story is an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

    - 3/23/2011   9:22:28 AM
  • 135
    Your story was so insperational. It gave me strength to carry on. - 3/23/2011   9:18:36 AM
  • TRIMLAW
    134
    Wow! Incredible blog written by an incredible person! Just look at not only what you've done for yourself but the motivation and inspiration you've been. God Bless You. - 3/23/2011   9:18:01 AM
  • 133
    What an awesome blog and what an amazing person you are! Keep on Sparking! - 3/23/2011   9:16:20 AM
  • 132
    you are a warrior woman! - 3/23/2011   9:12:56 AM
  • GOTHICNONIE
    131
    Great blog way to go - 3/23/2011   9:11:12 AM
  • 130
    I love hearing from you, Beth. Thanks again for sharing your story. You are a wonderful inspiration! - 3/23/2011   8:58:00 AM

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