By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)
This is my story of how I learned to live while I was just waiting to die.
I don't have an abundance of will power, nor am I a mega strong person. I am definitely willful and strong-headed, but those aren't the same things. I gained 100 pounds each decade of my life and that is one problem I have never been able to solve, until SparkPeople. Now I’ve lost 144+ pounds and have another 75-100 to go.
I have low thyroid (slowed metabolism), fibromyalgia, a degenerating spine, herniated discs, pinched nerve bundles, arthritis, knee problems, and clinical major depression--and the list goes on. For several years, the pain and depression were too much for me. I resigned myself to life in my bedroom, where lying down hurt less. My bedroom became, for all purposes, the family room. It was where we spent time, entertained company and did most things.
Diets did nothing more than torture me long enough to lose some weight and then regain even more. A person seeing me regain weight was even worse than being fat in the first place. Why would I torture myself starving, when it would do no good and I would regain the weight anyway? So, I kept eating and resigned myself to my situation.
When you've had a lifetime membership and repeat visits to all the popular weight-loss clinics and companies, joined several gyms, read all the latest diet books, tried the theories, fads and medications... and still fall into the morbidly obese category, there nothing is left to believe. This is true especially if you have succeeded on these plans to some extent and then regained all of your weight and then some.
There did come a day, however, when it just became easier to stay in the house and hide from the world than to go out and suffer the looks and comments from people. My home was my sanctuary and my prison, where for 20 years, due to increasing physical pain, I slowly stopped moving and ate for comfort. The lack of movement, low thyroid, and emotional eating took its toll. I ballooned up to 460 pounds.
To say my self esteem was low would be an understatement. It breaks my heart when I imagine others who may feel how I've felt in life because of weight. Sometimes I haven't even felt like a human female, but like an “it” or a monster. The self hatred and deprivation cycles with binging. SparkPeople can change all of that. This isn't a site about learning to diet; it's a site about creating the life you want to live by making healthier choices one by one and building from there.
I even considered weight loss surgery before coming to SparkPeople. I attended the meetings and found that for me, personally, it wouldn't work. I needed to change the emotional eating and deal, or I wouldn't do well even with the surgery. They say many people gain their weight back and others have complications because they can't follow the diet after surgery. I would have been one of them. People in the group I attended still reported feeling "head hunger" and the desire to eat more after being full. I knew that, surgery or not, I had to deal with those issues. It's stomach surgery, not brain surgery.
I had heard of Spark People several times before I joined and even before I took it seriously. At the time, the mention of another site or book would make my eyes glaze over and my brain shut down in hopelessness.
Feeling desperate, I signed up for SparkPeople, but it would be another year or two before I realized it wasn't a diet and it had nothing to do with willpower. My exact "A-Ha moment" came when I was looking on the internet for a picture of someone so big they couldn’t get out of bed or walk to motivate me not to get that bad. It was then I realized I was that bad. I was that person.
Besides the wonderful social support for a person unable to leave their home, I found fabulous tools. The SparkDiet taught me how to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle, not a quick-fix diet. I tried one change at a time: dinner plates for luncheon plates, ordering small, etc. Each change yielded results and gave me excitement to try another.
I learned to track my food daily and get a reality check. Having battled bulimia, the cure left me binging without purging and still having that "all or nothing" thinking. If I slipped up even a bit, the guilt would be unbearable. Eventually I would feel so guilty that I would binge as some convoluted way of trying to make myself feel better. One night I ate a small order of fried rice and the guilt started. I tracked the rice and found out that it fit into my meal plan. I hadn't overeaten! I learned two things:
My friends and family are very understanding of my pain issues, but living in bed is not a life I wanted for myself. I could do nothing for myself and I honestly mean that. My pain issues were so great that my caregiver was worn out from helping me. My friends visited me in my bed. I could no longer leave the house much at all. It was a big enough chore to go into the next room. I thought to myself, "I’m going to die in this room," and I was very depressed and hopeless. Eventually I made up my mind that I didn't want to die in my bed. I was going to have to move.
I found a nurse practitioner, who set up in-home physical therapy and pain management for me. Soon I was able to do a few simple things and created more from there. I started with bed exercises and moved to using a roller chair and a stability ball. Movement wise, I've gone from bedridden, to wheelchair and a wheeled walker I call "Freedom." As of 2011, I'm working out with a new arm cycle, a mini trampoline to walk" on, since I can't use my legs or back well. I still work very closely with my doctor to manage my health issues. It is great to feel in control of something again. No matter how much I lose, my spinal degeneration is incurable, but I can do my best to live my best.
Besides making small changes, tracking my food, and moving, I also learned to eat better. The quality of food that I eat determines how full I get from it, not so much the quantity. For example, the less processed junk I eat and the more lean proteins, grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, the less hungry I am. I still indulge upon occasion, but I am quick to count it in my tracker and move past it. Quality foods are ones that are closest to nature. Although there are many who can eat a perfectly “clean” diet and some who can eat all raw or whole foods, I am not one of them. I choose to eat cleaner and eliminate as much junk as I can without stressing.
Eventually out of all of these changes, five years later I am 144+ pounds thinner. It may take a normal person less time if they can move more, but starting small and keeping to small goals has really made this a lifestyle change for me. I no longer have the fear of falling off the wagon or regaining the weight. It feels so new and freeing.
No matter what obstacles you have to overcome, there are answers to your health and fitness issues are out there. You may have to search in several places, but never give up. You are worth the effort.
What prompted you to start "living" again?
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