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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ELIZABETH1116 7/3/2020
Beth's Blog is the BEST BLOG about weight loss. I read it practically every day. Im also happy that i was able to find because it not only allowed me to lose weight, but also to maintain a great figure, I hope it will help others! :)) Report
MAR012 6/27/2020
Thank you for sharing your story, Beth. It is inspiring, uplifting -- and gives all of the rest of us who are on the path great hope!
MANGO1960 6/25/2020
Thank you for sharing your story Beth. You are amazing, I hope I can be where you are in a couple of years! Report
ALASKINI 6/4/2020
Well done. Amazing! Report
74KGSTU 6/4/2020
Wow. I like reading Spark Sucess stories and this is the most inspirational story I have read yet. Amazing. Report
VHAYES04 5/27/2020
Awesome!! Report
What a wonderful testimonial to fearless living. Thank you! It takes a lot to let go the internal voices of the past, live in the moment, and climb to a new vision. Report
LUVMYELI 5/17/2020
Thanks Beth. So many times I want to give up and then I read a story that inspires me. You inspire me. Bless you!! Keep up the good work. You look fabulous. Report
JSTETSER 4/6/2020
Beth, you rock! Report
A truly inspiring story, giving hope to everyone! Report
HUBBARD9644 3/10/2020
I cried as I read your story. You are a fighter and strong willed. Thank you for having the courage to share your journey. Report
SNUZYQ2 1/30/2020
Such an inspiring story, Beth. Thank you for sharing it! Report
ARNETTELEE 1/23/2020
Congrats! Report
MAMAGWEN1 1/13/2020
An amazing life! You gave me me inspiration. Thank you for sharing. Report
Beth, I've been away for quite some time and saw this you are truly an inspiration and your look fabulous!! Report
KOALA_BEAR 1/1/2020
Congrats to you Beth not only on your weight loss success but the decision to not have surgery because inner self work is what matters. My brother was very heavy, at least 350 or more, I didn't ask but very big, a 4X or 5X shirt & 50 inch waist. He was his own worst enemy always blaming someone or something else for everything, not just his weight. Didn't accept responsibility. He died from complications of diabetes after his leg was amputated & the infection never healed after nearly two years. He surrounded himself with people who claimed to love him but brought candy bars into the house & had them in a huge tub where he could reach it from his wheelchair. I never understood how he could do that to himself.
You on the other hand are inspirational to those of us who are struggling to be healthy. Momentum is what has gotten me here, 30 pounds gone not quite halfway. Some recent injuries have me temporarily derailed from much movement but my PT is slowly getting me back on track & I loved your details. I've used soup cans as arm weights so could relate. Recumbent bike for now & slow walking until healed up. You are the reinforcement that perseverance & persistence will pay off as we Sparkers continue on our journey to better health. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story & I wish you a wonderful new year in 2020. 🎉🐨🗓 Report
KHALIA2 12/21/2019
Congrats on a job well done! Report
LEANJEAN6 11/28/2019
really inspiring Report
DEDICATED2HIM 11/15/2019
Beth, I am proud to call you my friend. I have told others about you as an example of what perseverance and courage can do and look like. I enjoyed this article immensely. It was well written and fleshed out Beth's story by relating things I had not heard before. When I get down about the close to 100 pounds i have to lose being very disabled by pain and wrecked joints and spine--I think of you Beth and I encourage myself by knowing that mighty fires are lit by a little spark. You have fanned that spark into flame and now teach others to do the same. You inspire me! Report
GABY1948 11/1/2019
SO GREAT!!! Report
ILOVEROSES 10/31/2019
Congratulations Beth! Report
AUNTBEE26 10/5/2019
"Although her parents were both heavy, they constantly judged Beth's weight and eating habits" Yep, I recognize that one. I have always been big. My parents equated food and love, yet they were embarrassed and would apologize to other family because of me. Thanks for the inspiration to stick with what I really want--good health. Report
RLAAUSTIN 9/12/2019
Way to go Beth! 🌟 Report
MCWRITER 9/7/2019
Incredibly inspiring story and just what I needed to read this morning. I'm in a low place, feeling a lot of regrets for missed opportunities due to my weight. Reading "start living life now" really hit home! Thank you. Report
LYNIKYN1 7/30/2019
congrats!!! I've only had success of losing 20 lbs only to have gained it back in my adult life (I'm 58) I've been diabetic since 34 , and I have fibro and neurapathy. I am so glad you are mobile and active and achieved your success of weight loss! But sad you (Like me) have to battle chronic pain from fibro. It is challenging to stay positive and active with this affliction! Report
Beth, thank you! Your story is very powerful and inspiring. Your accomplishments and motivation to lose the weight is fabulous. You put into words what I have thought, but couldn't seem to say. Congratulations! Report
Your 8 tips are really helpful. I want to hike more than I want food. Report
Congratulations! Report
Awesome Job! Congratulations! Report
Thank You For Sharing, I really needed this Morning. You are a Inspiration. Report
Thank you for sharing your story and your tips; you are such an encouragement to others! Your tips in this article are so more useful than the usual "just drink more water"! I need to print out your tips so I can see them frequently! Report
You are an inspiration Beth. I too have a lot of weight to lose. I love your analogy of the one flat tire and not darting around the car and flattening the other three tires!!!! Being one that binges, I will use that brilliant analogy. Thank you for sharing it!!!
You look wonderful and you have inspired many. That is terrific!!!!!! Report
Congrats on a job well done! Report
Congrats! Report
Your list is really encouraging to me today. I held steady in April, but kept off the 5 pounds I lost in March. I'm back on track in May. Report
"I then realized it was stomach surgery, not brain surgery". "Food should not stress you out. If it does, you’re on a diet, and diets don't work." "Forgive yourself for setbacks. Treat yourself like you would a good friend"

These are strong statements for me that hit home. Yhank you for sharing your journey. Very inspiring! Report
Inspiring! Report
Amazing story! Report
What a beautiful woman, both inside and out! WTG Beth!!! Your story will help keep me going. Thank You! Report
Beth, I am so proud of you. Your success is an inspiration for mine. Thank you for sharing your story Report
Beth, you are a true inspiration. I need to lose 70 points by November and looking at what you have done, I know I can do it, too! Thank you for your story. Report
Beth, this the first time I came across your story. I really enjoying reading it. I can relate to #7. I finally release my little girl to be free.
You look so amazing Report
Thank you to everyone! Report
Thank you for the inspiration! Report
Beth, every time I read your story , it makes my eyes water. This is exactly why I tell my friend's story and hope they will go down the road you did. I still think of you and wonder what you are doing currently. Report
Beth you are such an inspiration always have been and continues to be. May your job be such a huge success as a Life and Health Coach. Thank you my friend for being there for me when I have good days or even bad days. God bless you.
good job u look great Report
Thank you for this article...It will help me to eat better. Hugs
Way to go! Report
Keep it up, for you and for everyone. Super work! Report