I realized that I took my long history off of my SparkPage when I pretty-near hit my goal, and have added multiple SparkFriends (hey guys, love yas!) since that time and thought "Hmm... maybe I should re-share my history". Then, on my PCOS message boards, there was a posting about weight loss being harder for us, and I took it as a sign to share my story.
Warning, VERY long post ahead! Some TMI moments, some sad moments, but I promise you, you'll be smiling at the end!
Hi I'm Grace, and I'm a Cyster! (A whaat??) I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Don't know what that is? Neither did I when I was diagnosed in 2008... more on that later, let's go back in time.
I come from a long line of big folk. My mom's side is all pretty well-healthy range, no more than 20lbs overweight. However two of her siblings struggle with addiction (this does get relevant, I promise). My dad's side of the family is mostly obese, lots of struggles with weight, overeating, sedentary lifestyles. Except my Dad (maybe 15lbs overweight at the most, EVER) who has always been in excellent physical shape (thank you military career) and at this moment at the age of 52 is on a 5 month hike of the Applachian Trail. He's my hero!
All my life since probably age 8, I've been on the chubbier side. A regular evening snack would be a big bag of chips or bowl of ice cream. This was normal in my family. Meals were typically healthy though. Exercise was encouraged (by Dad, of course) but not always enforced. When I wanted to be active, I was with the best of them, but hobbies, interests and extracurricular activities tended to be more of the intellectual type rather than physical.
At age 14 I lost 35lbs to get to a healthy range, but by the time I graduated high school I was back to 20lbs overweight. Through university I gained slowly until summer 2008 (age 20) when I noticed I gained about 15 lbs in one year, despite my activity levels and diet staying the same.
My doctor (bless her heart, I will be one sad puppy when she retires) took my concerns seriously. No "just eat right and exercise and you'll be fine" crap. The woman ordered multiple blood tests and sat me down and reviewed the results with me. I don't quite remember the details but something about the ratio of hormones gave her an idea of what may be going on, and she asked me about my menstrual history (sorry, gents, you may wanna scroll down a bit!)
I started my menses at age 10 (I know, right?!!) and never, EVER had a regular cycle until I went on "the pill" at age 15 to help with symptoms of cramping, blah blah blah, you know the drill!
This history in combination with my bloodwork gave my doctor the confirmation she needed to diagnose me with PCOS. She sent me to a specialist for final confirmation, but gave me some education in the meantime and changed my birth control to a stronger version - birth control pills do not "cure" PCOS but can slow the progression, and can help change/reverse some of the symptoms (acne, facial/body hair, weight gain, etc.)
At first, I felt no stress from the diagnosis (although I've wanted to be a mom since I was like 7 friggin years old). The no stress was due to the fact I had just completed a week of acupuncture training for my co-op (where I now currently work in Addictions) and had it done on me 9 times in a week. Yeahhh residual stress relief! Eventually I went through the stages of grief (Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). In order.
By the time I finally got to see the specialist in January 2009, I was up to 195 lbs (emotional eating in the house, yo.) and she confirmed the diagnosis. I do have a "mild" case of it because I have been on birth control since age 15, so I didn't have the body/facial hair or severe acne, but the weight gain, irregular cycles, and small patches of "velvet skin" confirmed it. She educated me about how it is a pre-diabetic condition, and insulin resistance was already showing in my bloodwork. When I felt ready and serious to take the weight off, she recommended my GP prescribe metformin, a medication that helps cells to accept insulin and process sugars properly, not store all sugar as fat. She explained that PCOS, instead of causing one good ovulation with an egg per cycle, cause irregular spikes and valleys of hormones which does not allow for proper ovulation, thus causing fertility issues. And she taught me that PCOS is cyclical - the worse it gets, the more weight you gain. The more weight you gain, the worse it gets.
Here came the mindset of "It's not my fault I gained this weight, so it's not my responsibility to take it off". Like an all-expenses paid trip to eat-everything-in-sight-and-be
-a-lazy-bum-ville. I dabbled here and there in Spark, in gyms, never "ready". Just like my clients here in Addictions. I've seen the same clients grace the doors 53 times, and on the 54th time, finally be "ready" and be successful.
I got married in Oct 2010, at the ripe ol' size of 198lbs. I had to have my dream wedding dress altered to a corset back. A lot of my pictures were retouched to take out rolls on my upper back, chin, etc. I am a big gal in those photos! One in particular makes me laugh! My dance with my Dad started normal, then we switched into "Cha-cha-slide" and had everybody join us on the dance floor. Well! One pic I swear my, ahem, bosom, puts Dolly Parton to shame!! You can see my happiness in the photos, but you can also see the poor health and consequences of the weight. Especially next to my 6'1" very trim groom.
The saddening, stressful reality of it and how I chose to (not) cope put me up to 203lbs by Feb 2011, when my hubby and I made the decision to try to start a family. My doctor started me on metformin, and besides the occasional gastrointestinal side effects, it has been a huge help! I lost 5lbs within the first month or so, but she greatly encouraged me to start exercising and to try to lose about 50lbs before starting to try to conceive. She wanted me to do it slowly, over a year or so. Have I mentioned I super love my doc? She's fan-freakin-tastic!!
I signed up with a giant fitness chain here in Canada, through a corporate agreement with my employer (holla free towel service!) and I had the membership for over a month before I went in. Denial, much? I was contacted by the gym about a free fitness consultation. Before I went in, Hubby and I decided I should buy 12 or so personal training sessions to get my motivation up and running.
I went in for my consultation, failed horribly in the fitness assessment (15 body weight squats nearly made me pass out). I was introduced to a new trainer (young, super cute, we instantly got along) named Mitch, who I would be assigned to if I chose to purchase sessions.
I was ready. I bought 156. 3 a week for a year. I had 5 days to change my mind. After talking (read: fighting!) with Hubby about the financial and time commitment, I went back and brought that down to 2 a week for a year, so 104 sessions. Much more doable with my work schedule and financial situation. We were aiming to finally buy a car, and we put that off for my training (and so, super SparkHubby was born!!). On the plus side, this did make us sit down and really go over our budget, and we've made wonderful financial strides in that time.
I lost weight slowly but consistently in training with Mitch. See blog titled: I need somewhere to put this... It gives the details of our relationship and how he was such, SUCH an important resource in my life for the time we trained together. See the blog titled: A crutch or a life jacket? to see how he is still impacting my life, 1 month since our training ended. I literally owe my life to this fantastic specimen of a human being.
Some key points that happened during our training together (started Mar 2011)
Sept-Oct 2011: I had my tonsils out, which took me out of training for 2 weeks. Due to a severely restricted diet (and not having reconnected with Spark) I ate mostly ice cream! MY WORST TRIGGER FOOD! My first training session back with Mitch (the day after I was cleared to return to training) I came VERY close to fainting. Literally: seeing purple, hearing going in and out, a little voice inside saying "just go to sleep". Luckily my inner nurse told me to lean forward instead of backward in the chair and I came to. When I could finally see properly, I looked at Mitch who had beads of sweat pouring down his face, pretty sure he would have had a heart attack if I passed out!
Dec 2011: First weigh-in after my surgery. We were in a burn phase so I should have lost 6-8lbs. I lost 4. We talked about how I had pretty much fallen back into my old food habits due to having so much ice cream, etc in the house after my surgery (hello "gateway drug" - what addiction!?). I related to him how I was seeing similar patterns in my eating behaviours that I see day in and day out with my Addictions clients. I decided that I have a food addiction. I truly do. Mitch made me track my food as he did from time to time, so I rejoined Spark. And I haven't looked back :)
Jan 2012: Celebrity trainer Tommy Europe (google him!) came to town for a fitness expo. My super fit friend made me sign up for his bootcamp, and I did it!! Such an insane workout, but Mitch had trained me well, and I killed it! And won a pair of Skechers cross trainers (best athletic shoe, EVER).
Feb 2012: Went to Mexico with hubby and friends. I CLIMBED A PYRAMID. Me! I dove off boats and let people take pictures of me in bathing suits! I wasn't quite ready for a bikini, but I rocked my one-pieces and tankinis! Spent an evening working out in the gym there! Ate wayyyy off plan that week, and gained 15lbs in water weight!! Okay, 13 or so in water weight and 2ish in fat haha. All back to normal within 2 weeks of returning though!
March 2012: Started the grieving process, as I knew my last session with Mitch would be April 10, 2012. Discussed submitting our story to a Success Story contest that the gym company puts on.
April 2012: Final weigh in with Mitch. 144lbs. Down 59 total, 54 with personal training. Final workout. Goodbyes. Submitted the story (still waiting for results, could be 4 months before I know if I win). Signed up for a bloody 5K! As egged on by the same friend who made me do the bootcamp and climb that darn pyramid in Mexico!
May 2012: Hit 142.7 lbs. Officially lost 60lbs. Knocked the socks off my doctor (who I do see regularly, but she's hella-impressed!) Training for 5K and staying completely on track with diet and exercise. Approached by training manager at the gym to congratulate me. She only started at the gym in November, so had never seen me at my largest and told me (Mitch had already texted me about it) that she cried when she saw my before pictures. She also asked my permission to use my story as a motivation tool for a client she has whose daughter has PCOS. I *of course* answered with a resounding YES!!
So that's now! Hubby and I have been trying to conceive now for 2 months. At this point, no results but one HUGE success (it's about to get TMI again): my cycles have been coming ON TIME - for the first time EVER without "the pill". And my doctor has huge hope for us to be able to conceive naturally, as this is a major sign of proper ovulation! WEEEEOooooooOOOO!!
I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I'm stronger, more fit, and healthier than I've EVER been. I have hope for my future. I have hope to have kids. I am living my life to the utmost extreme my body can handle. I keep my wedding photos all over my house to remind myself of the vows I made to my husband. In sickness and in health. HEALTH which I now confidently have- speaking of which, I haven't had a cold since just before my surgery in September *knock wood*, when previously I would get one every 6-8 weeks from September - May.
I'm within 3 lbs of my goal (may readjust down to 135 again - the smallest I will have been since I think I was 12!!!) but I'm basically in maintenance phase. Trying to conceive means that headfirst weightloss is no longer on the table. I'm living comfortably in my super-structured and scheduled exercise plans and food tracking.
Big thanks to my AMAZING SparkHubby for his unending patience and support. To my wicked Doc for taking me seriously and looking into the weight gain, not just brushing it off as so many do.
Beyond mega thanks to Mitch, of course, for being my motivation when I had none. For being my therapist when stressed and my ass-kicker when I needed it and for never, EVER taking "I can't do it!" for an answer - except for the time I almost died haha.
I owe a huge amount to my coworkers, for letting me put up motivational posters in our lunch room, and being supportive in my food habits.
To my family, who has been amazing and supportive. Even my brand new nephew (born March 19, I'm in love!!) "bought" me a gift certificate to a fitness store as a congratulations when I finished my training.
And to Spark. For giving me the tools and resources to track, refine, and control my eating habits especially. But mostly for the community. The SparkFriends and message boards that keep me going.
Working in Addictions, 12-step groups (think AA) come in to put on meetings, which us nurses sit in on to supervise. They consistently say about their sobriety "You can only keep what you have by giving it away." I never understood it until the last few months, when I've upped my contributions on the message boards and SparkCommunity. Motivating, supporting, and advising others keeps me more on track than I could ever imagine.
I love you all. I am always around if anyone needs a SparkHug, or a few words of support, or anything.
If you actually read all of this, you get 10 bonus points and a gold star.