From Bedridden to Loving Life, 240 Lbs. Lighter


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/11/2013 6:00 AM   :  213 comments   :  31,715 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:

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Great Stories from around the Web


    Hi Beth: My name is Teresa Sewell, I just finished reading about how you lost your weight, I guess I am asking for some advice from you for a problem that I have I have a nephew who is 25 years old, he has a job that requires mostly sitting all day long he currently weighs over 400 lbs and I am really afraid that he is really damaging his health due to this enormous weight, he does not like any veggies except for potatoes and corn he has a lot of difficulty with portion control and he really does not like to exercise but he has begin to walk with my son who is 20 years old and somewhat overweight he probably weighs 220lbs or something like that, my nephew really does not think he has a problem but I know deep down it has to bother him can you give me some advice on how you got started and was able to keep your motivation up and what type of foods you ate. Thanks so much for the help. - 9/4/2013   10:36:38 AM
  • 162
    Reading this again and again. You are amazing! - 9/4/2013   7:46:01 AM
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is so motivational!
    What an accomplishment!
    So proud of you! - 9/3/2013   6:49:47 PM
  • 160
    Thank you so much for the details you gave. I cannot walk for longer than about 3 minutes at the moment. It really helps me to hear how you were able to exercise without walking. You are an inspiration - 9/2/2013   1:40:12 PM
    YOU are SO rocking girl! Congrats on the weight loss, your new life and style! You inspire me and I have moderate impairements and 60 lbs to loose! Thank you so much for telling your story. - 8/31/2013   7:13:28 PM
    well done to you. Thank you for sharing, I have decided today is the day I stop making excuses and get back on track. You look amazing - 8/31/2013   4:39:42 PM
  • HAN1978
    I'm so glad I come on these success stories pages!! I'm only in day 2 of my 140lbs weight loss journey and your two mantras are helping me already!! I've already eaten too much for breakfast, but of course thought I was fine. However, it's ok! I now know that I need to rethink it again and I'm alright with that!! Weightloss is trial and error and it's taken me 20 years to realize that you can't succeed in the trials without the errors! Thank you so much for helping me see that with your story! God bless! - 8/30/2013   8:37:17 AM
    You are a testament to what a person can achieve if they only believe and work toward their goal with no excuses and determination. Thank you for sharing. - 8/29/2013   2:52:14 PM
  • 155
    You are a wonderful inspiration! You have made me realize that some movement is better than no movement! I have had it in my head that if i couldn't exercise for x amount of time, then it wasn't worth it. Thank you for proving me wrong. - 8/28/2013   8:04:25 PM
  • 154
    What a wonderful, wonderful testimony! Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiring those of us who are just starting. - 8/27/2013   1:11:05 PM
  • 153
    Awesome! - 8/26/2013   7:20:05 PM
  • 152
    All I can say is wow! When I go to the gym and see people who are 100+ lbs overweight I marvel at their courage. Your story is just amazing. Good for you for realizing the problem was not in your stomach and walking away from surgery too. Most of all thank you for sharing your story and helping others! - 8/26/2013   12:35:05 PM
    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
    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

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