Overcome your obstacles
Saturday, June 21, 2008
We each have different obstacles to overcome in order to achieve lasting weight loss. For some, it's eating disorders, or medicine that causes weight gain, or stress, good or bad. And for others, it's emotional eating, a love affair with food or being unable or unwilling to exercise. And if you're like me, you might need to overcome yourself. You know what I've heard a lot of recently: I'm just not ready. That's an obstacle, too.
If I've hit on one of your obstacles, and even if I haven't, you might not like what I have to say next, but take it to heart: none of these can't be overcome.
And when I say none, I mean, none.
What do I know about it? A lot.
You can thank Tricia Goyer for what I'm going to say next. She gave an amazing radio interview for Moody's Midday Connection recently, and in it, she gave an honest and transparent look into her life and some obstacles she's had to overcome (the interview was about her book, "Generation NeXt Marriage." If you get a chance, listen to it and leave a comment at the Midday page.)
I've decided to speak up about the blood clots in my right leg. I've mentioned them, but I seldom say much beyond that.
People who meet me in person frequently ask, "Is your right leg bigger than your left?"
Many of you know the blood clots' diagnosis galvanized my weight loss. One careful reader noted I had lost 41 pounds before I started exercising.
She's right, and I have the clots to thank for that.
Last summer, my family hit the road for a camping trip in the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon. When we arrived, I stepped out of the motor home and noticed my right ankle felt funny. I looked down to see a huge, swollen mass hanging over my K-Swiss sneakers.
I turned to my husband and said, "The only time I've ever seen my ankle swell is when I've had blood clots." They had struck twice before, due to traumas, once in my 20s and again in my 30s. Doctors were convinced I'd never have trouble again. I believed them.
At this time, I weighed an obese 161 pounds, only drank water if I was really thirsty, and as for exercise - well, I ran out of breath climbing one flight of stairs.
I looked back down at my ankle, remembered the long hospital visits, the months of walking on crutches, daily shots in the stomach, and decided I did not have blood clots.
Off I hiked to Blue Hole, where massive waterfalls create cooling sprays in the hot sun and salmon make a ruckus when spawning. I walked miles daily, looking for the perfect fishing hole (I'm an avid fisherman). I traveled with friends to the charming town of Joseph. Inside, I fretted about my ankle. Outside, I comforted myself with hamburgers, french fries, diet cola, brats, chips, trail mix and whatever else I could find.
I knew it couldn't be blood clots. I knew it had to be blood clots.
After 2-1/2 weeks of sun, river and food, I arrived home with my ankle, knee and thigh swelling and my leg killing me.
I had nearly killed myself.
The minute my ankle swelled, I should have gone to the hospital in Enterprise (the closest city to our campground with a medical facilities). But, I ignored every symptom, hoping they would go away.
I had massive blood clots in the deep veins of my right leg, called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. The same leg I had them in before. Only this time, they were spontaneous. That's bad. Very bad.
The thing about blood clots is, if part of one breaks loose and travels to your lungs or heart or brain, you can die instantly. I didn't know it just then, but I had one on the way to my lungs.
I started on medicine that caused my blood to clot slower and had to keep my leg elevated above my heart for more than three months. I started researching my condition and discovered three major factors of spontaneous blood clots (among others): obesity, dehydration and lack of exercise.
Didn't that describe me to a tee?
I was desperate to do the one thing I'd failed at consistently for years: lose weight and get in shape. But, how could I lose weight if I couldn't exercise?
The obstacles to reducing my bulk overwhelmed me. In my social circle, we're all great cooks. We get together frequently, and we bring large amounts of our favorite foods - beef stroganhoff, barbecue meatballs, chips and salsa, berry cobbler. All that temptation, all the time.
But I knew I couldn't fail this time, and that's when I started talking tough. I decided if I used my God-given abilities and exercised discipline, will-power and self-control daily, I could lose weight and keep it off, even when reclining most of the day.
I designed an eating plan that accounted for my lack of movement. Rather than count calories, I reduced my portions by about one quarter. It didn't take me long to instinctively realize how much was too much.
I can still hear my stepson saying, "Why are you putting meatball back? It's just one." Yeah - it was one too many, and it went back into the crock pot.
I woke up every morning determined in my heart to eat right. I set a goal of a pound a week, and usually I met it. Sometimes, I'd go for two weeks and, nothing. After a while, I realized, hey, just wait, your body will catch up. It always did.
By November, I was up and moving around more. I found I could increase my portions slightly and still lose, so I did. On Christmas, I reached my goal and in January, I asked my husband to take the treadmill out of the garage and set it up in the family room.
I lost nine more pounds without changing my eating habits. And I keep it off with some daily tough talk and discipline in eating and exercising.
But the story doesn't end there. The crisis for my leg will never end. Because I waited so long to get my leg diagnosed, the blood clots scarred over and won't ever dissolve. My blood has had to form new routes to my heart, and this last bout of clots destroyed the valves in my right leg.
Don't misunderstand: I praise God because I'm still able to walk and jog and do the things normal people do. I'm not complaining, not one bit.
It turns out, advances in medicine revealed I have two blood-clotting disorders and I'm borderline for a third, rare one. My obesity, lack of water and exercise, combined with my blood disorders, led to a rapid decline in my health at only 42 years old.
I'm here to tell you, it wasn't worth it.
I'm here to tell you, no matter what obstacles you face, you can still lose weight and keep it off for good. It'll take effort. It'll take a plan. It'll take hard work. And it'll take all that every single day.
But you have to want it.
Don't wait one more minute. Don't do to your body what I did to mine.
Today, I'm healthier than ever. Because I've brought my weight under control and am in fantastic shape, I've greatly reduced my chances of forming more clots.
I'm on a crusade to help others achieve better health through meeting their weight and fitness goals. And now, you know why.
Thank for bearing with me, everyone. If you have an obstacle you think you can't overcome, you've come to the right place. You won't get much comfort from me, but you'll get some tough talk.
Because if I can do it, so can you.