Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The post about who keeps me healthy

Julien and I during the early years.


I was emailed by Dr. Mario Trucillo last week. He is the Managing Editor of the American Recall Centre. It is a brand new website devoted to providing health and wellness news in layman's terms. This month's campaign was about hip replacement awareness. You can read about that here.  Dr. Trucillo asked if I would agree be part of their Who Keeps you Healthy campaign. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discuss my favourite subject. My son. So this blog post is dedicated to the person who motivated me to make my lifestyle change and who continues to inspire me daily to maintain my healthy habits.

In January 2007 I weighed 265. It was the lowest I got my weight down to in years. I used weight loss drugs to get those results. But my experience with weight loss drugs has been consistently the same. I would initially lose the weight, only to gain it all back (and sometimes more). I needed to get my weight down though because my husband and I were planning on getting pregnant. Being morbidly obese was not a good start for a healthy pregnancy. I was on 2 types of blood pressure medications and got winded walking up the stairs. I figured it would take a while for me to get pregnant because of my size, but we were successful our first month of trying.

Miracle of miracles, I had a healthy pregnancy. No gestational diabetes, and no hypertension. For the first time in years, my blood pressure returned to normal and I was taken off my blood pressure meds. The only hiccup? I became anaemic. But other than the anaemia and gaining 45+ pounds, I was healthy as a horse. My guardian angel (in the form of my mother) was looking down on me for sure.

Julien was an overdue baby. I delivered him at 41 weeks via caesarean-section. I laboured for 12+ hours with little progress. I would not dilate more than 4cm and that was with Pitocin to induce labour.  It wasn't until I was getting stitched up following surgery that the doctor looked over the curtain at me and said, "You know you can never deliver vaginally right?" Um, NO! Apparently my pelvic bones are fused and won't widen. Julien was born with an indent on his forehead where he was trying to get through the birth canal.

So my first weeks at home as a new mother were spent in a lot of pain. I weighed over 310 pounds just before delivery and weighed about 295 post-partum. I was back on my blood pressure medications and an extra one for the anaemia too. I was nursing Julien so I figured that gave me license to eat whatever I wanted. I had to get all the nutrients in there to feed the baby! I stayed about 300 pounds throughout Julien's infancy. It was easy. I was on maternity leave and home alone with a baby all day who had little mobility. That meant I didn't have to move much either. I just ate and took care of the baby.

I went for my first (and only) appointment regarding weight loss surgery when Julien was a year old. I was feeling desperate, but also figured it would be an "easy" way to drop the weight. I met with a Bariatric doctor and he convinced me that weight loss surgery was the only way I was ever going to beat obesity. I got put on the waiting list for Gastric Bypass surgery and was told I'd get a call in two years. And just for the record, WLS is not an easy out for weight loss. The diet following weight loss surgery is more restrictive than the diet I followed to lose weight.

So I continued to exist. Waiting for the phone call that was going to free me from obesity. It never came. When I tried to call the Bariatric doctor's office, I learned he lost his license for sexual misconduct with female patients and was practising in Mexico. This was spring 2011. That summer my family travelled to Williamsburg, Virginia for a family vacation.  Julien was 3, I weighed around 300 pounds. We went to Busch Gardens and Julien wanted me to go on rides with him. I attempted get on one that was a kiddie ride, but big enough for adults too and couldn't fit. It was humiliating, embarrassing and devastating because Julien didn't understand why I wouldn't go on rides with him. I watched my husband step in once again and realized that I had been watching him grow up, but not actively participating in his life.

I knew I had to make lifestyle changes once and for all because if I didn't, I'd miss my son's childhood. Or worse, he'd pick up my horrible lifestyle and have the same struggles as me throughout life. When we got back home, I made an appointment to see my family doctor again. I got put on weight loss drugs again, got a referral made for weight loss surgery again, but he also made a referral for a metabolic diet clinic in the Greater Toronto area. This clinic was covered by our Universal Healthcare Plan, and even though my doctor warned me that it was a difficult diet for some to follow, it was free. I certainly wasn't losing anything by checking it out.

By the time I got the appointment at Dr. Poon's Metabolic Clinic, I had already dropped 11 pounds using weight loss drugs. My first weigh-in at the clinic was at 286 pounds. It was not an easy diet to follow. I had to give up all the foods I loved. Refined sugar, processed carbs, grains, dairy, fruit. Phase 1 of the diet consists of lean protein, leafy green vegetables and most vegetables grown above ground. I gave myself two weeks to try it out. After the first two weeks, I lost 11 pounds. That was incentive to keep going. I stayed on the diet for 15 months and lost 121 pounds. I did get a consult for the weight loss surgery in December 2011, but declined the offer for an appointment.

I started running when I weighed 230 pounds and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It hurt, it was uncomfortable, it was mentally challenging, but I stuck with it. I promised Julien I would go on rides with him the summer of 2012, and I was not going back on my promise. I've been a runner for two years now and I have run numerous races including 2 half marathons. In September 2013, while training for my first marathon, I broke my ankle. I was unable to run for 10 weeks. It was a very difficult time for me and I fell into a bit of a depression. Something I continue to struggle with today.  This Sunday I will run my first post-broken ankle race. The Around the Bay 30K Road Race here in Hamilton, Ontario.

I've been on maintenance for 16 months and I've lost another 8 pounds. I currently follow the Paleo lifestyle for maintenance. My total weight loss from my highest recorded weight (310 pounds a few times over the years) is 153 pounds. I am a binge eater and struggle with thoughts of binging daily. Sometimes it can be consuming. But when I feel like I'm weakening and I think I want to binge, I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as enjoying my son's childhood. I am able to be the mom that he needs. A mother that can watch him play, and participate. I am living a life right now that I never thought possible and I can honestly say that if not for my son, I'd likely still be struggling with morbid obesity. He was the inspiration that got me healthy and continues to be my daily motivation to stay healthy.



Julien and I during the past year. He got bigger and I got smaller.

11 comments:

  1. An AMAZING transformation, sweetie! ALL kudos to you for your initiative and dedication to your son! Love you!

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  2. Great pictures of you and Julien!

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  3. My my... you have come a long way Leigh :) And fancy finding out you could never deliver a baby vaginally? Makes me think how scary it was in the old days.. women simply died in childbirth. I'm so grateful for maternity care given these days :)

    Don't you ever binge again by the way... I'm hoping that the longer you go with this lifestyle the further away a binge will become.

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  4. You are SUCH AN INSPIRATION!!! Well done on all the effort and for sticking with this for your son and family. You look so fantastic (and were always beautiful before shots and after). I suffer depression too - it is not easy and I know you will put in the same great effort there too minding yourself and getting the support you need. BEST OF LUCK on your marathon this week. OMG is it really 30kms???? AMAZING!!! I couldn't even imagine what that would take to do something like that!! While you are running the marathon remember all you have done to get here and all that effort and work and that you are brilliant. Also that we will be cheering you on from afar. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for being an example to me that it is possible! xoxo

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  5. You know you were my inspiration to try Dr Poon's program even though there are no clinics here in Australia. I love reading your story! I have no children, I think my motivation was more turning 50 and wanting to live longer than my parents. Being morbidly obese and told I was pre-diabetic were enough to motivate me. Dad died at 61 and most all the relatives on his side of the family died between 58 and 63. Mom made it to 70 which is average for her side. I've turned my life around and while I don't see myself ever running marathons, I have started jogging and as hard as it is I kind of enjoy it, too. Mostly I like feeling like I can do it, cuz I never would have thought it possible before.

    I can't believe Saturday is race day, it's come up so fast! I will be sending good vibes your way ... hope you have a fantastic day, Leigh. All the best! :)

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  6. Nothing but nothing comes close to the pure and selfless love of a good mother. I miss my mother terribly still and I'm a grown woman.

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  7. Fantastic post Leigh ...thanks.

    The power of love, and those pictures .. just great.

    Well done

    All the best Jan

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  8. Good Luck this weekend!! :)

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  9. Wow Leigh you truly are inspiring, not just in weight loss but for a mothers love. Julien is so lucky to have you as a mom and role model.

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