How Beth Lost 230+ Pounds and Reclaimed Her Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This year marks a decade since Beth Donovan (INDYGIRL) joined SparkPeople. A lot has changed in that time—most notably, she's lost more than half of her body weight, but other parts of her transformation can't be seen. As it turns out, losing 230 pounds (and counting) doesn’t just change how you look—it also changes how you think and feel. For 53-year-old Beth from Fishers, Indiana, the road hasn't always been easy, but it's certainly been worth it. 

A Lifelong Struggle

Beth's complicated relationship with weight and food dates back to her childhood. Although her parents were both heavy, they constantly judged Beth's weight and eating habits, to the point that she suffered from bulimia during her teens and 20s.
"I had always used food as a comfort and refuge from my difficult home life," she says. It was a pattern that would continue well into adulthood—whenever Beth faced challenges in her marriage or any aspect of life, her eating would escalate.
In the early 2000s, Beth reached her highest weight of 460 pounds. She refers to it as the saddest period of her life.
"I lived in my bedroom and could no longer walk," she recalls. "I became disabled [because of] three herniated discs, two pinched nerve bundles, fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease and arthritis. I had to stop and rest just trying to make it through the house to the restroom or kitchen."
Beth eventually had to quit her job, as she could no longer fit behind the steering wheel to drive to work. For years, she spent her days home alone, becoming so depressed that she often called the crisis line.

Motivated to Change

What ultimately motivated Beth to make a change was when her best friend, Tina, had weight loss surgery and got down to a healthy weight. "She was out having a life again—I wanted that too!" Beth says.
She started by reading a book called YOU On a Diet, which helped her learn to stay satisfied while dieting. Another friend pointed Beth to SparkPeople, which became a big source of motivation and distraction. "Every time I feel like eating, I log on," she says. "Let's just say that some days when I'm home alone, I'm on [SparkPeople] a lot."
At first, Beth's plan was to get weight-loss surgery as her best friend had done. After three attempts, she finally received approval from the medical staff to have the procedure—but then she had a change of heart. "At the mandatory pre-surgery meetings, all of the patients were complaining of being hungry after eating, and wanting to eat emotionally and binge. I then realized it was stomach surgery, not brain surgery. No need to cut up my stomach to feel how I already feel—first I needed to get my head right."
And so, instead of surgery, Beth decided to address the issue from the inside out.
"I started with in-home physical therapy, where I learned that even little movements prepare you for bigger ones," she says. Not yet able to walk, Beth got an arm bike and used it faithfully, and also created a seated exercise routine. She started logging all of her movements on the Fitness Tracker, feeling a sense of pride with each entry.
Eventually, Beth was able to get out of her wheelchair and started using a walker. After training on the walker for a year, she was able to walk a 5K at the mall, where she could take breaks as needed.
Today, Beth walks a few times a week, tracking her steps with a Fitbit. She still uses her arm bike but has also added a recumbent bike, yoga, walking, isometric exercises and light weights and bands for resistance. Her routine varies—some days, she has to scale back due to chronic pain from her fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal issues—but, as Beth says, something is better than nothing. On those challenging days, Beth might sit on a stability ball and make figure eights, or "bed dance" using just her upper body. As she points out, she's come a long way since lifting shampoo bottles in bed as part of her physical therapy.
In addition to starting to move, Beth changed her eating habits. She used the SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker to get a realistic view of what she was eating each day, and began weighing and measuring everything. As she progressed along her weight-loss journey, Beth started eating less processed foods, more real whole foods and plenty of protein, and also increased her water intake.
"I am very big on planning balanced meals with lean protein, healthy fats, veggies, fruit and low-fat dairy," Beth says. "I try to avoid processed foods, but I still eat them in moderation. Food should not stress you out. If it does, you’re on a diet, and diets don't work."
When Beth does have an occasional setback, she goes by the mantra: "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." She now stops eating before excessive damage is done, rather than succumbing to a binge as she might have in the old days.
 Without any weight-loss surgery, fad diets or extreme exercise, Beth has succeeded in losing 230 pounds (and counting). Instead of shopping in specialty catalogs, she now buys her clothes at regular stores. She can use a seatbelt in a car, wear a swimsuit, sit in a seat at a movie theater, eat dinner in a restaurant booth and fly on a plane. Beth's relationship with her husband has also improved.
"I feel confident and like a fighter now," she says. "Having much more support and less stress was very freeing, as 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."
In seven years, Beth has gone from being terminally disabled and bedridden to working from home as a certified life and health coach. "I want to fight for every overweight person out there to have that second chance at life that SparkPeople gave me," she says. "I now see myself in a whole new light and have hope again."

Beth's 8 Tips for Natural Weight Loss

  1. Have either motivation OR momentum. "Motivation gets you moving, which causes momentum. Momentum is energy or action," Beth explains. "When you are motivated and you are creating momentum, you create success." If you're feeling like you have no motivation, start with momentum. Take action—do something, anything, to start forming a healthy habit.
  2. Find something that motivates you that you want more than food. Burn it into your thoughts by creating an “inspirational memory” of what this will be like. See, feel, touch—involve all the senses in your “memory.” Call it up when you are facing tough times.
  3. Form healthy habits. Choose only new lifestyle habits that you can do for the long haul. "Diets are a temporary solution and lead to temporary results," Beth says. "Healthy habits are permanent and lead to permanent results."
  4. Forgive yourself for setbacks. "Treat yourself like you would a good friend or a child," she advises. Beth considers tracking food and exercise as essential to that forgiveness, as it serves as a confessor of sorts. "Once you write it down and confess your 'food sin' in your tracker, you are forgiven, so move on."
  5. Avoid the pitfall of trying to lose too quickly. "Weight lost [too] fast just comes back," she warns. "You could crash your metabolism and end up with more of a weight issue than you started with."
  6. Start living life now. Beth lives by the motto that "life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now." No matter how much you have to lose, it's important to live life today, and not to wait until certain conditions have been met.
  7. Take time to deal with emotions. "Generally, emotional eaters use food as a Band-Aid to avoid dealing with the mess," Beth says. "Find time to actually resolve the problem. Sit down when you get appropriate time and make an action plan with baby steps."
  8. Empower yourself. "I did not have support for my first 100 pounds because nobody thought I could do this," she says. "In the past, if they brought goodies home, I might eat them out of anger or temptation. Now I request that they be locked up or tucked away out of my sight. Goodies left out go in the trash. You have to be ready to stand up for you."
"My goal isn’t a number—it’s an ability level and a feeling," says Beth. "I want to do more each day and feel better. I’m tired of pain and disability, but realize it’s permanent. I can, however, reach for the best me that I can be and inspire people along the way."

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NANCYPAT1 5/23/2018
Nice Report
UNHAPPYME1 5/20/2018
I admire your determination and patience! Keep up the good fight! Report
EVIDAL1001 5/17/2018
Very inspiring Report
MARYGOLD5 5/16/2018
Thank you for sharing with us Beth. You are an inspiration. Keep up the good work. Report
Awesome job. Report
ANNETTE5211 5/16/2018
Good morning Beth, thank you so much for sharing. I have reached my heaviest point in my life. It is time to go in the opposite direction, down, down and down. Thank you for your spirit and for encouraging others. God bless you on your journey. Report
So inspirational! Thank you, Beth, for sharing your journey with us. Report
AZLYN1983 5/15/2018
Wow! Just Wow Report
Oh my goodness Beth! I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished and continue to do for yourself and the others in your life who benefit from you being the best version of you! You are truly an inspiration and I wish I could give you a HUGE hug. Your tips at the end are also extremely important and so well-thought out and accurate! Rock on woman!

I, too, dealt with bulimia for more than 35 years and though I was about 40 lbs. overweight at my heaviest, it really isn't the weight that is the issue - that is just a side-effect. We know this all too well! If there is anyone reading this that doesn't understand bulimia, I may be able to shed some insight. I blogged about my journey through it and can provide a few links to articles posted on my website, At the very least, I hope they can help create empathy in others for those that struggle. While this is a judgment-free zone, we should try to spread this to the world outside the computer screen of, and always remember that until we have walked in another's shoes, we don't know anything about a person but even then, it is never our place to sit in judgment. Stay humble because 'There but by the grace of God go I':




SUGARADDICT5 5/15/2018
Congratulations Beth! You are an inspiration to me. I wish you continued success and good health. I love the suggestions you listed to help the rest of us find success. Thank you for being courageous enough to share your story! Big hugs to you! Report
LINOVER 5/15/2018
This was a wonderful accomplishment, Beth! Congratulations! Report
MARKSMOM3 5/15/2018
Congrats to you! What a great inspiration you are for the rest of us. Report
RIGHTNOW1966 5/15/2018
Omgosh!!! What an amazing story!!! I definitely need to follow your advice!!! Report
WILLET33 5/15/2018
Beth - What a blessing and accomplishment! Best of luck to you on your continued journey. You look awesome. :) Report
PATRICIA-CR 5/15/2018
She is a total inspiration and an awesome person!!! Report
MLJCARMAN 5/15/2018
A truly awesome story for Beth. Since we are both from Indiana, I have been following her story since I joined 9 years ago this week. She has done much better than I have. I only need to lose about 30 but have only succeeded in gaining weight since I retired. Report
BUFFALOKAY 5/15/2018
Always rooting for you Beth! You go Girl!! Report
KATHI214 5/15/2018
Way to go Beth, you look awesome!! This lady has stayed the course and has been an inspiration since I signed up for Sparkpeople years ago. She is proof that no matter how much weight you have to lose, nothing is impossible to get the life you want for yourself. Baby steps, one at a time gets you closer and closer to your goal. Report
KATHI214 5/15/2018
Way to go Beth, you look awesome!! This lady has stayed the course and has been an inspiration since I signed up for Sparkpeople years ago. She is proof that no matter how much weight you have to lose, nothing is impossible to get the life you want for yourself. Baby steps, one at a time gets you closer and closer to your goal. Report
DIETER27 5/15/2018
Congratulations on your weight loss. I've followed Beth over the years. She is one determined lady and a true inspiration to all of us here.
LADY_KATHY 5/15/2018
So happy for you.. congrats!!!! :) Report
DGRIFFITH51 5/15/2018
WooHoo for you!!! Great inspiration!! Report
Congratulations on your milestone and accomplishments! Report
ELIPINA 5/15/2018
You are truly wonderful. Thank you. Report
AQUAGIRL08 5/15/2018
You have really worked hard and it shows. Congratulations on your success! Report
CARD512002 5/15/2018
Congratulations Beth Report
FATFRAMA 5/15/2018
Thank you for sharing. I need to find my motivation as I find that I don’t care about myself. Your story has made me feel that I can change and that I am the only one that can create a change. Thank you, I am my only support ! It’s up to me to change ! Report
MARYMMMA 5/15/2018
Beth, thank you for sharing your story. It left me with happy and sad tears. So happy for you and your determination to lose 230 pounds and get healthy. And sad memories of my 28-year-old son who was super morbidly obese and wanted to lose weight but he just wasn't able to do it and he tried. He died almost 4 1/2 years ago, now, with complications of his obesity such as lethal sleep apnea, a crushed larynx, his chest cavity full of edema crushing his lungs, etc. I miss him sooo much. I need to lose weight myself. My top weight was 335 but I had gotten down to 260. I've gained back 20 pounds and you've inspired me to try again. I'm hoping to spark some kind of flame in myself to want to start living again because right now I just don't care. I'm so proud of you Beth. Report
NELLED 5/15/2018
Hello Beth,
Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I have bookmarked this page because I need to be able to refer back to Beth's 8 Tips for Natural Weight Loss. I am always trying to find some 'magical' instant solution to losing weight keeping it off and staying active and healthy. So far, surprisingly, that approach hasn't worked! With best wishes for your continued success. Report
TARANTULA3 5/15/2018
Inspirational... Report
BIKE4HEALTH 5/15/2018
Amazing results Report
DRBISHIL 5/14/2018
Thank you for keeping me motivated. Report
You truly are the real MVP! Congratulations! You inspire us all! Report
_CYNDY55_ 5/14/2018
Congrats on your success! Report
ALOFA0509 5/14/2018
Always inspiring Beth!! You are such a great motivator, our Community is soo lucky to have you as our Champion!! Cheers 2U sista~ Report
REDROBIN47 5/14/2018
Congratulations. You are an inspiration to all of us. Report
MARINEMAMA 5/14/2018
Wow! Report
RAPUNZEL53 5/14/2018
Wow! Report
WVROSE1 5/14/2018
Congratulations! Report
MARYJEANSL 5/14/2018
Beth has been such a help to so many - thank you, Beth, so very much! Report
KITTYHAWK1949 5/14/2018
You are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. Report
MIYAMO 5/14/2018
Very inspiring. Report
SMITTY-B 5/14/2018
Hi Beth--Such an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing your weight loss journey with us ;-). Report
I knew a little bit about your story, Beth, but not all of it. I really enjoyed reading about your success. You are really inspiring! Life can be really hard at times but you've shown how you took control of your life and became healthier in the end. Congratulations!! Report
PAMBROWN62 5/14/2018
This lady has been one of my inspirations since I joined SparkPeople 2 years ago. When I decided to change my lifestyle instead of diet I looked for people who had succeeded and lucked upon her blog. I have been a faithful follower ever since. Knowing she did what I am trying to do and that she succeeded, setbacks and all, let me know I could do it too. I had 90 pounds to lose. Now I have 35. She and other members like her, told me I could and so I did. Thank you for continuing to inspire me. Report
RONDAJO56 5/14/2018
WooHoo! Good Job!! Report
PUREAHAVA 5/14/2018
Beth, your determination, tenacity, and commitment are beyond words! Your goal to BE THE BEST YOU DAILY is a winner! Report
LIS193 5/14/2018
Great success story! Way to go!! Report
SUCH an INSPIRATION, Beth!!! Keep the good work !! And thanks for the analogy about the tires~that really is WELL SAID!~I need to remind myself of that analogy when I try to use food as a comfort! Report
4RASCALS 5/14/2018
Way to go Beth. You are a great role model for us, and proof that we can also do it. Thank you for sharing Report
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