'I'm Winning the Battle Against Depression & Obesity, One Day at a Time.'

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Lots of kids struggle with low self-esteem, but it's especially difficult when obesity is a factor. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, raising the risks of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. What's more, obese kids are more likely to grow into obese adults—and that's one statistic that Tammy McLeod is determined to avoid.
 
Tammy can't remember a time when she wasn't overweight or obese. In elementary school, the other kids called her "Tammy Tomato" whenever she wore a red coat. She started her first diet in sixth grade, which would set the tone for decades of calorie-counting and self-deprivation.
 
During high school, Tammy kept her weight down by drinking only breakfast shakes in the morning and skipping lunch. When she started having dizzy spells, her doctor advised her to eat healthier—but she had no concept of what a healthy diet looked like.
 
In college, Tammy's weight climbed again, reaching nearly 200 pounds at her 1994 graduation. Her Body Mass Index was 34.4—close to what's classified as severe obesity. Again, she started dieting and lost 50 pounds, but paid the price with her health. "I started getting sick," Tammy says. "Not once in awhile, but month after month of colds and the flu. I lost my motivation and gained the weight back."
 
This pattern continued to repeat itself: Tammy would make a resolution to lose the weight, feverishly diet and exercise until she reached her goal, and then pay the price with her health. Eventually, frustrated by her perpetual illnesses, she intentionally gained back the weight. "I would rather be fat than sick," she says. "I decided I wasn't meant to be thin."
 
But this time was different: Tammy didn't get better after regaining the weight. She spent the next few years in an endless cycle of doctor's visits, tests and medications, none of which alleviated her symptoms. "I would go to the doctor and cry and ask them, 'What's wrong with me?' I was told if I lost weight I'd feel better," Tammy says. "I told them the reason I was fat was because I was sick all the time, and they'd just roll their eyes."
 
The illnesses and lack of support took their toll, leading Tammy down a dangerous path to depression and, at her lowest, even suicidal thoughts.
 
Starting down the Path to Nutrition
 
Tammy's turning point came in July of 2005, at her heaviest weight of 250 pounds. Like so many other people struggling with weight loss, she saw an unflattering photo of herself and vowed to make a change—but her poor health was holding her back.
 
When a co-worker noticed Tammy's symptoms, Tammy explained that she was always sick and didn't know why. Her co-worker wondered if anemia might be to blame. "I was skeptical, but had nothing to lose," Tammy says. " I started taking daily multivitamins and an iron supplement once a week—and it worked!"
 
Tammy realized that since cutting out fast food, she'd been getting almost no red meat in her diet. After starting the daily supplements, her sicknesses subsided. Tammy finally felt like herself again, but still needed to lose weight. "This time, I was ready to make a lifestyle change instead of just start another diet," she says. Together with a friend, she began her journey.
 
Sidelined by Injury
 
After losing 75 pounds, a knee injury slowed Tammy's progress. She stopped exercising for a couple of months and regained some of the weight. By the time her knee was healed, Tammy's friend had moved away. Without the motivation of her workout partner, Tammy fell off the weight loss wagon. Over time, while furthering her education and then starting a new job, her weight crept back up.
 
In November of 2010, Tammy attempted to start exercising again, but sprained her ankle while hiking. As weeks of limited mobility turned into months, she spiraled back into depression. "By May of 2011, I was up to 230 pounds," Tammy says. "I was disgusted with myself, but was ready to make some changes."
 
Sparked toward Success
 
When a co-worker showed Tammy her activity tracker, she was intrigued by the concept. "I wasn't willing to shell out the money for both a step tracker and a smartphone, but I wondered if there was a website where I could track my exercise and calories in a quick and easy way. When I found SparkPeople, I knew it was the missing piece."
 
After starting the Nutrition Tracker, Tammy started losing weight immediately. She learned about the basics of nutrition, and started cooking real food instead of living on frozen dinners. In just over a year, she got down to her lowest weight of 170 pounds.
 
Ups & Downs
 
Tammy's journey hasn't always been smooth sailing. Her ongoing battle with depression has triggered some periods of weight gain. "I was brought up to use food as comfort, and it's an everyday fight for me. If I have a good day, I deserve a treat. If I have a bad day or I'm stressed out, I deserve a treat."
 
For years, Tammy had resisted taking medication for her depression, telling herself she was strong enough to deal with it on her own. But finally, tired of crying at night and struggling to go to work, she asked her doctor about a prescription for antidepressants. "I was embarrassed to ask for help and admit defeat," Tammy says. "It was hard to tell someone else about my issues." After running a series of tests, Tammy's doctor gave her a prescription for Prozac.
 
Although the medication has greatly improved Tammy's mood and outlook, it hasn't worked miracles for her motivation to lose weight. "There's no magic solution when it comes to weight loss," she says. "I feel better. I sleep better. I've completed numerous projects I've wanted to do for years. I still love to eat. I still have cravings for unhealthy food, especially chocolate and pastries. My weight will always be an issue for me."
 
Even with her ongoing challenges and weight fluctuations, Tammy has found hope at SparkPeople. "The Nutrition Tracker is the only thing that keeps my eating in check," she says. "I plan to start ramping up my exercise. I'm taking baby steps."
 
Down 50 pounds from her highest weight of 250, Tammy has her sights set on a goal of 170, her lowest weight as an adult. She celebrates each accomplishment, from the small ones (like making time for a few minutes of exercise) to the big ones (like walking a marathon and completing a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon).
 
What advice does Tammy have for those just starting their journeys? "Believe the messages SparkPeople is trying to get across," she says. "Diets don't work. Lifestyle changes are difficult, but are much more likely to produce results."
 
Eating for Success
 
Tammy's biggest sacrifice at the beginning of her journey was giving up fast food. These days, a daily meal plan might look something like the following:
  • Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter or almond butter and a glass of soy milk (she is lactose intolerant)
  • Lunch: Banana, non-fat yogurt, flaxseed, spinach and a cup of fruit
  • Dinner: Lean meat and vegetables, stew or a casserole
  • Snacks: Nuts, whole grain crackers or fruit 
"I try to keep a variety of foods around," Tammy says. "Some things I always have on hand are apples, bananas, oranges, soy milk, whole grain breads and peanut or almond butter. And I allow myself a little chocolate every day."
 
What's on her "avoid at all costs" list? Tammy stays away from her biggest weakness, baked goods and donuts. "If I get an overwhelming craving for pastries, I'll force myself to wait for a couple of hours. If the craving doesn't go away, I'll buy a single serving, or make a healthy alternative at home. SparkPeople is full of wonderful recipes."
 
Tammy's 7 Weight Loss Tips
  1. Track everything. "Weigh yourself, take your measurements and record how much you're exercising and eating. Tracking on SparkPeople has been the most helpful for me. I love being able to look back and see what I've eaten and figure out where I've gone off track."
  2. Learn the art of batch-cooking. "I don't like to cook, but preparing food in batches makes it bearable."
  3. Expect setbacks and work through them. "I've learned that losing weight doesn't always make sense, and plateaus are real."
  4. Find motivation online. "I love having access to SparkRecipes and the articles. If I need motivation, I just go on Spark and read a few articles. Sometimes reading my old blogs gives me motivation as well."
  5. Don't try to do everything at once. "Start with a short walk, maybe only a half mile, at a slow pace. Or try eating half or two-thirds of what you normally eat and then wait a full twenty minutes. If you're still hungry, eat more. Build up slowly. If you do too much at the beginning, you'll get overwhelmed and will be more likely to quit."
  6. Take a "before" photo. That photo of Tammy at her highest weight continues to serve as a huge source of motivation.
  7. Find activities you love. Tammy's passions for hiking and photography have helped keep her active and happy while struggling with weight loss and depression. "When life gets in the way of my goals, I always come back to wanting to be healthy so I can hike for several more decades." 
"I'm still a work in progress, but I feel stronger and more confident," says Tammy. "I love challenging myself with difficult hiking and backpacking trips, and I love knowing that I can do this!"

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Comments

JULIENSMITH 5/8/2018
Thank you for sharing your story. Weight loss & depression are a hard combination. Report
AJB121299 3/24/2018
awesome Report
PATRICIAANN46 3/12/2018
Thank You so much for a great article. Report
FRANCES-AGAPE 3/3/2018
WooHoo ! CONGRATS on your success. And THANKS for sharing. You are inspiring and giving others HOPE Report
NOLAHORSERIDER 2/14/2018
Congratulations. Thank you for sharing your story! Very inspirational!! Report
ILOVEROSES 2/2/2018
Thanks for an inspirational article! Report
YHONEY 2/2/2018
Your story has been wonderful to read. You have inspired me greatly. Good luck and thank you for sharing with all of us..... Alice Report
MUSTANGMOM6 2/1/2018
Great article Report
KWOOD1955 1/16/2018
Thank you! Fabulous article!!
Report
BOOKLOVER501 1/12/2018
Congratulations and thanks for sharing your journey! Report
MUSICNUT 12/31/2017
Thanks for the inspirational article :) Report
GYPSYHOLLY 12/2/2017
What an inspiration! Report
BUSYGRANNY5 11/10/2017
Fantastic!!! Report
KATONTHEMAT 10/28/2017
You are an inspiration Report
DEE107 10/23/2017
thanks for sharing Report
HEALTHFOBIA 10/16/2017
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
I really enjoyed reading your blog, you have lots of great content.
I look forward to reading more posts from you. However, it;s more help full to us, thatís a great think.. How to lose belly fat at home with natural remedies so simple and easy method you canít believe fastly lose belly fat so letís apply.. https://healthfobia.com/how-to-lose
-belly-fat-at-home-with-simple-natu
ral-remedies/ Report
RHOOK20047 9/10/2017
Good information. Report
BECCABOO127 8/22/2017
Great job! Report
MSDEB318 8/12/2017
Congratulations for following through with your goals Report
LUNA_IS_MY_HERO 8/5/2017
Congratulations on your success. Report
BARCELONAME 8/1/2017
THANKS and wishing you all the best Report
MIRJIYUMMY 7/10/2017
Great motivation, thanks! Report
WILLBEFREE1 7/4/2017
By far the most inspirational
Report
DRLMAZ 7/2/2017
You look great Report
DRLMAZ 6/30/2017
I am so happy for you Report
BRENNKAY 6/20/2017
I am a first day user of Sparkpeople, & Tammy's story was very motivational & helpful, thank you for posting this for all of us ! Report
BLUEBERRYHILL 6/8/2017
Thank you for sharing your story! Report
PENNYMAE85 6/8/2017
THANK YOU FOR SHARING.... THIS HAS HELP ME TODAY... I FALL OFF THE WAGON A LOT HERE LATELY. ... Report
JULIENSMITH 6/8/2017
I have read this article many times & it never ceases to inspire me. Report
This story was so inspirational, and the information, I have been trying, maybe it will take me time. Thank you. Report
BANDOAYAN1
Amazing story!! People like you are made me believe the words "I can loose weight too." Report
Thank you for sharing....proud of you.
Think I will take an iron supplement, I rarely eat meat. Report
Wow, Tammy, I am SO glad you shared this! It really touched my heart!! I've been through the depression episodes for so many years and I never really thought about how this has probably been one of the issues in my life that has kept me from caring for myself better. Thank you. Report
This article was just what I needed to read. I find Tammy's story very helpful and inspirational. No-nonsense, realistic tips that work. Great!
Report
KAREN2LOSE55
Wow, I am so proud of you!!! Report
Most of this sounds so much like some of the things that I face. Thank you for being an inspiration. Never give up. Report
Oh, my, does this ever sound like me. My biggest (unrealistic) wish is that somehow a new, healthier lifestyle would just take its place in my head, that I'd forget I ever used food as both comfort and reward. My biggest disappointment is that I'll have to WORK at this for the rest of my life.

Great blog, and I wish you the best. Report
Great story, very inspiring! Thank you. Report
Your story brought tears (of self recognition) to my eyes. I am new in to this journey....i've done diet after diet....but i've never changed my entire life. To me....THIS is it...i've finally hit that proverbial wall of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Stories like yours remind me every day that i can do this...so thank you. Report
MEZZOENEKES
I can so relate to this. Lifelong depression, vitamin D deficiency, and using food as a relaxation tool. You've done an amazing job and I wish for you to continue on your health journey with much success. Report
GYPSYANNLEE
Thank you for sharing your story. Good Luck to you. Report
Iron deficiency triggered fatigue, over eating, weight gain and depression for me too. I am now a huge advocate of having a check up by a doctor if everything seems overwhelming and it is a struggle to even get up the stairs or you just don't feel as good as you should. My iron deficiency has been corrected and it isn't a struggle to get out and be active which leads to weight loss. I've returned to running and my goal for my next 10 km race is to run it in under an hour. My last race I ran in one hour and 5 mins. I'm 55 and started running in 2014. Like you I really enjoy hiking and hope to get out again next summer after struggling this summer with iron deficiency and wasn't able to get out. Just don't quit has become my mantra and I hear that echoing throughout your story. Congratulations on your weight loss and I encourage you to continue to uncover all the incredible qualities you have and the fascinating discoveries that are waiting for you in the world around us. Report
I've had problems with iron-deficiency too. I'm glad you talked about that, because it can make you really sick! Congratulations on your weight loss so far! You're doing a great job! Report
I suffer from depression too and just to get out and hike has been hard lately. My dad has had several strokes and there hasnt been time or motivation. But today I did it, got out and even walked with another solo hiker although I had my dog Butter with me too. Thank you for sharing. I am going to use some of your tips! One day at a time we got this! Report
Your story is so familiar to me but I would be too embarrassed to share. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone and many of us struggle to be healthy. And sometimes even doctors don't understand. I wish you success and happiness. Report
Hi Tammy and congratulations on your weight loss. Most of all, congratulations and thank you for being so open about your struggles. I also have struggled with weight issues since childhood and I can relate to most of what you said. You have inspired me to keep on doing this! Report
Great story. Great inspiration. And might I add, you look FANTASTIC. Keep up the good work. Well Done! Report
ONEMORETRY976
Thank you for sharing your story.
Report
LOSEBEFORE60
Way to go, Tammy! Praying for similar success. Report
Thanks for sharing your story which I hope will inspire many others! Report
 
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.