How Debra Conquered Pain and Chased Down Success

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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BLOND1E 3/18/2021
Good story. Report
GEORGE815 3/16/2021
thanks Report
Thank-you, helpful article. Report
RYCGIRL 6/30/2020
thx Report
Inspiring story! Report
Awesome work Report
Well done, to Debra! Thanks for sharing her story. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I have trigeminal neuralgia & fibromyalgia. They are terribly painful. Trigeminal neuralgia is called lightening pain for a good reason. It is a pain that is just like getting hit with a lightening jolt Report
Good article, and good job! Report
Thank you Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thanks for sharing and best of luck to keep beating your race times. Report
Thank you. Report
Great emphasis on the fact that everyone is an individual and there is no,’one size fits all’ healthy plan... Report
Very inspiring Report
Thanks for the I formation Report
Thanks for sharing really great article Report
Great! Report
You are truly an inspiration to many! Report
This is the first comment I have ever left but your story sound so similar to my own. I would start a new exercise regimen it would work for awhile then I would begin having trouble with my knees. I have a seven year old and I refuse to stop trying. Sometimes I just want to give up, I have over 200 pounds to lose. Thanks for sharing your story, it has giving me the inspiration needed to continue trying. Report
great. Report
Wow, great story, you are definitely blessed! Pain is hard for me with my hip , neck and heel, and back. It's hard to exercise cause the gets a lot worse. If you have any suggestions, I'm would be greatly appreciated. 😊 Report
Wonderful success story! Report
great story. Report
Thank you for sharing your story, Debra!
I'm so glad you are pain free and running as you love to do!
Here's to a long and happy life! Report
Amen Debra! This blog might as well have been mine- except that my pain is in my knees and it keeps me from running. I refuse to give up on myself in spite of the pain. I do as much chair exercises as possible and walk as much as possible. I DO SOMEDAY PLAN ON JOGGING AGAIN! Thanks for the inspiration! Report
What an inspiring story. Report
I admire that you didn't use pain as an excuse to stick to the same old routines. As a nurse, I know how painful your conditions were and am very happy that you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally by doing what you like and what's good for you. Well done!! Report
Well done! Report
Great article. Report
Very inspirational thank you Report
Absolutely great Report
Great. Report
So proud of you Debra! Glad we are sparkfriends! You are so inspiring with all you have been through and you never gave up! Well done! So glad you are pain free now and hope it continues. Good luck with your goals! Report

Great article. Good for you for overcoming your facial disease and knowing when to slow things down to a steady stop. Congratulations on the running episodes. I thot I'd try running this past summer - just as a joke - but it was such a hot and humid summer, that I didn't go out of the house unless I had an appointment . . . just stayed home in the air conditioning. May try to do in summer of 2018. I probably won't be very successful as I will likely have trouble keeping my breath. Am going to try skating again this winter after 25+ years being the last time I skated. I have to get to the arena first though, as my skates need sharpening.
Keep up the good work! Congratulations again! Report
GREAT Report
Thanks. Report
Awesome! Report
I'm so enjoying these new real-life articles!! Report
Great article Report
inspiring Report
Wishing you all the best. What an incredible story. Report
Simply Inspiring Report
Great story! Report
Wow! I am so proud and inspired by her! Report
Great! Report
Great story Report
Awesome story! Report