From Bedridden to Loving Life, 240 Lbs. Lighter


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/11/2013 6:00 AM   :  201 comments   :  28,527 Views

Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)  
Weight Lost: 240 pounds (and counting!)
Hometown: Fishers, IN
What was life like before your weight loss?
I have been heavy since childhood.   I became my largest in the early 2000s.    I ate for comfort and refuge from my life.  I had a very controlling mother and watched my father die of a heart attack.  Both were abusive and very heavy, but they sure watched everything I ate.   Then, behind my mother's back, my dad would take me out and challenge me to eating contests.  In my teens and 20s, my weight was kept under control mostly by bulimia.  I always sought comfort in food, and when I got married and things got rough at times, my eating would escalate. 
At my largest, it also was the saddest time of my life.  I lived in my bedroom and could no longer walk.  I became disabled by three herniated disks, two pinched nerve bundles, fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease, and arthritis.  I had to stop and rest just trying to get around my house to get to the restroom or kitchen.  I also had to quit my job and could no longer fit behind the wheel of a car.  Days became very lonely, as I stayed home alone for years.  Several times, I became so depressed I called the crisis line.  

What was the main motivation behind your weight loss?
My best friend, Tina, was my biggest motivation to lose weight.  She had weight-loss surgery, which I didn't want to do, but she was out having a life again.  I wanted that too!  Then, I read a book called "YOU: On a Diet."  It taught me how to stay satisfied.  My other friend, Lori, pointed me to SparkPeople and I became an addict.  Every time I feel like eating, I log on.  Let's just say that some days while I'm home alone, I'm on A LOT!

Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey:
I attempted weight-loss surgery three times, and finally achieved a "YES" from the medical staff on the third try. At the mandatory pre-surgery meetings, all of the patients were complaining of being hungry after eating, wanting to eat emotionally, and binge.  I then realized it was stomach surgery, not brain surgery. No need to cut up my stomach; first I needed to get my head right.  So, I fired my doctors and got new ones who would prescribe a new approach.

I started with in-home physical therapy, where I learned that even little movements prepare you for bigger ones. Since I couldn't walk, I got an arm bike and used it faithfully.  I also created seated exercises. I weighed and measured everything. I rejoiced at every loss, no matter how big or small, and implemented a reward system. I eventually made it out of my wheelchair and up to a walker. Once on a walker, I trained for a year and then walked a 5K with it at the mall, where I could take breaks at each end.

The SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker helped me get a realistic view of what I was really eating and Coach Nicole inspired me to move. I started logging my arm bike miles on the Fitness Tracker, and I felt proud with each entry. 

There was so much to read and earn SparkPoints for, so I kept busy like a college student learning a new lifestyle. I blogged about everything once I saw there was hope.  I wanted others to have hope, too. I've gotten so much support from the people on SparkPeople.  Without them, I fear I would fail, yet again.  They are my cause and my support. Now, I travel, holding rallies to promote SparkPeople and help people see that it can be done, no matter what shape you're in, no matter your ability level, no matter your age… you CAN do something.

What is your typical exercise routine like?
Currently, I walk a few times a week and utilize my Fitbit as motivation to increase my distance.  I also still use my arm bike in addition to a recumbent bike, yoga, and isometric exercises.  My routine varies from day to day.  Some days I’m not able to do as much as I would like to because of chronic pain from my disability, but as I always say, "Something is better than nothing!"  I sit on a stability ball at times and just make figure eights or I "bed dance" using just my upper body. It all started with lifting shampoo bottles in bed as part of physical therapy, and I’ve come a long way since then!

In what ways have your eating habits changed?
I have a few "~Indyisms" that I live by. Here are two that give you an idea of how I approach eating now: "One slice of pizza always has less calories than two" and "If you got a flat tire, you wouldn’t run around the car in a frenzy popping the other three.  You would fix the one and get back on the road."  These two mantras significantly help me.  I now stop eating before excessive damage is done and can prevent a binge with these thoughts.

I also like to say: "Life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now."  "You don’t have to be thin to act thin."

What advice would you give to someone either just beginning or hitting a rough patch in their weight-loss journey?
Forgive yourself easily and treat yourself like you would a good friend or a child.  Track your food and exercise; it really helps more than anything you can imagine.  It helps you see that you are screwing up far less than you think you are and it also serves as a confessor.  Once you write it down and confess your food sin in your tracker, you are forgiven, so move on.

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
I went from specialty catalogs to large size stores, and now to normal stores for clothing. I went down in both wheelchair and walker sizes.  I can use a seatbelt, wear a swimsuit, fit in a booth or theater seat, and go on a plane! I feel confident and like a fighter now. My husband and I have a much better relationship now, and this helped me become much happier.  Having much more support and less stress was very freeing, I could start discovering myself without as much fear. I also felt free to try new things, explore my emotions and express myself in a new way. I want to fight for every overweight person out there to have that second chance at life that SparkPeople gave me.  I now see myself in a whole new light and have hope again.  I’m no longer trapped in a room waiting to die. I’m happy to live!

Thanks for sharing your story, Beth.
Editor's Note: You can read all of Beth's SparkPeople blogs here, and she has also started a SparkTeam (Team ~Indygirl) to help others.

This was her before weight loss:

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

NEXT ENTRY >   VIDEO: Coach Nicole Answers Fitness Questions on Google+

Great Stories from around the Web


    Thank you for reminding me that even small changes make a big difference. You are very inspiring! Congratulations for all your hard work!

    I also have arthritis, and through trial and error I am finding that sugar, dairy products, and wheat seem to set it off for me, as recently as last week. But when I climb back on the wagon and eat healthy foods again, along with flaxseed, it goes away. Finally I feel in control again, and it's a wonderful feeling. - 8/25/2013   11:51:05 PM
  • 150
    Your story is remarkable! You speak for so many of us that binge and loose out on life. I hung on every word in your story! You look beautiful, happy, and very healthy!!!! Congratulations on achieving the well-deserved body that you've worked so hard for!
    - 8/24/2013   7:45:01 PM
  • 149
    God bless you! - 8/21/2013   11:16:44 PM
    I can't get enough of hearing your story, you are so inspiring. I also was striving for gastric surgery but realized that I'd have to maintain a lifestyle change afterwards, so why not just try the lifestyle change now? And hey, the weight does come off. I also love your tires comment, I do think of that and sometimes it helps stop a binge in its tracks. Thank you for caring and for sharing with all of us. - 8/21/2013   4:43:44 PM
  • BABYCAT1205
    Thank you for sharing your story. You are amazing, and have accomplished so much! I am new here, and this is the kind of inspiration I need to get healthy! - 8/19/2013   8:29:51 PM
    Love you blogs. Everyone! - 8/19/2013   10:07:22 AM
  • 145
    Thank you for another inspiring story Beth! - 8/19/2013   6:00:08 AM
  • 144
    Your story has inspired me today and just when I needed it most!!! I have stopped and started countless times and you have inspired me to start again! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Congratulations on your success. - 8/18/2013   10:34:50 AM
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I found it so very encouraging. I truly wish you the best of luck - 8/17/2013   9:11:13 PM
  • 142
    AMAZING!!!! Such an inspiration you are!!! - 8/17/2013   10:32:10 AM
    this is awesome and a true inspiration to me. i am getting over alot in my life and my weight is tied to my emotions. im a binge eater and since realized it. i feel more in control knowing i can change what and how i eat. im doing better little by little. your doing great though. good job. your beautiful. - 8/17/2013   5:09:37 AM
  • 140
    Truly AMAZING ! - 8/16/2013   8:59:48 PM
    you will be my inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. - 8/15/2013   10:28:06 PM
  • 138
    I've followed your story for a while now, and I have to respond: I'm proud of you and your persistence and determination!! You are an inspiration to others. I especially appreciate that you had to do the "head" work first - I fear that is a step too many don't take. Keep on your path; it becomes you!! (take that every way you want, it's all positive!!) - 8/15/2013   8:29:25 PM
  • 137
    Beth, have always loved your story of about weight loss venture - I'm sure your story is helping so many others. Thanks for sharing.
    - 8/15/2013   3:12:35 PM
  • 136
    Thank you for sharing your struggles. Your courage gives me hope. - 8/15/2013   2:56:21 PM
  • 135
    Wow! You have come such a long way! Not just weight loss, but amazing personal growth! I love your mantras! You story is so inspirational! - 8/14/2013   8:03:28 PM
  • 134
    What an amazing woman you are! I hope you realize that each time someone reads of your journey, you are taking their hand and showing them the way! What an awesome gift you are sharing with so many people. God Bless you and congratulations on all your many achievements! ~ Linda - 8/14/2013   3:46:31 PM
  • 133
    WOW! This story brought tears to my eyes. I feel blessed to be able to say that I am still able to walk, work etc. but I can still relate to you in so many ways.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Niemom - 8/14/2013   1:31:55 PM
    Congratulations! What an accomplishment! You are such an inspiration! :) - 8/14/2013   6:41:31 AM
  • LILY105
    Great Job!! I weigh 290, have back problems as well as other medical issues which make it hard for me to exercise, but seeing your article has really inspired me... thank you for sharing your story :)
    - 8/14/2013   2:02:36 AM
    My Good Lord..... Indy I visited ur page on Sparkpeople like after one year post my baby was born.....and it was not less than a SHOCK!!!!!! No one is more inspiring to me right at this moment. Yes, now Im confident that I can lose the baby weight ... looking at you. You must be so proud of yourself and I can see it on your face. Love you, take care. - 8/14/2013   1:49:55 AM
  • 129
    Congratulations on taking control and taking care of yourself! You're beautiful, and an inspiration to those of us with a lot to lose! - 8/13/2013   10:31:50 PM
  • 128
    Thank you for sharing your story. Keep up your good work. You are a beautiful lady. - 8/13/2013   9:57:19 PM
    OMG Beth - YOU are AWESOME!!!!! Good for you. What an inspiring story! That's awesome that you lost SO MUCH without surgery! So many people have the surgery, don't exercise or even eat right, and they may lose some, and then gain it back. And then I do know some that have exercised their tails off and changed their diets, and kept it off. You are such an inspiration to everyone!!! - 8/13/2013   9:52:44 PM
    Congrats Beth! You are such and inspiration! - 8/13/2013   9:32:48 PM
  • 125
    Thank you for sharing this with us and your great! - 8/13/2013   8:30:11 PM
  • 124
    Congratulations on sticking to it and aiming always at your goal. An inspiration, for sure! - 8/13/2013   8:17:57 PM
  • 123
    You are such an inspiration! Congratulations! - 8/13/2013   8:05:37 PM
    IndyGirl, you have touched more lives than you can possibly
    know. God bless you.
    - 8/13/2013   7:59:57 PM
  • AN1944
    Thankyou so much for your inspirational story. I'm 69 years old and this is my new life in a healthy body finally. I lost 70 pounds and am maintaining for over 2 years. Have been struggling with obesity since I've been 6 years old. At 69 I am too tired to do the gaining and losing over and over again. Sooo I'll stay put. Exercise 4-5 days a week. Eat a calorie diet of under 1300, go to TOPS, write a journal and keep my food log. and talk, talk talk to myselt to not give in. - 8/13/2013   7:27:50 PM
  • 120
    Thank You for sharing this story, it is so inspiring! You were beautiful before, but now you shine! - 8/13/2013   7:24:04 PM
    You are an amazing person. Thank you for sharing your story. I joined Sparkpeople many years ago and never have really used the site as it should be but after reading your story you have inspired me to try again. - 8/13/2013   7:03:12 PM
    You are beautiful, amazing and totally inspiring. I started my goal to lose 230 pounds in January and I am over 25% toward that goal with growing confidence each day. I love that you do what you can with what you have. Best approach ever. You figured it out and now you are inspiring others! Thank you for sharing your story! :) - 8/13/2013   7:02:24 PM
    You are very brave and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story, Beth. Congratulations on getting your life back, it is nothing short of amazing! - 8/13/2013   6:38:10 PM
    What I notice the most about your after picture is how much happier you are!
    :) - 8/13/2013   6:20:06 PM
    So AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. you are such an inspiration to us all. I too love your analogy about popping the car tires. That is such a better way to think than I usually do. I'm going to write that down and share it with others I know !! Thank You! - 8/13/2013   3:06:43 PM
    You are such a lovely lady and I admire you for overcoming your obstacles. - 8/13/2013   12:12:06 PM
  • 113
    Congratulations Beth!!! You're a real inspiration to me....I have a lot to lose and a bad physical condition. You're story is so helpful to me to know it can be done!!!! I'm just starting my journey as I have lost nothing yet, but I'll check in on your blog often for your help. Thanks - 8/13/2013   11:21:55 AM
    Wonderful! Good girl! Congrats!!!
    - 8/13/2013   8:43:02 AM
  • 111
    You are an inspiration! What a marvelous job you have done with God's Help! Thank you for being REAL and transparent as you bring your life journey for all to see. Appreciate you! God Bless You Richly! CONGRATULATIONS! :)

    - 8/13/2013   12:58:27 AM
  • 110
    I still can't get over your amazing transformation. You rock!!! (((hug))) - 8/12/2013   10:30:13 PM
  • 109
    "If you got a flat tire, you wouldn’t run around the car in a frenzy popping the other three. You would fix the one and get back on the road." This had me laughing out loud. So true. I will keep this one in mind for those moments I feel like giving in. Congratulations on your weight loss success and thank you for inspiring me. - 8/12/2013   10:30:09 PM
    Beth, I also printed your story to share with my TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)
    weight loss chapter. Thanks for all the encouragement. Hugs!!! - 8/12/2013   10:16:37 PM
    Beth,YOU are so awesome! Such an inspiration to us all. I simply love all your blogs and what a struggle you went through. You always have such advice and support for us. You go girl!! You have taught me to work through the pain! Thanks for everything! Hugs!!! - 8/12/2013   10:13:12 PM
  • 106
    WooHoo !
    Girl, YOU are always SO INSPIRING
    Love and Blessings ! - 8/12/2013   9:57:07 PM
  • 105
    Thank you and congratulations. You look amazing! - 8/12/2013   9:13:21 PM
  • 104
    Having just come off of a "well I've already blown it today, might as well make a weekend of it" binge, I really related to your analogy of the flat tire . . . I popped all three & the spare as well this weekend! But I'm over it (hopefully!) and ready to move on & get back on track. Thanks for your willingness to share your story! - 8/12/2013   7:57:53 PM
    I loved what I have read and have started reading your have made me think I can still do least now I am considering doing it...huge step for me - 8/12/2013   7:35:27 PM
    Thanks so much. I am always inspired by your blogs. Keep up the good you do for yourself and your friends. - 8/12/2013   6:17:34 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


x Lose 10 Pounds by March 9! Get a FREE Personalized Plan