In the fall of 2015, Jane (FUNNYFACE101002) was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. At 348 pounds, she was embarrassed by the number on the scale. Jane was wearing size 28 pants and a four or 5XL shirt. "[If I gained more weight], I was at a total loss as to where I would buy myself clothes," she recalls. Luckily Jane had no other known health issues, but after surgery to remove the cancer, she knew it was time to make changes.
Jane's first step was to buy a FitBit. Although her husband told her that alone wasn’t going to help her lose weight, she knew it would be a constant reminder of the lifestyle changes she was making. Jane also decided to start counting calories, which is what brought her to SparkPeople.
"I logged everything I put into my mouth, [and] then had to decide which foods I could live without," she remembers. "I decided I couldn't live without anything, so that meant I had to budget for it in my calories every day." Jane loves ice cream, so instead of giving it up completely, she bought portion-controlled ice cream bars in place of a half-gallon of her favorite flavor. "I would log the ice cream [at the beginning of the day]," says Jane. "That way I knew I could have it, but I'd have to stay within my calorie range in order to be able to eat it."
In the beginning Jane only used SparkPeople to log her food, water and weight-loss progress. Eventually she became involved in the Community, which she credits with motivating her to lose more weight. "I felt supported that I was not being judged for my weight," she says. Jane found others like her who were facing the same ups and downs. She was getting support and giving support and felt that the time and energy to make connections with others was well spent.
Health Setbacks Made Her Stronger
In 2017, after working hard on her healthy lifestyle for over a year, Jane started having chest pains. Initially, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, but something told her to wait on the surgery. Within a month she could hardly swallow and eventually received the proper diagnosis: esophageal cancer. "[I] hadn't heard a lot about [esophageal cancer, but knew that] not many people survive it. I'm going to," she affirms.
Jane spent some time away from SparkPeople as she went through chemotherapy and radiation. "It was not fun. I wanted my Spark life back," she recalls. Jane put all of her energy into fighting the cancer and getting better. She never stopped wearing her FitBit and ate the foods her care team recommended to keep up her strength. As soon as she was able, she started walking again. "[Eventually] I was back up to over 10,000 steps a day. I would walk 1,000 steps and take a nap," Jane says.
In February 2018, Jane had her esophagus removed. "Talk about a new relationship with food," she jokes. "It was a huge struggle."
Although many high-fiber foods and raw fruits and veggies are off-limits, Jane is grateful to be alive. She has gained some weight back since the surgery, but considers herself lucky that she was working so hard to lose weight before the diagnosis. "I'm not sure they would have done the surgery with my weight so high. I consider it a blessing [that I made those changes when I did.]"
It's Not All About the Weight!
Jane's advice for those who are just beginning or those who are struggling along their weight-loss journey is simple: "Grab onto a few SparkFriends that have similar goals and are as serious as you," she says. Social support can make such a difference when it comes to progress and success.
"Everyone is here for a different reason, so don't judge," she advises. "I remember seeing [members] struggling over losing 10 pounds while I was struggling to lose over 100 pounds. [While it might seem less important,] their 10 pounds are as real and as hard as yours." Jane recommends being honest, because in the bad times, she's received great support. "It's not easy, but that's okay. You can do hard [things]," she declares.
She also recommends being honest when it comes to tracking. "Start by logging everything that goes into your mouth," Jane recommends. Even if you aren't making changes to your diet right away, you can still see areas where you need to adjust when you're ready. "Once you can do that honestly, move on to another [healthy habit], such as drinking enough water daily."
Jane does not believe in cheat days or giving up certain foods completely. Instead, she still makes room in her eating plan for foods like chips or chocolate-covered almonds, but she's strict with portion control and logs everything. "If I can't control how much of a food I'm going to eat, I just can't have it in the house," says Jane.
"[This journey] is about feeling good in your own skin," Jane says. "Look at yourself and love you—you can be your own worst enemy or your own best friend. Don't do this for anyone else but you."
Although it might sound selfish, Jane believes that if you're feeling good about yourself and the choices you're making, you will become a more positive influence on others. She says it's important to realize that not everyone is in the same place. You can share your story, but you can't force others to change—that determination must come from within.
Jane is now a year out from surgery and looks forward to getting back into the "under-200-pound club". She knows it won't be easy, but Jane is hopeful about the future and continues to log all of her food and get at least 10,000 steps most days. "Cancer was my biggest obstacle. It has been very difficult," Jane reflects. "If I have to gain weight to live, I will, but I do not have to be that obese ever again."
How have setbacks made you stronger in the journey to a healthier lifestyle? Share in the comments below, and give Jane your well-wishes and congratulations!