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A Year in the Life...

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Today is a milestone for me.

I originally joined SparkPeople on February 21, 2008. I tinkered with it, toyed with it, checked in from time to time. And eventually days, then whole weeks, would pass from one log-in to the next, until I wasn't really 'here' at all.

In terms of health, it's not like I didn't know what I should be doing: I was very overweight - the infamous 'morbidly obese' - which is one of the reasons I joined Spark to begin with. I'd already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and had been prescribed medication.

Gaining more weight and not following a healthy diet led to a second diabetes prescription. The combination 'kind of' kept my blood sugar in check, but I still wasn't helping myself. At the same time, my blood pressure was going ever upward - in response to the weight gain and lack of sodium control - so a medication was prescribed for that, too.

Last year I attended a 'healthy lifestyle' class run by the local NHS clinic, meeting once a week for twelve weeks. Every week there was a weigh-in and a one-on-one discussion with one of the counselors. At the first meeting, I weighed 264.2. Over the next twelve weeks I gained (yes, you read that right) a little over six pounds. I could say 'That class was not enough to motivate me,' but... motivation comes from within, doesn't it?

What I already knew - and what the class graphically brought home - were the dangers of continuing my unhealthy lifestyle. Complications of poorly-controlled diabetes include blindness, kidney disease, amputations. There's also a well-established link between diabetes and heart disease, and with hypertension adding to the problem (risk of stroke / heart attack), I was beginning (finally) to have concerns.

When the class ended - exactly one year ago today - I had a think about things.

I considered the possibility of graduating to daily insulin injections. I compared that to hot-fudge sundaes, macaroni-and-cheese, and scones with clotted cream.

I thought about kidney disease - is it painful? I don't know, but I found the prospect of dialysis pretty daunting. Was I willing to risk that in order to have wine with dinner and Amaretto or Drambuie afterwards?

The idea of blindness was perhaps the scariest: macular degeneration runs in my family, so I've already watched some loved ones struggle with the loss of eyesight. I like to knit, and read, and do sudoku puzzles, and sew, and I practically live on the computer... was I willing to give all that up in exchange for chocolate cake, French fries, pancakes drenched in maple syrup?

I've often said I hate exercising - which I do. But at this point in my life, it's still a choice. Would I choose walking, or would I choose brownies? How limited would my options for exercise be if I lost a foot?

I'm not listing these things to scare anyone reading this. I'm just outlining my thought processes, telling you what was in my head and what motivated me to start changing the way I live - changing the choices I make.

The lifestyle clinic offers monthly weigh-ins, but I've only gone every six months. Yesterday was my second post-class visit. The clinic is on the second floor of a rather tall building, with three half-flights of stairs and an elevator. I stood in the lobby, debating with myself for a moment.

I don't often do stairs. We live in a one-story house, and I seldom come across them. Between that and a bum knee... as I said, I don't often do stairs.

In the year-plus I've been going to this clinic, I have never taken the stairs. I looked at the steps and thought, Okay, I'm not likely to fall down altogether, so what's the worst that can happen? I might have to sit down halfway up? I might need to come back down and take the elevator after all? Mmmm, I'll just take them really slowly and see how it goes.

No, I didn't bound up those stairs. But I walked at a steady pace, didn't have to stop, didn't have to drag myself up by the handrail - and I wasn't out of breath when I reached the top. And my official weight was registered as 183.92. That's down about eighty-six pounds for you number crunchers.

I'm now more than halfway to my ultimate goal of 124. I'm on a minimum dose of a single medication for the diabetes itself: one Rx was discontinued last spring, and subsequent decreases of daily amounts for the Metformin have been steady. Sometime next January, if all goes well, I should be able to come off it entirely, taking me to a 'controlled by diet and exercise' phase of the diabetes.

I've gone from a size 28/30 to a size 16, from 3X to medium / large and even (in the case of some pullovers and nightshirts) to 'one size fits all.'

Those are the successes.

There are failures, too, most notably the hypertension. Nothing seems to bring the blood pressure down. It's an ongoing struggle. Recently I read that the reason it goes hand-in-hand with diabetes is the domino effect from kidney disease: diabetes can cause the kidneys to go into early-stage nephropathy, which in turn makes the blood pressure go up, which - full circle here - aggravates the diabetes and kidney disease. And the blood tests keep coming back with 'Alert - Stage 2 CKD' (chronic kidney disease).

I still have such a very long ways to go. But it is so heartening to see progress.

Now, what have I learned?

1) When I weigh less, I feel better. When I weighed over 200 pounds, my back frequently used to ache, probably from carrying so much excess weight. I seemed to have constant indigestion, carrying antacids with me everyplace. I would get out of breath at the slightest exertion. Now, though, my back doesn't bother me, I couldn't tell you the last time I had heartburn, and as for getting out of breath - well, I climbed those stairs without huffing and puffing.

2) How crucial it is to track nutrition every day: I don't miss a day. And together with that is the fact that every bite, every mouthful, every crumb gets recorded. What a great feature Spark's nutrition tracker is! What a difference this simple tool has made to my efforts.

3) Diet control isn't enough. Exercise - formal cardio, casual walking, being a body-in-motion - is critical. Dieting, carefully controlling the amount of food you take in and what kinds, will result in weight loss. But diet alone won't really improve your circulation, or your tone, or help your body get as fit as it can be.

4) Do it NOW, don't wait. I've always been one to put off losing weight and getting healthy. 'I'll wait until my next birthday'... 'Oh, I'll really work at it in the new year'... 'That wedding / high school reunion / cruise is months away: I'm sure I'll get in shape before THAT event rolls around!' Make a plan, then follow it. Start today.

5) Allow yourself to feel success and joy, because no matter how small the goal, no matter how minor the milestone, if you have achieved something, feel GOOD about it! Every baby step is important, even if all you did was walk outside to the mailbox and back or make it thru the day without a cookie. Be proud that you are making progress.

6) When you run into the 'F' word - failure - don't let it defeat you. The word is powerless. Think about what went wrong, what didn't work, what you can change so next time that problem will be resolved successfully. Learn from your mistakes - from failures - because no failure is permanent.

7) What you need for a healthy body is well-known: you need certain nutrients and you need to get the blood circulating. What you do not need is somebody else's 'how.' Find out what works for you, whether it's getting up 20 minutes early to take a walk or avoiding all 'white' foods.

Learn everything you can, because knowledge is power. Adapt suggestions and ideas for your own lifestyle. Run experiments: try something for a week or two... does it help? Do you like it? Is it working for you? Tweak the diet. Try a different exercise routine. Walk to work, or to the library, or around the block, or down your driveway and back. Nothing is etched in stone. You can try on diets and exercise regimens the same way you try on clothes or change your hair. And sooner or later, you will find one you can live with - a lifestyle that fits.

For those of you who think losing weight is different for you, or that I must have some kind of magic secret, or that it's somehow easier for me, rest assured: I haven't done anything you can't do. I've made a few good choices in terms of what's important to me and what I want out of life.

Not long ago, I read 'Losing weight is hard, and being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.' I made my choice.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD7782993
    Just clicked on your link from today's blog May 8 to get here and read this. Amazing- thanks for the insights. You write very well and are inspirational.
    3496 days ago
    You ROCK girlfriend !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    3608 days ago
    Very well said! Nothing is etched in stone and everyone has to find the right fit for them. Good for you and I hope you continue to lose and find that healthy and happy place!
    3612 days ago
    Motivating blog which I can relate to. It was certainly a wake up call! Good Luck in your achievements.

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    3620 days ago
    I love it, "choose your hard". I always say Life is hard and YOU can do hard.

    emoticon kick it!
    3628 days ago
    Congratulations on your succes!

    You really inspired me today!


    3628 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8752472
    Well done! This is a fantastic blog!
    3628 days ago
    How fantastic and how motivating make the hard choices and soon they become easy

    3629 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2964928
    Fantastic! It really is all about choices, isn't it. Sometimes we think we're choosing between a brownie and a carrot, but we're really making life and death decisions, especially those of us that have been really heavy for a really long time. Thanks for the reminder, good blog.
    3629 days ago
    3629 days ago
    Thank you. I will have to bookmark and reread this blog everyday for the next year! You are great!
    3633 days ago
    Thank you, thank you, thank you....
    3633 days ago
    Fabulous blog and SO deserving of the award! You are so inspiring.... even though I just got home from the gym, after reading this I want to go back right now! ;-)

    3633 days ago
    Sounds like you are making the right choices! So proud of your accomplishments! If you can do it I can too! Thanks for the inspiration! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3635 days ago
    This is a fabulous blog, Kasey. You've done so well! Thanks for helping me renew my motivation. It's the old Excuses vs Solutions battle, and it's time for me to root for the Solutions team again, haha!
    3636 days ago
    What a fabulous, motivating blog!
    Your story reminds me a bit of my mom's - only she began in her 80's to get fit and lose weight. You are so right to be doing this now while you can enjoy the rewards of your efforts! This is an excellent story to share. You are an inspiration! Congratulations on having come this far, and smooth sailing for the journey ahead.

    3636 days ago
    THANK YOU so much for this blog! What a GREAT story you have!

    Congratulations to you on your major accomplishments here at Spark People.
    Thanks for the tips, too, on how to make it work!

    My hat's off you you, Kasey!!

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    3641 days ago
    What powerful words you shared with us. They came at the right time for me and gave me motivation and inspiration to continue, although I am struggling at this point.
    I have made progress but I tend to lose sight of what I have done and concentrate on how far I still need to go.
    Like you, most of my motivation comes from contemplating my health and the future I want. I am no longer "pre-diabetic," but I continue to take one metformin tablet per day due to a strong family history of diabetes. I cannot seem to get my blood pressure into a "normal range," and it continues to run a little high so I continue taking the BP meds. Again, there is a strong family history of high blood pressure and heart disease, so I realize that there is definite probability that I'll be on them for the rest of my life.
    Your blog and your positive attitude has really helped me today.
    Thank you!
    3643 days ago
  • no profile photo THIAGRAM
    The bottom line says it all. We have to choose our lifestyle and we choose it whether we think about it or not. So it's a matter of thinking healthy and choosing the healthy way! Thanks for sharing!

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    3645 days ago
    Great blog, Kasey. You're a real inspiration. Keep up your program and enjoy the healthy rewards. You deserve it.
    3645 days ago
    Thanks for such an inspiring blog! emoticon on all your success...I'm so glad you found what works for you! Good luck as you continue your journey.

    I've been Sparking...hit and miss.. for almost a year now. I really needed to read your blog tonight. As I sat here feeling sorry for myself because"it's" not working. I must admit that it's "ME, MYSELF, and I" that's not working. Time to start working the program if I want to live a healthy lifestyle and watch my grandkids grow up. Thanks for the motivation.
    3645 days ago
  • REJ7777
    emoticon Congratulations on your progress! emoticon
    I didn't realize you'd lost so much weight. What a difference it will make in your overall health - as you're already experiencing! emoticon (happy dance) It's really great about the reduced diabetes medication and your ability to climb those stairs. What a pleasant surprise! As far as the blood pressure is concerned, it might go down a bit as you continue to lose weight. That sure would be a wonderful side effect. Lots of good advice too. Thx. Keep up the good work! emoticon
    3645 days ago
    You are so brave and kind to share your last year with us all. Thank you for that. It helps to opens eyes, see things a bit more clearly and realize the path you need to take to get to where you want to go. I am proud to walk this path with you in the next year to come. God has and will continue to bless you my friend. Please keep in touch.

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    3645 days ago
    Good for you, honey. I wish that I could get better, too. LOVE YOU.
    3645 days ago
    What a great insight into yourself and thank you for sharing. You are an amazing writer and have come so far. Congrats on your sucesses and many more to come.

    3645 days ago
    I have always been impressed with your writing, but this is your best piece ever. So insightful and just what I needed to read as I head in to a challenging holiday-party-filled week and was just beginning to feel the seeds of doubt in myself. Some of the things you have learned, I have also learned along the way and they have become second nature. But some - like #5 - I need to figure out and believe for myself. I can't thank you enough for writing this detailed, well thought out piece. Must tell you, I am looking forward to your first book!
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    3645 days ago
    Awesome message, Kasey. I like how you just put the truth out there. I have been tracking your weight loss and am so pleased for you! You do rock! Here's hoping that you find a solution for the hypertension soon.
    3645 days ago
  • SROUS1340
    You Rock Kaseycoff, you always have and you always will! I'd been meaning to ask how it was going with the meds, it is obviously going real well.

    I've pretty much had the experience as you with lose of weight has come loss of pain-poor old bod, finally taking care of it, and indigestion just isn't part of my life anymore. I've been having great success shopping at the thrift store lately, barely used expensive clothes and I know why, I used to have 3 sizes in my closet too.

    I'm really proud of you and your committment to your health, like you said when you look at the alternatives, easy choice.
    How bout posting a picture? I don't think we've seen you in a really long time, and you are getting svelte.
    Happy Holidays Friend!
    3645 days ago
    I have sooooo been there and I have echoes in my head, loud ones, reading what you wrote, Kasey! You are among my Spark heroes... working it out for yourself, adapting, balancing, and CHOOSING LIFE!

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    3645 days ago
    This is such an honest and information filled blog Kasey - thank you for sharing it. I hope many people who are struggling with this journey to good health and a healthy weight get the opportunity to read it, because it will give them the insight it took you 12 months to gain after just a few minutes of reading.

    Congratulations on such a great list of achievements, and much luck on the rest of your journey, although you don't sound like you need luck - you have it all well worked out!
    3645 days ago
    Wonderful perspectives, and easy clues to changing one's lifestyle. If we'll just add them one at a time, or little by little, we will see benefits on our blood tests and scales, and feel benefits in our strength, stamina, breathing, flexibility and more.

    How encouraging to see the diabetes medicines reduced! I'm amazed at the way the Spark lifestyle can rejuvenate!!
    3645 days ago
    What a testament! And to think you were my first Spark Body. You are really an inspiration to all us now! How about that cookbook? You certainly have enough data to start writing!
    3645 days ago
    Soooo glad you stayed and started getting it under control!
    3645 days ago
    Great blog! Both my mother-in-law and my father-in-law are/were legally blind due to macular degeneration from diabetes. It was quite sad watching as they had to give up many of the things they loved to do. You have made some great strides in getting your health under control. Keep up the great work, my friend.
    3646 days ago
    emoticon Thank you so much for your honesty and openness Kasey. You may never know how many people will be blessed by reading what you have endured. And that you CAN change your Life one choice at a time.
    3646 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5080021
    Well said Kasey. I think we all needed to hear this. We tend to concentrate on the number on the scale, and not what is behind that number. Choose your hard. I liked that statement. Thanks for sharing.
    3646 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/9/2010 4:30:53 PM
    Fabulous blog and you are doing it and getting there emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3646 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6484093
    Wow, Kasey -- this is just what I needed to read today. I have been fortunate in that I have not had any "formal" medical issues due to my morbid obesity. But other than that, I saw myself in your blog. It really IS all about choices. I've been making bad choices knowing full-well what the consequences will be.

    Congratulations on the weight loss over the past year! It seems to me that I'd never be able to lose that much weight in a year. And yet you and I both know it's possible and, again, it's all about the choices.

    So along with getting re-acquainted with my SparkFriends, tomorrow I'm going to start tracking my food again. I was so good about it until early October when I dropped off the SP wagon. Perhaps it will do me good to see how many calories I'm ingesting when I'm not fully on the SP program. It should prove to be a huge wake up call. That, or it'll get me motivated to start thinking about what I'm eating again.

    Thanks so very, very much for the motivational blog. You inspire me. You really do!
    3646 days ago
    WOW! I stand up and applaud you and want to give you a big hug for this blog...I have been floundering for about a month now, not really gaining but not losing either and I know that if I don't get this weight under control, I won't be able to enjoy life as I should...the 40 pounds I want to lose seems daunting but if I take it in little 5 pound loses it doesn't seem as bad. It is from SP and friend like you that I am continuing this journey for my health...thank you for this blog...you have no idea how you have touched me!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3646 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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