Beth Donovan

SparkPeople Member

Beth has struggled with weight issues her entire life. She became disabled by degenerative diseases at age 36, leaving her unable to walk on her own and in chronic pain. More than halfway to her goal weight, she has used SparkPeople's resources and community to overcome the obstacles that prevented her from enjoying life. She has lost 150 pounds and counting and was a featured speaker at the Spark Your Life Convention in Cincinnati. She loves meeting her SparkPeople friends, as a way to spread the word that “Life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now.” Once totally bedridden, she now walks on her own and also uses a walker she named "Freedom." Her goal is to reach out to people who feel hopeless and give them hope again, no matter what shape they are in.


Read More of Beth's Blogs:

10 Warm-Weather Activities for People with Limited Mobility

This summer, take some time to rev up your workout.  Make a new playlist and clean up your exercise equipment.  Renew that gym membership.  Take time to find fitness opportunities, because there are a lot of them!  Here are ten fun suggestions, some for the mobile and some for the less mobile. 
 

  1. Take some wild pictures of yourself doing active things for your Spark Page. Snap a few photos of yourself acting silly and running through the sprinkler with the kids, playing tag or walking the long treks of a zoo or amusement park. Get the souvenir photo where everyone is screaming on their way down on the ride!
  1. Aqua-cise. Yes, water is the perfect place to go for a low impact ouch-less workout and it's fun, too. Check with your local YMCA for lower-fee classes or even with your doctor to see if some classes are covered by insurance for a particular physical issue you may be having.  Often times they will be covered under water physical therapy.  Still, even without a class, water is a blast to play and work out in. I love going to water parks. The swimming and the balancing combined with the walking make it a great workout.

    Posted 6/7/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 19 comments   16,898 views

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Confession: I'm a Food Snob

My BFF called me a food snob when I gave her the evil eye at her suggestion of stopping for fast food on a trip.  We had done that too many times already, I thought.  I asked if we could eat somewhere healthier and she called me a food snob, saying I looked down on other people's way of eating.  That is not the truth; the truth is that I have learned what makes my body lose weight and feel its best.  I still have fast food, just every now and then.  It is no longer habitual.
 
Here is where I definitely am a food snob though:  I like to eat the best first, not save the best for last.  Then I don't eat extra calories to get to the good part.  If you find yourself forcing yourself to eat the crusts of the bread to get to the yummy middle, cut them off and save the calories. I like the middle of a pancake the best, so I eat a pancake from the middle out.  Most of the time, I don't finish my pancakes.
 
Be a food snob.  Don't just take food because it's there.  Take the BEST single serving of what you want. You deserve the best!  Just scooping up something without thought doesn't give you any empowerment. Speaking of empowerment, leave a bite on your plate to prove you control the food and it does not control you. 

Posted 5/25/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Beth Donovan : 117 comments   17,124 views

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Be Brave

I can't tell you how many opportunities I've passed up because I've beaten myself down before I've even had a chance to go for the brass ring.  In the past, instead of losing weight, I resigned myself to failure almost every time.  I could not believe in myself or be brave enough to face the obstacles on the long road ahead.
 
I remember my first act of bravery.  I went outside for a walk and passed a car wash, where all of the guys laughed and yelled.  I was in tears.  Didn't they know how much bravery it took for me to go out in the first place?  I turned around and was headed home, when I decided that they could not determine my fate.  I walked back to the gas station, tears in my eyes and told them exactly how I felt.  It wasn't nice of them to make fun of me and make me cry when I was only trying to improve myself.  They apologized.  I went home and cried and quit walking.  It was brave to confront them and I needed to do that in order to secure my place in the world, mentally.

Posted 5/18/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Beth Donovan : 74 comments   13,261 views

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Perspective: Why YOUR Health is So Important

One day I woke up and was astonished to find that I had grown to 460 pounds and was using my family as helpers.  I didn't do this on purpose.  From my perspective, I was in a lot of pain from many chronic issues and needed to lie down to alleviate the pain.  From their perspective, I was abusing their kindness.  This is so hard for me to admit, but I'm an open book to you readers.
 
As I lost weight, I could do more, but not all of what life has in store for me.  From my family's perspective, I'm still not doing enough.  From my perspective, getting healthy is my career.  I've lost 205 pounds to date with no surgery.  I've created exercises and even use an arm bike because my legs aren't that steady.  I walk with my walker, ''Freedom.''  I want to be fully functional again, despite the pain, and personally I think I'm doing a bang-up job.
 
For me, I live to prove to you that YOU can get your life back, too.  I want people to see my example and be inspired by the possibility of a second chance.  That's why I'm so open about everything.  Who do you influence in your life? Are those people enough to make you want to change?  If not, what is enough to make you want to really change?

Posted 5/11/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 48 comments   13,386 views

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Just Don't Eat The Whole Cake

A few old college friends and I were at a birthday party, sitting near the birthday cake and talking about our dieting struggles and how hard it is to lose weight. We spoke of how many failed attempts and programs we had under our belts.  We decided it was terribly daunting and only a miracle could save us from our fate of being overweight the rest of our lives.  We griped about how society, work, stress, so many things played into the weight loss equation.  One of my friends' youngest children, who had been listening, came in and sat at the table, listening intently, and then said, ''Just don't eat the whole cake.'' So pure!

That is really the essence of it all. One slice has less calories than two. You can always track it in your plan. No more throwing out the ''day'' because of a treat. ''Just don't eat the whole ___.''  Split it with your friends, your husband, a take-home box.  The truth is, our portions are just too big for most of our activities during the day.  We don't burn off enough calories.
 
I'm not saying this lightly. Honestly, we can choose to be happy. If things get tough, we have to get tougher.  At 460 pounds, I didn't have it in me to get tough, but I did have it in me to make baby steps.  That was the toughness that I needed at that time.  Through these very baby steps, I lost 200 pounds and gained the ability to walk again.

Posted 5/4/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 94 comments   21,339 views

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Change Your Actions, Change Your Attitude

I went shopping for some new yoga pants the other day. When I go shopping, I go with my old 460-pound Beth mentality, trying on sizes larger than I need. The other day in the dressing room, a clerk brought me a 3x and a 4x, so which should I try first? I looked at myself in the mirror and asked if I believed in myself enough to try the smaller ones on first. That's how I came to buy my first 3x pants in over 20 years (I used to wear a 7/8x).
 
Having learned from that experience, I've been trying on 2x clothing and buying it.  3X clothing still fits, depending on the cut.  I was brazen enough to order clothes in a size 2x from a catalog and they FIT!!!  The moral of the story is to believe in yourself and always give yourself the credit you deserve. 

When I originally set my goal, I was so scared that I wouldn't even be able to lose 50 pounds and maintain it. Now I've lost 200 and my goal of 250 seems only like a resting point before bigger and better things. It's still a little scary, but I'm up for the task. That would be 260 pounds lost total. When I get there, that might seem like a resting point.

Posted 4/27/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 83 comments   19,330 views

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A Time for Healing

Have you ever been afraid of something knocking you off of your healthy lifestyle track?  I'm a little scared now. Why?  I have a large hernia that needs to be dealt with, but the surgeons won't touch it. Why? I've lost 200 pounds now. There is enough loose skin hanging from my tummy to make it medically necessary that it be removed to proceed with the hernia surgery.  Luckily, they can do both in one surgery.  I have to get all of my ducks in a row medically for this, since my whole abdominal area will be open to infection at a VERY high risk, according to the doctors.
 
Now, you might think I would be jumping for joy at a chance for skin removal, but it scares me. I don't know why, except that they can't give me any idea what I will look like. They did say I might have a protruding area to work off. They can't attest to how much weight I will lose, but I was told 10 to 15 pounds in approximation. The hernia area has colon loops that come in and out, causing much pain. That makes a protrusion worthwhile, if they can fix that!

Posted 4/20/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 164 comments   14,910 views

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You Always Have A New Chance At Life

No matter where you are or what condition you are in, you have a chance to make healthy changes to better your situation. I say that because I used to weigh 460 pounds, was bed-ridden with disabilities and chronic pain.  I now weigh 200 pounds less with no weight-loss surgery and can walk with a walker and on my own at times. The pain is still difficult to deal with, but not as difficult as when I was lying in bed and concentrating on the pain.  You see, I wasn't looking for a way out: I was accepting a fate.

I've discovered that staying on my SparkPeople plan gives me a sense of control that I wouldn't otherwise have in my dizzying world. Without SparkPeople, I would have nothing to ground me. It is my security blanket and passion. It is always there for me. Food used to be that security blanket, but now it stands between me and my new passion for health.

Posted 4/13/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 57 comments   9,559 views

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How to Lose Weight Even If You Feel Hopeless

I’ve gotten a lot of SparkMail asking about how I got started on my weight-loss journey and how I’ve come to lose so much weight without surgery. I've been reflecting a lot lately about what got me started and how I've stayed on track for so long.
 
First of all, I read a book called ''You on a Diet'' by Dr. Oz and it was a life-changer about how to trick your body into not being hungry. Then, I got on SparkPeople and kept up with SparkStreaks- a series of days of consistently doing something easy, but good for you. When each new behavior became natural, I took on a new one. I started out with standing instead of sitting for one minute a day, which eventually turned into moving for 10 minutes total per day. I also used SparkStreaks for my nutritional goals, which helped me stay consistent and on track with my eating.

Posted 4/6/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 121 comments   34,304 views

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How to Stay Encouraged When in Chronic Pain

For those of you who believe there is nothing you can do when you have chronic pain, take it from me: there is hope.
 
I weighed 460 pounds and with all of my chronic medical issues and disability, I managed to baby step my way through my thus far of journey of 6 years. I’ve lost almost 200 pounds to date.
 
Lately I feel like I can do nothing. I have some extra medical issues getting in my way and need a few surgeries.  Part of me, the old me, wants to give up in a chocolate oblivion and couch-sitting frenzy. I got up to 460 pounds the last time I caved in and decided that not trying was better than failure.  At that point, I gave away my own rights to run, work, play, and walk on the beach. I literally handed over my freedom with full consent with each bite and every minute I sat sedentary. It seemed easier and freeing at the moment. I mean, what else could I do?
 
Well, let me tell you! I discovered that baby stepping is powerful. Something is not nothing. Even if you walk around the house with difficulty, you do it in preparation for your next steps in life. The real problem is that we have grown up in an “All or nothing/ No pain, no gain” world.  What about those of us who do have pain and are prone to gaining weight?  Push yourself without pushing yourself down. See a medical profession first and ask them what you CAN do. They can tell you how not to exacerbate your particular issues.  Then, armed with knowledge, go gently into your journey.
 
Support can be very hard to come by for those of us with chronic pain or disabilities. Still, it can be done-- just see my Spark Page!  I’ve lost almost 200 pounds despite my conditions. Forget those who call you lazy and give you advice like the artichoke and water pill diet.  There is no fast track. There is simply the journey, and I have found it to be one of the most introspective and joyous times of my life. You can educate yourself through SparkPeople and make a real lifestyle change.  Read, try different foods and activities and ignore the haters.
 
Never hold yourself up to Barbie girl working out next to you, on the TV, or in magazines.  You are unique. Go at your own pace and challenge yourself against your own accomplishments.  NEVER forget to reward yourself with some non-food item.  Things that I like to reward myself with are clothes, jewelry, and manicure/pedicures.  Someday, a massage sounds good.
 
Find what motivates you. Fill your life with supportive people, even if they are just your online Sparkfriends.  My Sparkfriends mean the world to me. They keep me going when I feel down. Lately I’ve been struggling because I need surgery and I feel like a rolly polly bug. It frustrates me terribly, the fatigue, pain, and just general lethargy.  If it were not for all of you, I would feel so lost. I read things people write to me and smile.  I feel better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping me going. 

Posted 3/30/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 119 comments   19,205 views

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How to Avoid the Mindless Munchies

We’ve all had the ''I deserve this'' or ''I just need to relax'' munchies. What can we do to prevent them? After a long day of work, you come home exhausted. Or maybe you’ve spent the day feeling depressed, or maybe you’ve worked really hard on your plan. Perhaps you’ve had a fight with someone, or have been disappointed. The ''I deserve this'' or ''I just need to relax'' munchies'' actually fall under the category of emotional eating.

The ''I deserve this'' category means something is missing. Maybe you’ve had someone be too hard on you; maybe you’ve been too hard on yourself. What you are looking for is a treat. If you can control the portion and lay down some rules, this can be overcome. I personally overcame it by allowing myself treats out of the house. Treats are too tempting in the house. If they do have to come home, they are in a small portion or size. The other method, which I find impossible, is putting treats on your no-no food list.

The ''I just need to relax'' munchies are a sign that you may have some anxiety or stress issues. I’ve personally handled these issues by talking, blogging, and attending professional therapy sessions. There is a list of things that calm me and soothe me without food now. Candles, baths, blogging, talking, helping others and physical activity all seem to help.

It's important to sort the ''head hunger'' from the ''real hunger.'' Try drinking a huge glass of water; this gives you time to distract yourself. Then try other distractions like playing games online, physical activity, relaxing with candles, shopping, getting your haircut or even scheduling an appointment. By then, you know if you are really hungry. If you are, eat a healthy meal or snack that actually fills you. If you are not, then you have to decide to do ''damage control.'' As I say, ''One slice of pizza always has less calories than two.''

Keep your head clear. Don’t be seduced by the eating frenzy that leads to the food coma state. Yes, it is enticing to some of us because we are hooked on the brain chemical release that being overly full produces. We literally get hooked on our own chemistry like a drug, so when we try to eat less, it is literally like withdrawal for some. That makes us feel nervous and like we ''need to relax.''

Posted 3/23/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 19 comments   10,759 views

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How It Feels to Lose Almost 200 Pounds

I’m knocking on the door of my 200 pound weight loss by just 15 pounds. It has been a long journey- since December 2005. I wouldn’t speed it up or change a thing. I needed that time to make real change and learn to transition to a new lifestyle. A journey is a very individual thing. I found for myself, that losing around ½ to 1 pound a week allowed me to not starve and work on making lasting changes. One pound a week over a year is a 52-pound loss. 
 
I thought crossing over into the 300’s from the 400’s was exciting.Then I thought nothing could ever beat the feeling of losing 100 pounds. Then I lost 150 pounds, putting me halfway to my weight-loss goal.  I thought nothing would beat crossing into the 200’s, but then I realized that I was 40 pounds away from a 200 pound loss.  I lit a fire under myself to get that weight off.  Now I am excited that a mere 15 pounds stands between me and my 200-pound loss.

Posted 3/16/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 156 comments   15,076 views

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How Hopes and Dreams Keep Me Going

I used to think most goals were out of my reach. I live life more day by day as my journey to health continues. Instead of looking at how far I have to go, I rejoice at how far I’ve come. Every extra effort to get where we are going counts as a success in this journey of ours.  Even if we fall, we tried. We are like babies learning a new lifestyle of walking, and we should always get up and try again. Wouldn’t it be sad if a baby just decided it was too much effort and never tried to walk? We would weep for the hopes and dreams we would have for him or her.
 
Hopes and dreams keep me going now. I shop looking at clothes with a “Someday I will wear that” attitude, as opposed to just envying those who can wear it now. No, I probably will never be a size 5, but I’ll have more choices of clothes that I like better. It’s already happening.  I never realized I had an active wear side before. Usually, I’m a girly girl. I think new sides of you start to surface as you remove the layers.  My husband is sometimes surprised by how drastically my taste in clothing has changed. I have a few shorter skirts and tighter tops and have given up the baggy, frumpy look. I dream of the day of picking anything I want off of the rack at any store I want.

Posted 3/9/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 39 comments   8,587 views

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Quality Food For Weight Loss


I am not a big fan of starvation. Feeling hungry all the time makes me miserable and likely to binge eat.  After reading a book called "You on a Diet" by Dr. Oz and Dr. Rozien, I discovered how to control my appetite, or at least how to keep it from getting worse.  It isn't a typical diet book and neither is "The Spark" by Chris Downie.  Along with SparkPeople, both of these books changed my life. These tools are the crux of what works for me, personally.  No single program fits everyone and your journey is personal and profound.  Take the things you find helpful along the way and leave the rest.
 
For me, I find that quality over quantity of food works well to keep me full.  I was brought up in the days of the diet plate.  There was one rule- as long as it had protein and lettuce, it didn’t matter what you put on the lettuce.  Hey, it worked, for an hour.  Those were the days of salads and Volumetrics, no fat, no bread, no nothing… what was a girl to do?  Finally, after reading a bit, I decided to change what I ate. No, I don't mean switching from regular potato chips to light potato chips. I mean switching from potato chips to potatoes. 

Posted 2/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 45 comments   26,870 views

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Natural Pain Remedies That Work!

I used to weigh 460 pounds. Because of that, I have degenerative disease, herniated disks, pinched nerve bundles, arthritis, bad knees, and the list goes on. As a result of these things, I used to be the depression queen. My daily mantra was "I can’t”. The truth is, I felt hopeless in my world of pain and weight issues.  I thought nothing could save me.  Now I am at a nearly 200 pound weight loss, thanks to SparkPeople and Sparkers like you!
 
But what about my pain? Is it gone?  No, sadly, but it has become much more manageable with a few wonderful techniques I’ve discovered along my journey.
 
After starting SparkPeople, I fired every doctor I had and got new ones.  I explained my needs and desire to get better, but I refused to put up with any form of ridicule. (Example:  One doctor grabbed my stomach and called it "This thing.")  I needed advice and direction, not judgment.  So I found a new doctor who set me up with in-home physical therapy to address my specific needs.  Your specific needs may be different, so it is always best to start with a knowledgeable, yet understanding doctor. 

Posted 2/17/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Beth Donovan : 37 comments   12,266 views

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