Chronic Pain and Weight Loss
Weight loss is a heavy topic in the United States, with ads on every webpage advertising “quick and easy solutions” to weight loss. There are pills, juices, powders, shakes and more, all designed to get you in shape. With an obesity rate over 35% for adults (and a shocking 17% for adolescents), weight loss is not only about vanity, it’s a matter of life or death. (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html)
In July of last year, when I had my first surgery, I was already obese. Add to that an injury, chronic pain and a three-month course of steroids and I went from obese to morbidly obese and extremely unhappy in under six months. I was overweight, unhealthy and I was facing a second surgery. That alone should have been all the motivation I needed, but it wasn’t. I was depressed, angry, unhappy…and I kept eating to feel better.
In February of last year I had my second surgery. My spine was cut apart and pieced back together again like a jigsaw puzzle, this time with rods and screws. I could barely walk, barely move, and I was being told I had months of physical therapy ahead of me. I was beside myself. I was scared and I was p!ssed off! I was being told I have a 2-year recovery ahead of me and already I was edging dangerously close to 300 pounds. I felt horrible about myself. My self-worth and self-esteem and every other “self” in the psych book was already low thanks to the major life changes I was dealing with and, to top it off, I was looking in the mirror and someone I didn’t recognize was staring back at me.
I have battled my weight my whole life. Even when I had a perfectly healthy, titanium-free back, I had weight issues. At 16 I lost 65 pounds, bringing me under 200 pounds. A bad relationship and sedentary lifestyle in my early 20s eventually drove me to over 300 pounds. At 26 I lost 125 pounds on time for my wedding, but a thyroid condition and the comfort of marriage brought me up to the mid-200s again. I was unhappy but I had started back on the road to weight loss when I hurt my back. Not only did the weight loss stall, but I started packing on the pounds faster than I could say “Slimfast.”
As of February 2012 I was looking at weight loss once again, but this time, with a broken back. I needed to lose weight for my health, for my back and I needed to lose weight so I could look at myself again in the mirror and feel proud about something. I needed to lose weight so I could gain back some much needed self-esteem. So there I was, faced with this daunting task. I prayed to God, “please just let me lose 20 pounds without trying! I just need a head start and I promise I will do it.” God listened. The surgery, combined with handfuls of medication, killed my appetite. For once the depression was so life-altering that my appetite was non-existent. I didn’t eat much and what little I did move required I use every ounce of strength I had. When I went to the doctor a month after surgery, I had lost 22 pounds.
Now I had to make good on my promise to God to do the rest. He had given me a head start, now I had to finish the race. Thrilled with the weight loss, and having been given a shot of confidence, I started watching what I ate. I began walking, at first only 4 houses down the block and back, building until I could get around the block. I continued to lose, rapidly. Cheered on by family and friends I tightened my belt (literally and metaphorically) on what I was eating, tracked my calories and started physical therapy which was guaranteed exercise 3 times a week.
It’s been just over a year since I started PT and I have lost over 110 pounds! I have gone from a 26/28 to a 12 and I went from a wheelchair to running (painfully albeit) on a treadmill for a couple miles!
The challenges of losing weight while in chronic pain at times feel insurmountable. There are many days that I am in pain and would rather stay in bed. There are mornings when I wake up sore, on top of being in pain already, and I want to give up. But there is that part of me that keeps shouting, “You haven’t given up on life, you have to keep going!” So I do. I eat the salad instead of the pasta. I do the extra 15 crunches. I ditch the donuts (most of the time) and I pray, “Just please let me get through this day and make the right choices.” I am not on any specific diet. I eat what I want, when I am hungry, but I finally, after 20 years of dieting, figured out that I can have it all…in moderation.
Sometimes I feel like these surgeries and this pain have taken so many things away from me. Well, I started taking them back. I took back my small clothes, little by little from their storage bin. I took back my strength, my motivation and my willpower. I took back myself…and then some!
I am not preaching that this is an easy task. There are times when I am grunting my way through squats, when I want to throw in the towel and shout “I AM DONE!” But, for me, being morbidly obese and sedentary was no longer an option. It was time for me to take responsibility for the things I could control and the things I could do to help myself and my weight was priority #1. I cheat. I take days off. I still make some poor choices, but I am doing it. Every morning I choose to get out of bed and fight I am getting closer to where I want to be, but, like everything else in life, I have to take it one day at a time, one step at a time and one pound at a time.
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Chronic Pain and Weight Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/chronic-pain/2013/05/chronic-pain-and-weight-loss/