For most of my life, I’d been satisfied with my weight, never giving it much thought. I enjoyed being active, with an occasional weakness for sweets, but was generally happy. I met my husband, got married, and was looking forward to starting a family. I didn’t know it at the time, but motherhood would change my life forever, in unexpected ways.
During my first pregnancy, I quickly consumed calories, often without thought. I reasoned I was eating for two, the perfect excuse to let loose and eat whatever I wanted! Gaining about 50 pounds, I figured I’d lose it once my baby was born, and did, with the help of dieting and proper eating. I was a happy mom to one when I became pregnant with my second child. Reverting back to my old pregnancy habits, I overate throughout it and packed on a whopping 80 pounds. I figured I could drop the weight once the baby was born, after all, I’d done it before.
My plans were quickly derailed when, during an emergency C-section, I sustained permanent nerve damage from the epidural. Exercising, even walking long distances, became difficult and were eliminated as options for weight loss. Losing the baby weight this time around became a struggle, but through dieting and portion control once again, I was able to lose enough of the extra weight to feel content. I remained about 30 pounds overweight, but wasn’t going to let it dictate my happiness.
The stresses of two young children and the difficulties of everyday life, compounded by my nerve pain, began to take its toll on my relationship with my husband. We went through a bit of a rough patch, and I watched my waistline grow as I sought comfort in sweets and junk food. I didn’t realize that I was mixing food with feelings, and that I wasn’t in control of what I was eating, when I was eating it, or how much of it I was eating. It became clear that I was an emotional eater.
After working to resolve our issues and get through our difficulties, we discovered that I was pregnant with our third child. The story was the same the third time around, but with a devastating ending. My baby was born with a birth defect, putting any concerns about my weight or personal wellness on the backburner. Spending much of my time at the doctor and worrying about my child’s health, on top of caring for two others, became overwhelming. I buried my feelings in bags of cookies, candy, and any other junk I could get my hands on. Binge eating was a conscious, comforting decision for me, and I didn’t care about the consequences.
In my first 10 years of marriage, I had given birth to 5 children, nursed each for a year, and suffered several emotional and physical setbacks. Yo-yo dieting did little to stop me from becoming 100 pounds overweight during those ten years.
While my husband had been extremely supportive of me and insisted he didn’t care what I weighed, I did! I didn’t want my weight keeping me from being an active mom, and I wasn’t going to let those extra pounds stop me from enjoying activities with my family. For the most part, it didn’t. But every time swim season or a family vacation rolled around, I felt pangs of hesitation and even embarrassment when it came time to squeeze into a swimsuit.
I tried the old T-shirt and shorts route, but it was a health hazard at public pools. I tried a swimdress, but didn’t feel adequately covered or particularly modest (strappy string tops and short skirt-bottoms are a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen in wind or water!). Whatever I wore, I could feel all eyes on me. I knew I looked overweight and even worse in my granny-style swimsuits. I knew people were staring at me.
I was determined to drop the extra weight. I wanted to be confident in my clothes, and specifically in swimwear. Diet and exercise were my plan, and even with my nerve and foot pain and mothering responsibilities, I was adamant about making working out a priority. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much my extra weight had impacted my body.
The burden of 100 pounds of extra weight wreaked havoc on my already painful feet and caused severe back and joint pain. I decided to tough it out and exercise anyway, and did too much too soon. After developing plantar fasciitis in my feet, I was forced to stop exercising and allow my body to rest. As my feet slowly healed, I eased back into physical exercise by walking each day. Inevitably though, the pain came roaring back forcing me to give up exercise. I had lost 50 pounds in those few months, but promptly put back on 30 while I was recovering and unable to work out.
As I was recovering and wondering how to lose weight without relying heavily on exercise, I came across many diet and eating plans online. One seemed appropriate for me, a ketogenic diet for those severely overweight or obese with chronic pain or illnesses, but the combination of a commitment to a complete eating overhaul and my daughter’s life-threatening food allergies made me dismiss it as a possibility. I continued researching the diet and reading up on lifestyle changes while I plugged away at losing weight on my own.
Then came another setback.
It was Christmas Eve three years ago when I simply bent over to pick up a piece of paper and my pelvis rotated. The pain was agonizing, compounded by my already aching back and joints, causing an excruciating pain, worse than childbirth! I couldn’t stand up straight or even pour a pitcher of water from the joint and back pain that left me lying flat on my back for weeks afterward. When I finally saw a chiropractor and received treatment to correct the rotation, I was also informed by my doctor that I had significant inflammation in my joints; she recommended cutting wheat and sugar out of my diet. I was in such pain that I figured I’d give it a try, and it worked! I also quickly lost 20 pounds, bringing my total up to 50. I still had more to go in reaching my goal of losing 100 pounds, but I was more confident than ever that I could do it.
Adding to my confidence was my excitement over finding the life-changing swimwear of HydroChic before a family vacation. Even though I wasn’t at my ideal weight and remained plus-sized, I was proudly swimming with my kids without fear of looking ridiculous, although I did receive many stares. But this time they were staring at my flattering, modest swim suit and asking where I bought it. I wore that suit long after my vacation, going to beach, waterpark, pool, and lake; I even taught a swim class at the local Y in it!
But my confidence would once again be shaken by another injury.
After a fall, I reinjured my back. It was painful, but my determination to live an active life kept me from seeking treatment. It wasn’t until two months later when I decided to volunteer at a Special Olympics horseback riding program that I realized how bad it was. I was still having pain and figured if I was going to potentially catch a child if they fell off a horse, I had better be able to do it without my back giving out. After undergoing X-Rays, I was informed that I’d broken my back in the fall, crushing two vertebrae.
As painful as the injury was (and believe me, it was!), I was even more hurt and frustrated that my attempts at getting fit were constantly getting disrupted by injuries. I wasn’t about to give up yet, though. I realized I could no longer depend on strenuous exercise and physical activity to get in shape; I knew I had to completely change my lifestyle to lose weight and get healthy.
I thought back to the ketogenic diet I had found so promising, but remembered my daughter’s allergies. I knew my luck was changing, and wouldn’t you know it? After getting retested, my daughter was found to have outgrown her allergies. I knew this was a sign that the time was right for making a huge life change.
I completely revamped my lifestyle and attitude towards eating, adopting the ketogenic diet (a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet that focuses on whole foods and limited processing). I started it alone at first (nothing was going to stop me!), but my husband quickly decided to join when he saw the changes in me. Together, we’ve lost over 90 pounds and are healthier than ever. Independently, my total weight loss is up to 90 pounds. I exercise within the limitations of my body and am working hard to remain in control of what I eat. I found comfortable swimwear at HydroChic, and am no longer confined to the plus-size section for clothing; I can finally wear dresses to church!
I might be a size XL, and maybe my body isn’t as lean or toned as it was before I had kids. I might still have belly fat and a muffin top, and maybe I’m still bigger than I want to be. Maybe I always will be. But I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come. There were so many times when I felt absolutely defeated, when I felt like no matter how hard I tried, there would be another setback around the corner to keep me down. But it never crossed my mind to give up and I’m grateful that I didn’t. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been, and hope that I can continue to set an example for and teach my daughters the importance of perseverance.
The information and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. HydroChic, while supportive of women seeking to live a healthy lifestyle, is not responsible for the dietary or weight loss information presented. Consult with a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.