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May 20, 2013

First day of week 3 of my food plan. Down another pound (2 week total -8.5). This plan has not gone online yet, but I will provide a link when it does. It is designed for weight loss, but as more of a bridge to healthier habits than a diet.

I cannot say enough good things about my fitness instructor, Joe Martin. This is a plan he developed himself. He is also the owner/founder of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp for Women, the only exercise regimen I have ever stuck to. If you are in Huntsville or Madison, AL you owe it to yourself to check this guy out. I am absolutely not getting paid to promote him. I just believe in the results.

Things I ate (or will eat) today:

Breakfast: Slow cooked oatmeal with mixed berries, pecans, cinnamon, chia seeds, and a little raw honey.

Lunch: baked chicken, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, hummus and rice crackers

Dinner: shrimp with zucchini and tomato, buckwheat

Snacks (3): goat cheese with wheat crackers, apple, kale chips, Greek yogurt with mixed berries, raw almonds, kiwi

Drinks: all water except one coke zero.

Exercise: 55 minutes of Pure Barre:

What discouraged me today: Thinking too far ahead about goals.

Being home all day with my son (who is now our of preschool) and wanting to eat out of boredom.

Drinking a coke zero. :-/ This is still a constant battle for me, but I have gone from 5 or 6 a day to a few a week.

What inspired me today: Fitting into smaller workout clothes.

The way my husband looked at me this morning. 🙂



Some people decide to change their eating habits, or go on a diet, and immediately clean out their kitchens of unwanted food. I am not one of those people. I don’t do well with feeling deprived. Or even with change in general. What worked for me was something way more gradual. Small changes over time.

One by one, I started to try cleaner alternatives to what I was eating. I replaced one food at a time. Raw nut butters for regular brands. Cooking with coconut oil. Cleaner cereals without artificial ingredients for my child. I tried to purchase organic meats, milk, and veggies whenever I could. I slowly ADDED good stuff like fresh veggies. I switched from white pastas and breads to 100 percent whole wheat, and I cut way down on even that. I never told myself things were off limits. I simply begin to feel better making better choices. And the more good I added in the less unhealthy processed foods I had room for. The better I felt the more I noticed how bad I felt when I did eat crap. This was a process that lasted many months. A year later do I still eat complete crap sometimes? ABSOLUTELY! It will never be 100%. It will always be a process.

So what DO I eat? I lean towards a clean eating/real food philosophy. Here are some decent definitions of what I mean. Keep in mind I do not follow any rules as to what I can and cannot eat. I simply strive to make better, more informed choices.

Real Food:

Clean Eating:

My intent is not to tell my entire story with drugs (and eventually alcohol as well.) What I will say, is that over the course of the next 4 years or so I thought I hit bottom many times, but I always returned to the pills and alcohol. I put myself in danger, my family and child in danger, and innocent people in danger more times that I could even begin to count. I did things that should have landed me in jail. I lied, stole, and used people. I became a person that I despised. And so, I used and drank to cover up the pain of being who I had become.

Through addiction (and some relapses), I’ve found recovery. Through recovery, I’m learning how to live my own life and take care of myself. One day at a time.  My life in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous has allowed me to learn a new way to live. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be a slave to addiction to anything, whether it’s food or drugs or alcohol, or even sex, to feel better. I can do healthy things. And that’s kind of where I am today. Learning to be healthy and not rely on an unhealthy outside “fix” to make me feel better.

This is why I started focusing on my health. About 9 months ago, while in recovery, I started learning about making healthy food choices and about wanting to put healthy stuff into my body instead of feeling deprived of not eating unhealthy things. I started exercising regularly. And by just making the simple change of cleaning up 80 percent of my diet, I lost nearly 50 lbs. I fell off course for a few months, and had to deal with a significant relapse with alcohol that landed me back in treatment a second time. But the experience helped give me the drive to really focus on my recovery and my health.

I take these things very seriously today, because it is literally life and death for me. I work a recovery program, attend meetings, work with a sponsor, and work on myself. I exercise 6 days a week, mostly with a local women’s boot camp and pure barre (which is totally nothing like any workout I thought I would ever love), and occasionally with running. I eat clean 80-90 percent of the time. I am currently following an eating plan designed by my fitness instructor for a few weeks, in an attempt to jump start weight loss and healthy eating again. I lost 7.5 lbs the first week I did this, and I’m coming to the end of the second week on what looks like a plateau weight wise, but my clothes are looser. I am definitely the fittest I have ever been, but I still have a ways to go. Recently I was able to move out of the “obese” BMI category into just being “overweight.” And while I try not to focus on the numbers, to me it’s about perspective. They will always be there. But I don’t obsess over them. I would like to lose another 25-30 lbs. But mostly, I’d like to get rid of the stubborn belly fat that seems to be the last place that I see changes. And I would like to be FIT and healthy. I have times where I have scale victories. I have times when I have setbacks as well. I have way more times that I have non scale related victories. And those are the ones that keep me moving forward.

And that’s my story. As for the rest of this blog, it will be about my journey as it is today, both the struggles and the successes. I hope you will find some common ground, some truth, and maybe a little inspiration. Every time I hear someone tell me I inspire them, I still have to resist the urge to turn around and look behind me. But I do know this, when people have shown me what THEY did to become healthy both in and out of recovery, I learn. When they simply tell me or give me rule to follow, I ignore. And that’s my ultimate goal. If I can inspire even one person in their journey of recovery from food or any other kind of addiction, then telling my story is worth it. We only keep what we have by giving it away.

I had Roux-N-Y gastric bypass in May of 2002. My official starting weight was 294 lbs, which for my height was actually just barely one step above “morbid obesity” into the category of “super obesity.” And aside from the surgical complications, it was for it’s intent, a success. I lost close to 150 lbs. in a little over a year. And I thought I had regained my life. In a sense, I had. I could move, I felt confident, and I thought I was ok. I turned 30 in Feb 2003, and I thought being 30 was the best thing ever. I followed the post surgery instructions almost to the letter. Always eat protein first, no snacking, light carbs, absolutely no carbonated sodas, diet or regular. No sugar. I also want to point out that, at this time, weight loss surgery was very new and I was offered absolutely no psychological evaluations or counseling. (They break the surface of this now, but it is still not addressed the way it needs to be. The number of former gastric bypass patients I have run into in recovery is astounding.)

In the summer of the following year, 2003, my husband was riding his bicycle to work as he normally does. Being the bike safety nazi that he is, he saw fog and immediately turned around to return home. He was riding down a road with an S curve when a lady swerved into his lane and hit him head on. He hit her hood, her windshield, then landed on the sidewalk. He had so much internal bleeding in his abdomen he quite literally should be dead. By the Grace of God, he was spared that day. He came out with some major injuries, the most devastating of which was nerves being torn from the spinal cord resulting in a paralyzed left arm. We went through multiple major surgeries following his accident. It was almost a repeat of Brian dying for me emotionally. I became depressed and anxious, more so even that my husband himself. But because of the gastric bypass, I was unable to eat my way through my emotions. Enter prescription anxiety medication AND prescription sleep medication, coupled with major amounts of barely used prescription pain medication that my husband was getting, and I was off and running with a new addiction.

At first, I was only getting my medications from one psychiatrist. Only, every time I told him I was taking a “little more” than the prescribed dose, he would simply increase my prescribed dose. This went on for several years. Meanwhile, I slowly began breaking all the rules of my surgery. I begin eating mostly carbs, snacking a lot all day since I couldn’t eat much at once, and drinking regular (not even diet) sodas on a regular basis. And so, the weight started to return.

Since that time I’ve been up and down about 100 of the 150 lbs I had lost. I’ve tried every diet in the book, and I’ve failed miserably at them all. I was depressed and I had quit my job right after my husband’s accident, so I spent a great deal of time on the sofa, taking anxiety medications and sleeping pills, and pain meds when I could get them. I had no idea I was barely getting started. But by the end of 2006, after constantly running out of medications and suffering withdrawals, I went to my doctor and admitted that I thought I might have a problem. He agreed to wean me off the medications, and I entered the doors of Narcotics Anonymous for the very first time.

I quickly told myself I wasn’t like them. My problem simply was not that bad. My drugs were legal and I was getting them from one doctor. I wasn’t living on the streets. But at the same time, the people in the rooms were so similar to me. The thoughts in their heads were the thoughts in my own head. And so, I stuck around. And I stayed “abstinent”. But I never got into true recovery.

In the summer of 2007, I got pregnant with my son. And I decided I was cured. Who in their right mind would use drugs when a child was in the picture? What I didn’t understand, was that I was never in my right mind. And I never would be. I was an addict.  I did manage not abuse pills (or drink, which I didn’t do anyway) during my entire pregnancy (other than one prescribed medication which I will get to later.) But I stopped going to meetings because the smoke (even on non smoking days the place REEKED) was not only setting off my asthma, but the smell literally made me throw up my entire pregnancy. Besides, I was already done using drugs.

During my pregnancy, I developed chronic insomnia that was literally so bad the stress was affecting the baby. And so I was put back on Class B sleeping pills. I was extremely careful to take them exactly as prescribed. After my child was born via C section, I was put on pain medications. I was also still on sleeping pills. One month, there was a mistake at the pharmacy. I was given two bottles of them. They had apparently rerun my insurance to get a prior authorization, and then filled the Rx a second time). An extra set of pills that no one knew about but me. That was all it took to set the wheels of addiction back in motion. I was off and running once again. And it was going to get worse than I ever could have imagined.

I’m not going to focus too much on my history, because this blog is focused on what I’m doing NOW to change my life. But I do want to give some background info.

I am a 40 year old mother of a 5 year old boy, and wife of a wonderfully supportive man I’ve been married to for 15 years. I am a stay at home mom, but one day I hope to go back to work in my field of Early Childhood Special Education. I am also the mother of four rescue dogs: two Shelties, a Golden, and a Collie/Shepherd-ish Mix. I am also a recovering drug addict.

Food has been a struggle for me all of my life. As long as I can remember I’ve used food as an emotional crutch. I’ve always carried 10-20 extra pounds. It didn’t become a huge health issue, though, until my older brother was killed in a car accident in October of 1993. He was driving back to Atlanta to school, when a guy with Alzheimer’s driving the wrong way down the interstate hit him head on. He died instantly. He was 23 days shy of his 23rd birthday. I was 20. I was devastated, only I didn’t know it. I went on about my life, pretending I was fine, but somehow managing to gain nearly 100 lbs in the span of a year. I would still be nowhere near my highest weight ever. But I can say I most definitely ate my way through the grieving process. I was in college at the time, and had just started dating my husband. I went back to school, finished out the semester on time, and graduated on time with my class the following year.  I went on a crash diet, took lots of phentermine, and took a lot of the weight off that summer.

In 1995, I went on to graduate school at Auburn University. Auburn was where my brother went to school, and also where we have a HUGE childhood history. Season tickets to Auburn games since I was a little over ten years old. It brought back a FLOOD of memories when I first got there, and I went through some major depression and grief. I discovered prescription drugs for the first time, but they wouldn’t rule my life until a few years later. I turned back to food. By the time I graduated with my Master’s Degree in 1998, I weighed around 250 lbs. Shopping for plus sized wedding dresses is not my idea of a good time. I despised my wedding pictures. I still hate looking at myself in them.

My first few years of marriage were miserable for me emotionally. Not because of my husband, but because of my situation. I was depressed and unhappy with myself. I was horribly unhealthy. I ate my way through every feeling. My diet consisted of potato chips, pizza, drinking nothing but regular cokes, etc.  I hated my job. I lived south of DC in what was not even a city, and what few people I knew were not anywhere near me. My husband traveled 40 miles one way to work, I went 25 the other. He traveled twice a month. I stayed home and ate. And ate. By the time he was finally able to transfer from the Navy in MD to the Army in AL (he’s a civilian aerospace engineer), I weighed nearly 270 lbs.

The location change (at my request) did not change the fact that I was still miserable in my own skin. I got a job at United Cerebral Palsy, taking a $10,000 pay cut. I was miserable with myself, so my job was miserable. I worked my way up to nearly 300 lbs. (I’m also only 5’4”). That’s when I heard about gastric bypass surgery for the first time. Alas, the answer to all my problems! If I could just lose weight, surely I would be happy! I was all over it.


I jumped at the first opportunity I could get. My surgeon had only performed less than 5 of these. But I had an in. He was to be supervised by a surgeon with tons of experience. I was told the experienced surgeon was going to do the surgery while the other one looked on, but this was not to be the case. Instead I ended up developing a “leak,” having a second surgery to fix the leak which was unsuccessful, and ultimately spending ten days in the hospital until it healed on it’s own. I was not even allowed ice chips for ten days. I had a feeding tube and drains placed during the second surgery, and I had to go home with them. My husband had to tube feed me for several days. I was in immense amounts of pain both in and out of the hospital which they were not able to manage, even with heavy medications. But hell, I was going to lose weight! I had my priorities.