How Beth Lost 230+ Pounds and Reclaimed Her Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This year marks a decade since Beth Donovan (INDYGIRL) joined SparkPeople. A lot has changed in that time—most notably, she's lost more than half of her body weight, but other parts of her transformation can't be seen. As it turns out, losing 230 pounds (and counting) doesn’t just change how you look—it also changes how you think and feel. For 53-year-old Beth from Fishers, Indiana, the road hasn't always been easy, but it's certainly been worth it. 

A Lifelong Struggle

Beth's complicated relationship with weight and food dates back to her childhood. Although her parents were both heavy, they constantly judged Beth's weight and eating habits, to the point that she suffered from bulimia during her teens and 20s.
"I had always used food as a comfort and refuge from my difficult home life," she says. It was a pattern that would continue well into adulthood—whenever Beth faced challenges in her marriage or any aspect of life, her eating would escalate.
In the early 2000s, Beth reached her highest weight of 460 pounds. She refers to it as the saddest period of her life.
"I lived in my bedroom and could no longer walk," she recalls. "I became disabled [because of] three herniated discs, two pinched nerve bundles, fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease and arthritis. I had to stop and rest just trying to make it through the house to the restroom or kitchen."
Beth eventually had to quit her job, as she could no longer fit behind the steering wheel to drive to work. For years, she spent her days home alone, becoming so depressed that she often called the crisis line.

Motivated to Change

What ultimately motivated Beth to make a change was when her best friend, Tina, had weight loss surgery and got down to a healthy weight. "She was out having a life again—I wanted that too!" Beth says.
She started by reading a book called YOU On a Diet, which helped her learn to stay satisfied while dieting. Another friend pointed Beth to SparkPeople, which became a big source of motivation and distraction. "Every time I feel like eating, I log on," she says. "Let's just say that some days when I'm home alone, I'm on [SparkPeople] a lot."
At first, Beth's plan was to get weight-loss surgery as her best friend had done. After three attempts, she finally received approval from the medical staff to have the procedure—but then she had a change of heart. "At the mandatory pre-surgery meetings, all of the patients were complaining of being hungry after eating, and wanting to eat emotionally and binge. I then realized it was stomach surgery, not brain surgery. No need to cut up my stomach to feel how I already feel—first I needed to get my head right."
And so, instead of surgery, Beth decided to address the issue from the inside out.
"I started with in-home physical therapy, where I learned that even little movements prepare you for bigger ones," she says. Not yet able to walk, Beth got an arm bike and used it faithfully, and also created a seated exercise routine. She started logging all of her movements on the Fitness Tracker, feeling a sense of pride with each entry.
Eventually, Beth was able to get out of her wheelchair and started using a walker. After training on the walker for a year, she was able to walk a 5K at the mall, where she could take breaks as needed.
Today, Beth walks a few times a week, tracking her steps with a Fitbit. She still uses her arm bike but has also added a recumbent bike, yoga, walking, isometric exercises and light weights and bands for resistance. Her routine varies—some days, she has to scale back due to chronic pain from her fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal issues—but, as Beth says, something is better than nothing. On those challenging days, Beth might sit on a stability ball and make figure eights, or "bed dance" using just her upper body. As she points out, she's come a long way since lifting shampoo bottles in bed as part of her physical therapy.
In addition to starting to move, Beth changed her eating habits. She used the SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker to get a realistic view of what she was eating each day, and began weighing and measuring everything. As she progressed along her weight-loss journey, Beth started eating less processed foods, more real whole foods and plenty of protein, and also increased her water intake.
"I am very big on planning balanced meals with lean protein, healthy fats, veggies, fruit and low-fat dairy," Beth says. "I try to avoid processed foods, but I still eat them in moderation. Food should not stress you out. If it does, you’re on a diet, and diets don't work."
When Beth does have an occasional setback, she goes by the mantra: "If you got a flat tire, you wouldn’t run around the car in a frenzy popping the other three. You would fix the one and get back on the road." She now stops eating before excessive damage is done, rather than succumbing to a binge as she might have in the old days.
 Without any weight-loss surgery, fad diets or extreme exercise, Beth has succeeded in losing 230 pounds (and counting). Instead of shopping in specialty catalogs, she now buys her clothes at regular stores. She can use a seatbelt in a car, wear a swimsuit, sit in a seat at a movie theater, eat dinner in a restaurant booth and fly on a plane. Beth's relationship with her husband has also improved.
"I feel confident and like a fighter now," she says. "Having much more support and less stress was very freeing, as I could start discovering myself without as much fear. I also felt free to try new things, explore my emotions and express myself in a new way."
In seven years, Beth has gone from being terminally disabled and bedridden to working from home as a certified life and health coach. "I want to fight for every overweight person out there to have that second chance at life that SparkPeople gave me," she says. "I now see myself in a whole new light and have hope again."

Beth's 8 Tips for Natural Weight Loss

  1. Have either motivation OR momentum. "Motivation gets you moving, which causes momentum. Momentum is energy or action," Beth explains. "When you are motivated and you are creating momentum, you create success." If you're feeling like you have no motivation, start with momentum. Take action—do something, anything, to start forming a healthy habit.
  2. Find something that motivates you that you want more than food. Burn it into your thoughts by creating an “inspirational memory” of what this will be like. See, feel, touch—involve all the senses in your “memory.” Call it up when you are facing tough times.
  3. Form healthy habits. Choose only new lifestyle habits that you can do for the long haul. "Diets are a temporary solution and lead to temporary results," Beth says. "Healthy habits are permanent and lead to permanent results."
  4. Forgive yourself for setbacks. "Treat yourself like you would a good friend or a child," she advises. Beth considers tracking food and exercise as essential to that forgiveness, as it serves as a confessor of sorts. "Once you write it down and confess your 'food sin' in your tracker, you are forgiven, so move on."
  5. Avoid the pitfall of trying to lose too quickly. "Weight lost [too] fast just comes back," she warns. "You could crash your metabolism and end up with more of a weight issue than you started with."
  6. Start living life now. Beth lives by the motto that "life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now." No matter how much you have to lose, it's important to live life today, and not to wait until certain conditions have been met.
  7. Take time to deal with emotions. "Generally, emotional eaters use food as a Band-Aid to avoid dealing with the mess," Beth says. "Find time to actually resolve the problem. Sit down when you get appropriate time and make an action plan with baby steps."
  8. Empower yourself. "I did not have support for my first 100 pounds because nobody thought I could do this," she says. "In the past, if they brought goodies home, I might eat them out of anger or temptation. Now I request that they be locked up or tucked away out of my sight. Goodies left out go in the trash. You have to be ready to stand up for you."
"My goal isn’t a number—it’s an ability level and a feeling," says Beth. "I want to do more each day and feel better. I’m tired of pain and disability, but realize it’s permanent. I can, however, reach for the best me that I can be and inspire people along the way."

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MYT1ME 11/3/2018
Thank You! I really needed to read your story. You are very inspiring!! Report
DEE107 10/30/2018
way to go Report
MESANDEE 10/21/2018
A True inspiration. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Report
SPARKELSTAR 10/19/2018
BRAVO BETH!!! Without the Before & After photos, & the Story, I just wouldn't believe it's the Same Person!!! What an INSPIRATION!!! xoxo C* (Constance in Berkeley, CA) Report
SPARKELSTAR 10/19/2018
BRAVO BETH!!! Without the Before & After photos, & the Story, I just wouldn't believe it's the Same Person!!! What an INSPIRATION!!! xoxo C* (Constance in Berkeley, CA) Report
CECELW 10/17/2018
This story just never gets old. I wonder how many people you have inspired to live healthy lifestyles after your weight loss journey! Report
SHANALEE3 10/14/2018
Beth thank you so much for sharing your story. I love your quote about the flat tire, and also "Life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now" !
So inspiring! Report
Here’s comment 117! Way to GO Beth! Super proud of you and all you have achieved! Going to continue to follow you and your progress! Thank you for the inspiration 💕 Report
SALLYMANS1 9/5/2018
LOSER05 9/2/2018
That is fantastic Beth. And good for you. Report
KRISZTA11 8/23/2018
Beth, thank you for sharing the beautiful story of your journey,
I'm happy for you! Report
Beth you look fabulous and are such an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for believing in yourself, finding your right path and then sharing it with us.
2BDYNAMIC 7/30/2018
Beth, you have been an inspiration to me since I joined Sparks 6.5 years ago! you are amazing and your story remarkable! Report
MNABOY 7/25/2018
Thanks for sharing! Report
TONI48 7/22/2018
What a perfect time to hear your story, thank you so much. You're awesome. Report
MARLIEME1 7/21/2018
This is truly inspirational! I've been following Dr. Miler's advice on snacking choices:
Has anyone else tried this? I've already made some progress but i'd love to read more about all of us who have made strides in our journey. Report
JUDY18229 7/16/2018
You did an awesome job. Congratulations! Report
BLESSEDSC6302 7/9/2018
What an Inspirational Story and Blessings on You! Report
I have been on and off sparkpeople for a really long time, but every time I come back it's your page, your blog, you I look for, because I want to see how you are doing with your journey. Needless to say it looks like you are doing GREAT!!! Way to go keep up the amazing work! Report
Wonderful! You have learned a lot and you look great! Keep up the good work. Report
ZELDA13 6/27/2018
Beth has been inspiring me for years and is a source of strength and motivation. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey with us. Report
DHBEST 6/19/2018
You are such an inspiration! Report
TEAROSE22 6/14/2018
Beth you are an inspiration to me, I do have lived through many of the same challenges you have dealt with; God never left me bed ridden, I bought a minivan that did accomodate me, and had a very successful career. At 71, I am going into the last hundred pounds, starting my battle at 535, and I got lazy and just recently snapped back to reality. Wishing you the best, Tina Report
Congratulations, Beth! Thanks for sharing! Report
FANCYQTR 6/13/2018
Thank you for sharing this and Beth, thank you for your tips. I remember reading some of Beth's posts in the past, but haven't seen them for a while. It is nice to see how far she has come. Report
CHAYOR73 6/13/2018
You're such a great inspiration!! Thank you so much !! Report
Wow!!! You are such an inspiration! Report
CARD512002 6/13/2018
Congratulations Beth Report
Amazing! Such hard work accomplished so Week! Congratulations! :) Report
97MONTY 6/12/2018
Such an inspiration Report
Thank you for sharing this motivational story! I am working on losing close to the same amount, and storiea like this really help on a journey that seems so insurmountable... Thank You! Report
TAYGRL 6/12/2018
Beth never ceases to amaze me and remains a constant source of inspiration and motivation! THANK YOU BETH!!! Report
DUWAHDOO 6/12/2018
What an inspiration! I smiled when I read the part about you lifting shampoo bottles. My grandmother used to exercise using canned food as her weights. Just proves movement and exercise come in many forms and doesn't have to include a fancy gym membership of equipment. Congratulations on an epic achievement! Report
CECELW 6/12/2018
You have had an epic journey. I cannot even imagine how many people you have helped along the way Report
LINDAC75 6/12/2018
I am thankful for you!
LINDAC75 6/12/2018
I am thankful for you!
LORIMANG1 6/12/2018
So awesome!!!!! Great job BETH!!! Report
KISSFIT 6/12/2018
Thank you for sharing your amazing journey! So inspiring and just a beautiful read. The tips were great, and very in the now especially! God Bless You Beth!! Hugs! Report
MELAMA210 6/12/2018
Thank you for sharing your story. Your such an inspiration to me! Report
SYNNOVE_ 6/12/2018
Thank you for sharing your story. I will go back and re-read, taking notes as you shared some things I know I will find helpful. Like the flat tire analogy! ;) You are an inspiration and a resource of hope. Reading this made me feel like I can do this. Much love to you beautiful Beth. Xxoo Report
What a beautiful story! Report
PAMBROWN62 6/12/2018
Congratulations on all your success. You are an inspiration to me and many others as we strive to reach our goals. Report
Way to go! Report
JANIEWWJD 6/2/2018
Awesome; Congratulations!!! Report
WOODBURY4 5/25/2018
So impressive and inspiring! Report
NANCYPAT1 5/23/2018
Nice Report
UNHAPPYME1 5/20/2018
I admire your determination and patience! Keep up the good fight! Report
EVIDAL1001 5/17/2018
Very inspiring Report
MARYGOLD5 5/16/2018
Thank you for sharing with us Beth. You are an inspiration. Keep up the good work. Report