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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JOEANDERS12 6/24/2021
sparkpeople is the BEST BLOG about weight loss, I read it practically every day. I am also happy that I was able to find because it not only allowed me to lose weight, but also to maintain a great figure, I hope it will help others! Report
ALLOSAUR 5/24/2021
What a great blog. I read sharkpeople articles basically everyday. I think they give so much inspiration and motivation. In my case, i found and it helped me a lot! I lost weight and my figure changed to better, hope it will help others too! Report
LOLABRUG3 5/18/2021
Congratulations on your lifestyle improvement! Thank you for sharing. Report
CD9428996 3/29/2021
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It helps to know that it is possible to lose that much weight. So often I think I am now too big and too old. I will think of you when doubts start to creep in.
TIAM71 3/21/2021
WOW!!!! Thank you for sharing your story. Your words will be in my mind. Thank you Report
NANANANA 2/18/2021
Beth, your experience is helping you be great life coach.
EFKLUTZ 2/18/2021
Wow! Just Wow! Amazing and so Inspiring! You are awesome! Report
MIATIA1 2/5/2021
Over ten years ago I was looking for a low sugar angel food cake recipe and came across Sparks people and Beth's story was just beginning. It inspired me so much then and here years later she is still doing it. Thanks Beth for showing us all life can be tough but we CAN be tougher! Report
GRAYGRANNY 1/30/2021
Your beauty on the inside emerges. Have followed your journey...what an amazing one it has been Report
KAREN98 1/28/2021
I love how you started with small exercises to get yourself moving. I often feel that I don't have time or energy to exercise, but doing SOMETHING, for even a short time, is better than nothing. And doing that regularly can add up! Report
FARMERGAL4 11/12/2020
Congrats! Your story is amazing... I will have to save it to my reading list so when I need to be inspired...I will read it over and over... Love the ideas about motivation and momentum...sometimes you get up and do even if you don't feel like it!! Report
OLDSKOOL556 10/27/2020
Morning! I think I read this story a few years ago it a beautiful story,how are you doing today? still sticking to your health life style....take care Beth Report
CJHEALTHY01 10/20/2020
Congratulations Beth, you have accomplished so much. You look fabulous and even better it sounds like you feel fabulous. So wonderful that you want to help others.
God bless you. : ) Report
RAJSHRIB 10/10/2020
Beth, what an inspiration you are!
I had my share of weight issues, but somehow i have managed to bring it under control. motivation was surely a key factor. thank you for sharing your story. Report
KATT775 10/10/2020
Beth, you are an inspiration. I was close to where you were at your highest weight and looking at a future of disability and constant pain. I was already walking with a cane and probably only sheer stubbornness kept me from using a walker.Earlier this summer I read a report on research that suggest that eating a ketogenic diet could reduce arthritis pain. I was desperate, so I decided to try it, along with the intermittent fasting my doctor recommended. About three months later, I have lost about 38 pounds and my pain is greatly reduced. I no longer need daily anti-inflammatories or other pain measures. I have been able to cut my blood pressure meds in half and have normal readings. I am certain the elimination of grain and sugar deserves the credit and am hopeful for even less pain as I continue on. I’m told others have seen even greater recovery from arthritis, something I never could have imagined a year ago. Maybe it could further kelp your pain and disability, too. Report
RO2BENT 10/9/2020
Gotta do the hard work! Report
Thank you Beth! You are awesome and I can do it too because you are inspiring me to take charge! Report
MORTIZ8234 10/9/2020
Beth what an inspirational testimony. I'm happy to hear of your success. A journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step. Bravo girl Report
SPARKLINGME176 10/9/2020
Great sharing, thank you! Report
CECELW 10/9/2020
I'm sure i've read this before. It is a wonderful journey for you!! Report
INDYGIRL, Beth, has inspired many members to improve themselves inside and out.

She proves that hard work and dedication can help anyone achieve their goals. She also says the journey hasn't been easy, there have been bumps in the road. I admire her for not giving up. Like the energizer bunny, she kept on going.

Thanks for being an inspiration, Beth ! Report
NEPTUNE1939 10/9/2020
ty Report
Thank you for sharing Report
Beth your story and you are an example of where there is will power, determination and yes prayers that just evening doing the little things can and does add up to make the big things. Continue to shine on and share it all with whomever you meet. Report
ROCKRS 9/8/2020
Thanks Report
RACHIE810 8/31/2020
Great post! Thank you for sharing it! Report
GIRMASEODA 8/28/2020
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used mainly to treat hard-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates…
SPIRIT42017A 8/24/2020
Hi, Beth! I'm kinda in the same boat, except I have dieted up to 287, even had bariatric surgery. But because of my mental approach to food (comfort), I am dying of congestive heart failure. I have no one to blame but myself. I fall apart in the evening & binge. O, I am also diabetic (no meds yet), have high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, degenerative joints & artritis, 2 back surgeries & upcoming sacariliac joint treatment. I know you are not a doctor, just a fellow sufferer like me. But I want you to know what you wrote me a difference to me, made me cry.who would consciously choose food over being around to see her grandkids? I just hope it's not too late! Report
SW1992 8/24/2020
Your story is so inspiring, you truly are amazing. Report
SUZIEQIAM 8/7/2020
Beth, I have read your story, and I keep coming back for inspiration! I show everyone who will listen to me about Sparkpeople. Report
PATBPRICE 7/27/2020
Such an inspiring story -- thank you for sharing your journey with us. I love your closing comment, "Goal is not a number ...rather it's an ability level and a feeling. I struggle everyday for the changes I need to make become permanent. That all of this (things I have learned from Spark People and tracking) to finally come together and click for me. Thanks again for sharing your journey. You look amazing though I know health-wise you have many challenges that remain. Take care. Report
EVIE4NOW 7/27/2020
Your story inspires me each time I read it. I do wish there were an update tho. Report
RACHAEL2020 7/24/2020
You are an inspiration to all who read your story. Report
What an inspirational story! Gives me hope at this age. It’s never too late. Report
WINNER61 7/22/2020
Beth WOW! When I need motivating and to keep pushing toward my goal, I'm going to read and re-read about your journey. Thank you for sharing. Report
SMILEYMOM10 7/22/2020
Beth, I am in awe of what you have accomplished. Sometimes I feel so down, like I'm never going to reach my goals so what's the point anyway...Reading your story has given me hope.
Thank you for being so open and for sharing your story with us! Report
WOOZKAT 7/16/2020
Best Blog Ever!
Fav Line "My goal isn’t a number—it’s an ability level and a feeling,
CD26045388 7/16/2020
Such an encouragement. I especially needed the tip avoid the pitfalls of trying to lose weight too quickly. I often find myself trying to do it fast but then the weight just comes back on. Report
ROBINRS 7/16/2020
thanks for sharing. way to go Beth! I wish you continued success on your journey toward better health. Report
NEPTUNE1939 7/16/2020
ty Report
NOVELAFAN 7/16/2020
I needed to read this today. Thank you Report
JLH1226 7/16/2020
You are amazing and I so LOVE your approach and 8 tips! Those tips I am going to use to keep me going! Thank you SO much for sharing! Report
NANASUEH 7/16/2020
thanks Report
DONNALEE-53 7/16/2020
Way to Go. Report
INDYGIRL is one of my Spark heros ! I've always admired her for the work she did to achieve her goals. Do you think Beth would update this article ? It's been two years, what has changed since she wrote this ? Report
DOTTIEJANE1 7/16/2020
Awesomeness Report
MAR012 6/27/2020
Thank you for sharing your story, Beth. It is inspiring, uplifting -- and gives all of the rest of us who are on the path great hope!
MANGO1960 6/25/2020
Thank you for sharing your story Beth. You are amazing, I hope I can be where you are in a couple of years! Report
Well done. Amazing! Report
Wow. I like reading Spark Sucess stories and this is the most inspirational story I have read yet. Amazing. Report