How I Started to LIVE Again

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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:
  1. Always order small
  2. Always track your food for a reality check.

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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BBARB4007 4/7/2020
~INDYGIRL 12/8/2019
I’m still here and working it. Over 200 pounds gone. Report
CECELW 11/28/2019
WOW! Just goes to show...never ever give up Report
FIT2FINISH 6/21/2019
Congratulations, always inspiring thank you for sharing ✅ Report
DRAGONFLY631 6/14/2019
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. You are an inspiration. Report
BOOKNUT52 5/28/2019
Thank you so much for sharing. Report
BONDMANUS2002 5/16/2019
Interesting Report
CAS68124 4/25/2019
Wow! This blog is so inspirational. Thank you!! Report
Wow. Thank you for sharing. Great blog and very inspiring. Congratulations on your awesome journey! What got me started was that I wasn't able to do what I needed to. I have a horse and 4 dogs to care for. The horse yields lots of fence repair and bales of hay that need to be loaded and unloaded from the truck and then stacked in the barn. My DH is no longer able to help me with any farm work, so I am it. I got tired of the belly. I got tired of my clothes not fitting and fighting the rash I kept getting when it was hot under my belly. I am now down 50# and loving it! I keep my before picture where I can gaze at it to help keep me motivated.


Nola Report
Thank you for sharing.. You give me hope.. Report
Beth, thank you for sharing your journey and your Spark! I've been stuck in my home for about 20 years. I too have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Fatigue Syndromes and Major Clinical Depression. You give me hope! May God continue to Bless you with happiness and peace of mind! Report
Keep up the good work, SpaekFriend. Report
I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the positive stories on SP today. I too joined in
2008 40lbs wasn't a lot to lose. Keeping it off for almost 5 years was and is
my testimony. SP works! Report
Excellent! Report
Excellent! Report
Excellent! Report
I am so proud of you for not giving up. And Im proud of you for sharing your story, I'm sure it was hard to do. I'm glad you are on Sparkpeople. Report
Wow, what an AMAZING achievement, ESPECIALLY without any bariatric surgery! You are a very courageous and strong person! Thank you for sharing your story! Report
Great work. Keep up working for your freedom. Report
Great Job! Report
great article Report
This made me cry. What an amazing story. Thank you for being so transparent. I feel so bad for people who weigh so much they can't move. I am so grateful I can and I do as much as possible. Your story and those like yours give me inspiration and motivation every day. God bless you and may He heal you and ease your pain. Report
You are an amazing person! Congratulations on you inspiring article and your awesome journey so far. You are worth it! Stay strong and keep up this new life style you have now achieved. Your words have been inspirational! Report
This blog brought me to tears. Although I am 200 lbs, I know the pain of obesity and it's consequences and I admire you so much for having risen above all your obstacles. Report
Thank you for sharing your story. It is very inspirational. You are a courageous and beautiful spirit. Report
You are truly amazing Beth. Your blogs are a great inspiration to me. Report
Your blogs are always the best. Please keep writing. I am in awe of your courage to share your battlescars so openly. I can relate to sooo much you wrote, except I thank God for my healthy spine. And, AND, your 144+ lbs down is awesome. But mostly, your spirit is awesome.

PS You DEFINITELY have to write a book. No ifs, ands, or buts. Report
What got me moving and losing weight was three months into the year I had done nothing to lose weight after yet again having a New Year's Resolution to lose weight. I was tired of committing and never doing. Tired of being tired. I am only twenty years old but I am already at the health level of a thirty year old, not to mention I have about an 85% chance of health problems if I don't lose weight.
Now every time I hear someone complain about the difficulty of losing weight and getting moving, I'll tell them of you. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all. Report
Thank You Thank You. Your story touched me so very much. I didn't go up to 400lbs my highest was 345. I have Fibro & I can really relate to the Bulimia & a lot more. You are so inspiring. Thank you for your brutal honesty. Report
Way to Go! Report
Your blogs are always such an inspiration! I couldn't figure out why I can't seem to take this 'losing weight' thing seriously. I realize after reading your blog, that I haven't decided yet that I want to live. Thank you for giving me some very necessary and serious food for thought!!!

I am so excited to see your continued and continual progress! DON'T EVER GIVE UP!!! :) Report
Thank you for sharing your story. I have been very fortunate that, even though my story is very similar to yours, I am not incapacitated by my back issues, and my highest weight was 333 pounds. ( I am lucky not to have fibromyalga)

That has made exercising much easier for me than for you. But for me to see your story and your progress, it is encouraging; especially right now when my back is in an acute phase of pain; that if you can do it, it really does mean that I can do it too!

I also feel that SP has saved my life.

Having discovered it almost 3 years ago, I know that without the support and encouragement here, I would have gained back all of the weight that I have lost. Right now, I have gained about 20 pounds, so rather than having lost 70 pounds, I am right now at 50. However, I must remember that in my "past" life, I would have regained it all by now, and then even more.

I know that I will get the 20 pounds back off, and hopefully, in time, will be able to lose a bit more.

I think that you have done wonderfully by losing and keeping your weight down for 5 years.

One day at a time, and one small change at a time. I am now ready to remind myself of that after a long, cold winter of rediscovering some of my unhealthy habits.

Your blog today has really helped me. Thanks once again.

Bonnie Report
Thank you for sharing your story. It is a testiment that once you dig deep to find that spark that we all have anything is possible. Here is to you finally living rather than just existing...I am sure that you will agree that it is so much better. Keep it up and you will continue to shine on your road of self discovery. Report
Beth, you are an inspiration to all. You are focused and grounded, which is what we all need to achieve. Report
Such an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing your journey. Report
Congratulations on what you have accomplished thus far and I wish you continued success. Very humbling to read for some of us (i.e. me) who might sometimes get so caught up in matters that are in reality trivial. What you have done is truly special. Thanks for sharing and as several comments indicated, being so honest. Report
What I appreciated about this article is her honesty and non-comparing herself to another person on a diet. We're all wired differently, we all have different downfalls and up-falls, all have different metabolism. Once you get to that place where your goal is to be healthy and thats all, thats a gooood place to be! Thanks for sharing! Report
This is my first visit to your blog, thanks for sharing your story with us! Report
You are inspiring, thanks for the honesty!
I ruptured a couple of discs in my back in early 2009. The pain was excruciating and I was almost paralyzed by the pain for close to a week. When I started to get better (luckily I responded well to a simple course of oral steroidal anti-inflammatories), I was so thrilled to be able to be without pain and to be able to move again. The joy I felt in being able to use my body again made me determined to deal with some other health issues. I also have a thyroid problem (Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disorder) but was having difficulty persuading a doctor to give me medication to treat what felt to me like low thyroid function even though the doctors said I was "normal". I was determined to get back to "normal for me", and that included getting the medication I needed, exercising again and eating better. Once I started doing those three things together, I started to feel so much better. Report
Such an AMAZING story!! Thank you so much for sharing!!! Report
My dear Spark Friend. I always enjoy reading your story and believe me, you are one person who I admire a lot on Spark People. You have done truly well to date and I know that you will succeed. One day at a time will get you there. Many hugs. Report
Thanks for sharing your struggles and victories with us Sparkies. Persistence pays off even pain and sacrifice is in your path.
Bob Report
That is such an inspiring story! Thank you so much for sharing! That is awesome that you have lost so much and keep working at it. It is very hard when you have pain issues. But kudos to you for taking control of something and letting yourself live again!!! Report
You are so inspiring. I may not have lived through all circumstances, but I do understand the burden of depression and pinched nerves.

Don't say you don't have willpower. You have more willpower that a lot of people will never have. Keep on this path and you will succeed. There will be bumps, turns, and detours but you will succeed.

Your story is a motivation to others like myself who are on this life changing journey.

Keep the faith
WOW! You say you have no will power... you have so much more, spirit! Thank you for sharing. Live your best! I will remember that and you. Report
You are amazing! God Bless! Thank You for sharing. Stay strong and continue moving on! Report
You continue to inspire me! Thank you for sharing you! Report
Thank you for your honesty. I started sparks TODAY! Reading your story was just what I needed to hear to help me realize that this will be one step at a time........ Baby steps going forward. Thank you Beth Report
Thanks - your blogs are always right on - where so many of us are at. What I really like about today's blog is that it is about living: experiencing life to the fullest we/I can no matter what our life situation is. It's so easy to watch and to be frustrated and to blame. I like your choice; it is also my choice - live:) Thanks. Report