My Journey: 120 Pounds Down and Halfway to Goal

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

When I started Spark People, I honestly never expected to lose 10 pounds, let alone 120. I’ve known people who have lost 100 or more pounds, I was just never one of them. I was one of those people that would lose weight for a few months and then regain it with a vengeance. It took a week of eating to undo a month or two of dieting

I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease, herniated disks, pinched never bundles, fibromyalgia, knee problems, osteoarthritis, neuropathy, hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolarism and the list continues sadly. It became a daily battle just to get out of bed. Reclining in bed was the only was to relieve the pain, so I spent nearly all of my time in my bedroom where my body hurt less and steadily gained up to 460 pounds.

Me, at 460 pounds

As a child, I was very obese by third grade and teased unmercifully until senior year of high school and college. By then I had developed bulimia to control my weight and felt in control for the first time in my life. The sad part was that I was just above 200 pounds and never did see myself for the pretty girl that I was. By the time I got help and my bulimia was “cured,” I found myself binging and not purging. Excessive weight became even more of an issue as I reached over 300 pounds.

At this point I started trying different diet centers with short lived success. I went to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, Physician’s Weight Loss, and L.A. Weight Loss, some of them two or more times. Nothing ever really stuck as a lifestyle change, it was always a diet. A diet is something to get on and off of, not the same as a new way of relating to myself and food. That’s what I really needed.

I tried gyms, too. I joined several over the years, and to tell you the truth, they were more effective at keeping weight off than the diet centers. I mostly stuck to water aerobics, the elliptical trainer, track, and treadmill. I also enjoyed the weight machines for strength training. Over time, I quit going little by little as a membership would expire or life would get in the way.

Progressively my body became more painful over the years and when I hit my desperation point. My body literally seemed to be falling apart, and I was crying alone in my bedroom most days afraid that I would be stuck there to die. I could no longer shop or go out with friends. My whole life was in my bedroom, and I was depressed, very depressed.

Every doctor I saw begged me to have weight-loss surgery, but I didn’t have the right mindset. It’s stomach surgery, not brain surgery, and most of my issues were in my head. I did attend some surgery group meetings where I became convinced that surgery is right for some people, just not for me. I already had enough pain going on and had digestive issues already due to diabetes and irritable bowel. A few people at the meetings were also complaining of the same issues I had: the desire to keep eating after they were full, wanting to eat when they weren’t hungry, and not wanting to follow their diet plan. That didn’t seem that much different from me without the surgery.

Spark People came into my life about that time in a serious manner. I had heard about it before and thought it was probably the same old junk as everything else I had tried. I didn’t give it much thought until that desperation point I was telling you about, which happened to coincide with my investigation into weight loss surgery. I read about a tip of changing to organic milk to avoid growth hormones that might cause weight gain in Dr. Oz’s book “You on a Diet.” That was my very first SparkPeople Fast Break goal, and I lost about 10 pounds just doing that alone. From there I started using 9-inch plates instead of dinner plates, drinking more water, eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain, ordering small and moving 10 minutes a day minimum. Each of these things were added one at a time Fast Break style. As I succeeded at making SparkStreaks, the weight came off.

I followed the SparkPeople meal plan to the letter, which is not so much a diet, but a way of setting up successful streaks, setting up your environment, learning healthy habits, and helping others become healthier too. It’s through following those steps that I learned to stop dieting and make a lifestyle change.

Controlling my appetite was very difficult. I had to learn to eat the right things, like lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and dairy. While I didn’t eat strictly, I ate better than I had. I cut out as much processed junk as I could because it made me hungry. Anytime I indulged in really sugary food, I got cravings for more, so I am sure to eat extra fruit after that to squash the cravings. Nuts and water seemed to help control snack cravings, as did apples and peanut butter. Basically I looked for a protein and fiber mix to stop hunger and add fruit for a sweet touch.

Exercise was seemingly impossible at 460. I basically got tired of my old doctor and interviewed a few doctor’s offices on the phones, especially those that were internists or dealt with bariatric patients. I asked point blank if the doctor had trouble dealing with fat people and if I could count on the office for my whole health care. I found a doctor who was an internist and was also affiliated with a bariatric hospital. After running many tests, it was determined I was too disabled to even go to physical therapy, and they had home physical therapy brought to me. That’s where my exercise started.

Today I am beyond the halfway point between 460 and 225. I’ve lost 120 pounds. I use an arm cycle to exercise because my legs don’t work well and have gone up to 16 miles in a day. I’ve come from bed ridden to a wheelchair, to a walker named “Freedom.” I walked short distances on my own, despite the pain. I don’t eat perfectly, but I eat better than I used to and I am so much more picky about what I allow into my body. I no longer treat it like a garbage disposal for leftovers or stuff it to clean off a plate. It’s the little things that got me here.

As a reward, I got a porch swing. Not only does it get me outside, but it burns calories when I rock. I can also do leg extensions by placing my feet directly under me and then pushing back until my legs are straight. Just rocking toe to heel will work the calf muscles and none of it is standing. I’m sure I’ll invent more exercises with my new toy. I also plan to buy a bangle bracelet because at my heaviest I was not able to wear one. It would be a great reminder of how far I’ve come.

I still have pain and I still spend most of my time in my bedroom to relieve the pain, but I have hope and much more variety in my life now. I am actually more in control of my body again. Maybe I can’t cure the incurable, but I can make my life the best it can be.

The lessons I learned from all of this are that small doable changes work, while sudden life overhauls don’t. Consistency is going to show. It doesn’t matter if you do 10 more minutes of exercise or eat just one or two less things a day. It will make a difference. Life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now!

How did you celebrate when you hit your halfway point?

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I have been following you since I started with
Spark in 2014 . You are such an inspiration to
me. Thank you for sharing your story. I have
lost 50# and i am struggling with maintenance. Report
Spark on, Beth! Report
CHERYLHURT 3/20/2019
Excellent Report
ORTATK 1/26/2019
You are an inspiration. Keep on keeping on the only thing you can do is to feel better and better each day. Report
Your journey is just reading over and over. I can't imagine the hope you have given to people who feel beaten or discouraged. Report
Inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it. Report
Like this blog a lot. I could never take pictures of myself or write a blog. So she gives me hope. I also have same illness that the blogs have. Alone with asthma.. With dyslexia too.

Thank you Report
"SPARK PEOPLE" rocks! Great job! Report
Awesome, WOOHOO to you. You have come a long way, I am so happy for you, If you can do it so can I. Thanks so much for your story! :) Report
Your story sounds so much like me! But my highest weight was 410, I'm down to just below 300 now on my way to 170. I "live" in my recliner most of the time because I've had difficulty being comfortable even in an adjustable bed. I use a wheelchair to get around most of the time but crutches when the chair won't go into some places. I've learned so much along the Journey! The first thing was to avoid dieting because I had dieted myself fat. Thank you for sharing your story! Report
I think this is the most encouraging blog post I have read so far. You have given me hope that I can meet my goals. And what a great idea, to find ways to exercise that work WITH your body and what you can do. I have spinal issues, a shoulder problem, bipolar and fibro too and often get discouraged when I can't do something. Thanks for sharing your experience. Report
this is a good article Report
Great article Report
You are so pretty, I was sad to hear about the bullying, those people should be ashamed of themselves. If you want to you can add me as a friend. I liked reading your story and you are right surgery does not solve everyone's weight loss problems and it can create new health issues. Report
Awesome! Thank you for sharing your journey with SparkPeople! What an inspiration! Report
You are amazing! Report
Porch Swing?? I was totally enthralled when I read that. The link didn't work, unfortunately, and it seems that your regular blog no longer has as many of your blogs (only 7 pages worth!!). I'm hoping to find out more about that! We've talked about getting a porch swing for the back yard... Report
I've just started my journey. I need to lose at least 50 lbs. After reading this, I'm thinking this may just be possible. Report
How did I celebrate? We started planning a trip to Greece for this summer (well, actually that was at ONEderland, which was slightly past the halfway point). I can't wait to go... Report
I was so encouraged by you ! Thank you for sharing your journey. Report
You rock, girl. Keep pushing. Halfway there =) Report
Girl, I am so proud of you and all the work it took. Keep up the good work!!
stay in touch with me!!
Claudia Moore
Claudiree Report
Excellent progress! Thanks for posting your journey; it's wonderful that you are closer to your goal. Report
You are amazing! Great going. Report
Wow! What an inspiration you are to me. Hopefully before you know it, you'll have freedom from "freedom". Keep the will reach you goals! Report
Wow, you are such an inspiration. Congratulations on meeting the halfway point of your journey. I wish you the best of luck :) Report
Truly an astonishing transformation. Just looking at your face in the two pictures. Look how much happier you are. It shows!! Thank you for sharing your story. I pray you continue to drop the weight, and in that, heal some of the other issues. Report
Wow! You are such an inspiration! Congratulations on reaching your halfway mark! Keep up the hard work, I'm sure you'll reach your goal before you know it! Thank you so much for sharing! We all truly appreciate it!!! (: Report
I love that you were wise enough to know the surgery would need a mental change as well, and not do it just because the doctors told you! Your story is inspirational. You do what you can where you are, and that's great! Keep it up! We want to see you meet your goal, so we know we can too! Report
WOW! You are amazing and have given me inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story! Report
Congrats! Your story is amazing!!! Report
Awesome! Thanks for the inspiration. I have a long way to go and really needed to read this today! Continued Blessings on your journey! Report
Beth, I was so proud of you when I read your blog today. I'm at the beginning of what seems like a huge, daunting task--to lose 150 pounds after failing to reach my goal weight and gaining more back for almost 30 years. You give me hope, and no matter what your weight was in those pictures, you have such a sweet and lovely and kind face---I bet you are a delightful person to know! Report
Beth, your story is incredible. I realy think you should be a story on the Dr. Oz show and you write very well so I thinkyou should write a book as inspiration to others. Congratulations on making it to Freedom and the decision to continue on your journey without bariatric surgery. You should be extra proud of yourself for all yor achievements! Report
Good for you - great job !! Report
i hope you buy yourself all the bangle bracelets you could possibly handle!
you are amazing. keep it up!! you may not need 'freedom' much longer! Report
Beth! You are beautiful! Congrats on your huge achievement! You've done the hardest part! It should only get easier from here. Keep up the great work! Report
You have inspired me today. Thank you very much. It sure helps to know there are other people out there that struggle as I do. Report
Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. How amazing you are to have all that you do and to come as far as you have. I just need to remember the small changes as you mentioned. One of the things my mom says to me all of the time, "Honey, did you put the weight on over night??? You cannot lose it overnight, so be patient with yourself! Keep on doing what your doing and keep us all posted. You go Girl! Report
The swing was a great idea and treat. You are magnificent, and a role model for many. Keep it up, and congratulations. Report
The obstacles you've overcome are huge. Thank you for sharing your story. Whenever I start to feel like I have difficulties I need to remember you and the amazing work you've done. Good luck honey! Report
You wrote my life story right down to resistance to weight loss because I know the issue is in my head, being diagnosed bipolar and living with very severe depression ( my daughter committed suicide which has made life difficult to deal with, and then in June I lost my longtime job and there is no work out there for someone like me-old, obese, under educated). I try very hard to be involved with Spark, I try to appear very positive,I send welcome messages to as many new members as I can, but I still feel phony and empty. I will continue to read your blog for inspiration and realization that there is hope out there. Thank you for your raw honesty. I touched my soul. Report
you are an inspiration and motivate me to keep going....I have a bad back and had surgery 3 years ago which only relieved the sharp pains but left me with nerve damage daily pain and a drop foot. I keep going everyday but some days are hard to get going...Now I have your blog to look back at! Thanks for your blog!!!! Report
You are an inspiration to me ! Report
Good for you!!! Keep on working. You're an inspiration! Report
I loved reading your story! You are very inspiring to me, and I'm sure, everyone who has read this blog. I think you are doing great and hope to see more blogs from you with your awesome progess! I too, thought about weight-loss surgery, but decided it's not for me as well. Thanks again for posting your blog. You are doing fantastic!!! Report
GOOSEBUMPS!!! :) Keep on keepin on, I'm half way to my goal as well!! Report
keep on sparking...once I got to a healthy weight all of my pain left...feels so amazing. Report
You are an amazing and beautiful woman. Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story. Best wishes on your continued journey to better health and happiness! Report
Keep going strong! Report