2 Jun

My lifelong struggle with weight and chronic illness

Story submitted by Jenny Bloom

Until recently, I haven’t been able to accept my physical appearance. I’ve never felt like my body was the right shape or size. Of course, now I look back at pictures of myself and think, “Wow, I looked amazing! Why didn’t I think that then?” Maybe you can relate?

Like many who struggle with eating and body image, I was overweight as a child and routinely got picked on. I still recall the taunts of my classmates singing my name to a popular weight loss commercial jingle. Their words stung and left a permanent mark. It damages your self-esteem for the long haul when you are bullied and it only makes you want to escape more. At the end of 8th grade I weighed nearly 185 pounds

In high school I became more physically active then I was in my younger years and dropped about 40 pounds. However, throughout college the bad behaviors that plague so many college students certainly did not discriminate. College studies were easy for me, so to fill my time I went out four to five nights a week. My eating habits were sub-par and I drank often; which of course attributes to weight-gain. Packing on nearly 50 pounds, I quickly became very uncomfortable in my skin as I hovered around the 200 pound mark.

struggle with weightAfter college, I moved to Chicago and my unhealthy habits continued. At one point, I decided I finally wanted to commit to losing the weight I gained in college. After giving working out and eating healthier a try, my weight just kept increasing. This didn’t make sense. In harmony with my attempts to shed weight, I began displaying some abnormal medical symptoms.

I spoke to my doctor who told me that I just needed to lose weight and everything would regulate itself. “Doctor, I’m telling you that trying to lose the weight isn’t working, no matter the method!” I instinctively knew something was not right and sought a second opinion.

Shortly after, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS. This is a difficult disorder to accept because one of the symptoms is that it is tough to lose weight; but once you do, your symptoms decrease. Women with PCOS also struggle to conceive. Learning this was heartbreaking.

After moving back home to Indiana, I weighed almost 265 pounds and wavered between a size 20 and 22.  I didn’t like the way I looked or felt. As a matter of fact-I hated myself.

Desperate for change, I sought options for healing. After reading a book on the effects gluten can have on your body, I tried an elimination diet. By eliminating gluten I lost 20 pounds in a short amount of time. Thinking that I really didn’t have a gluten intolerance, I ate pizza with my family one night and I broke out into hives. I started to notice that every time I ate gluten my stomach hurt. So I continued to avoid it.

Sustaining rapid weight-loss, I eventually plateaued at 200 pounds. I was getting so many compliments on my success, but little did I realize what would hit me next.

I had been dealing with chronic back pain for a few years and the pain kept spreading. My arms and legs hurt constantly – a deep, throbbing pain that over-the-counter medications could not cure. I experienced chronic migraines that were debilitating and sought out doctor after doctor to find a diagnosis. After two years with unanswered questions, lack of exercise due to chronic pain, multiple tests, scans, and stacks of medical bills I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is called an “invisible illness.” You can look completely fine on the outside, but be in excruciating pain. Most days I’m functioning with a pain level that most people could not tolerate. I remember what it was like to be pain-free. It’s a lot easier to accomplish things without chronic pain. Now just taking a shower or washing the dishes can take all the energy you have for the day. Imagine what it takes out of you to try and exercise! I had no idea how I was going to get myself healthy. I was at a loss, depressed, and on countless medications. During those two years, I manage to gain another 45 pounds back.

After two years of self-loathing I had experienced enough and contacted a girl I had been following on Instagram that had an amazing health transformation. She too had PCOS. She also suffered from eating disorders and had been on both sides of the weight spectrum.

Carly del Carlo was my saving grace.

struggle with weightIn October of that same year, I joined one of Carly’s online accountability groups and immediately began seeing changes in myself. My drive to succeed increased and I even lost 5 pounds and 5 inches in just 3 weeks. This online support group was a game changer for me.

I connected with many women that were having similar struggles as I.  It was so inspiring that I started to share my struggle with weight and journey to better health on social media. It was very scary to put myself out there, but it helped keep me accountable. It also felt good inspiring others to seek help. I was still not in “perfect” shape but continued posting about health and fitness. Slowly, the opinions of others didn’t matter to me anymore.

I’m down about 15 pounds now, but I’ve gained so much more in return. Today I’m confident that I’m doing the right things to make improvements on my health and well-being while inspiring others to do the same. I’ve been able to reduce my medications and I don’t beat myself up if I can’t make a workout happen because I’m in pain, but instead focus on healthy eating and enjoy the days where my body can handle a little exercise.

I still have a long ways to reach my weight-loss goals, but at least now I know that I can do it and am actually enjoying myself along the way.

Can you relate to Jenny’s story? Please share comments below.

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