***DISCLAIMER*** This post details the specifics of my personal weight loss journey. If weight is a triggering subject for you, please consider skipping this post. A healthy relationship with food is something many of us have had to fight for and I would never want anything I say to cause you harm. And as I have said before, I’m not a doctor. I’m not any kind of replacement for your doctor’s advice. PLEASE know that this is simply my experience. And my hope is that by reading my experience, it will help you to know what questions you may need to ask your doctor.
Everyone loves a weight loss story. In spring of 2019, I had 15 mins of fame as Woman’s World featured my weight loss/health/MS journey in a feature article.
A picture of me posing at just the right angle, wearing beautiful clothes picked out for me by the best stylist EVER (thanks Deana!), with perfect lighting, taken by an amazing professional photographer (thanks, Marnie!) graced the cover, right under Joan London. The blurb next to me read “Nora lost 185 lbs & put her MS into remission.” Another blurb above my head stated “DROP 50 pounds this month!”… that claim and choice by the magazine made my stomach hurt. Everyone is different. Our bodies are different. Our hormones are different. I knew that before this article came out, but I’m fully experiencing that now. My body at almost 40 is not the same as it was at 35.
Before I get real, let me get even more real with y’all. I didn’t want to write this. I have fought God about writing this piece for a WHILE. 2019-2020 has been HARD and when I’m really struggling, I recluse. Lies have swirled in my head saying “you’re a joke, people listened to your weight loss story and now look at you… you have gained weight.” But, I’ve had time to pray and process what this blog and our podcast are supposed to be about. Not Today, MS is about showing others how we deal with the hand we have been dealt. If I only tell you all about the happy and the shiny and the pretty, I’m not being authentic. All I want to do in this life is help people. My prayer is that by sharing my real that I’m not comfortable sharing, it will encourage or help someone.
Woman’s World approached me about a feature story in January 2019. They had been given my information from the people at Whole30. I had sent them a message years ago thanking them for the information they shared on their website, whole30.com, and in their books that had quite literally changed my life. I was not a reader of Woman’s World and honestly, my vanity made me cringe at the thought of me on the cover of one of those magazines that made weight loss look “so easy!” and gimmicky. But, as with everything we’ve done in the last five years, Brian reminded me that if it helped or encouraged just one person, it would be worth it. I agreed to the story and prayed that God would use it for His glory and that He would keep me humble.
Oh boy, did he keep me humble… but, we’ll get back to that in a moment. First, let’s take a trip down weight loss history lane.
In the summer of 2015, just before MS diagnosis, my scale read 346 pounds.
April 2017, just before I ran my first half marathon, my scale read 161 pounds.
Thus, I lost 185 pounds in roughly 18 months. 50 pounds of that was lost in the first month (likely due to excess water retention) and then I averaged 5-10 pounds per month.
I hovered between 161-165 pounds in spring/early summer of 2017. My weight loss stalled, even though my eating didn’t change. But that was okay with me! I was happy and felt healthy and didn’t care that I was still considered “overweight” according to the BMI Scale.
As running picked up in 2017-2018 and we trained for a full marathon, I built more muscle. I ended up putting on 10-15 pounds… hovering between 175-180 pounds for the early part of 2018. This did not bother me. I felt so strong and confident.
By fall of 2018, I was running 30 miles per week and cross-training once a week. Our eating remained very clean and pretty much true to Whole30 as we trained. Our only exception was Honey Stinger Gels for our long training runs to keep our energy up and replace electrolytes. I put on another 5 pounds as we trained harder. This began to discourage me. I was in the best shape of my life, but the scale was now showing a weight gain of 24 pounds. I was 185 at the time of the Marathon. I found myself fixating on the way I looked in the marathon finish photos. Instead of celebrating the accomplishment, I found myself picking my body a part. My face looked chubbier. My thighs were thicker. I could see lumps in my midsection. I knew the thoughts were unhealthy so I prayed for God to help me push them aside.
Sidebar–this is a story for another time, but like many girls, I struggled with an eating disorder for a few months when I was 13. By the grace of God, I didn’t damage my body and I somehow stopped the combination of starvation and bulimia, but the mental damage is still there. I still have to stop myself from fixating on my weight, my curves and my clothing size. This is not something I talk about because I have always told myself I was too fat to have had an eating disorder. I felt like the punchline of a joke when I thought about telling anyone that I struggled with anorexia and bulimia during 7th grade when I weighed 200 pounds and wore plus size women’s clothing. I felt like I certainly didn’t look like I had any trouble with eating….
***Disclaimer***: You do not need to be less than 100 pounds to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and are equally devastating emotionally and physically. If you think you may have an unhealthy relationship with food, PLEASE seek out a trusted counselor or therapist today! I will include some great resources at the bottom of this post!
November and December of 2018 were weird. We reduced our running from 30 miles a week to roughly 10 miles as we didn’t have to start training for our next race until January 2019. Even though our marathon training had ended, we found ourselves still eating the quantity of food we had eaten while running 30 miles a week. We ate healthy and Whole30 for the most part, but I can admit to a Christmas cookie here or there. Another 5-10 pounds crept on during the holidays and I began 2019 at 195 pounds.
When the magazine reached out to me for a feature story on my “incredible weight loss”, I freaked. I wanted to share the story of what God had done in my life, but I felt like a complete fraud. I also was well-aware of how I could stumble into an unhealthy mental place where I would end up starving myself or purging everything I ate. So, Brian and I prayed HARD against that as I just took steps to clean up my eating and increase my workouts.
I was able to get my weight down to 185 by the day of the magazine shoot. I was so discouraged though. I had been so strict for two months. I was training for a half-marathon and had really increased other workouts. We had even adopted a Keto/Whole30 hybrid diet so I was eating very little carbs in addition to keeping away from dairy, sugar, wheat, grains and legumes. I ate healthy proteins and lots of leafy greens. I limited my calories to 1500. I was running 20 miles a week. I didn’t cheat once during those two months. And I only lost 10 pounds of the additional weight I had gained. I felt healthy, but I was so discouraged at the scale and my body’s inability to drop the weight as quickly as it did in the past.
After the photo shoot and the magazine released, I started having so many negative thoughts. I found myself looking at photos like this (above) and picking apart the rolls in my midsection, my arms, my cheeks, my calves. The magazine didn’t use this photo or any of the ones we had taken in this yellow dress. I let myself believe it was because of my ugly legs or the fact that I had pinned my hair back, exposing more of my face.
Right as this magazine released, my whole world flipped upside down. It’s not worth getting into, but May 2019 to…. well… present? have been STRESSFUL. 2020 began with a pituitary tumor scare and personal heartbreaks and disappointments and then we were slapped with a pandemic and all the loss and frustration that everyone has experienced in one way or another as a result to this stupid virus.
Since May of 2019, I’ve slowly gained an additional 16 pounds. Despite Whole30 eating, Keto eating, Intermittent Fasting, reducing calories, increasing strength training, increasing and reducing running… basically I’ve tried it all at this point.
Yet, here I am. 201 pounds as of this blog post. A total of 36 pounds gained since May 2017.
My thyroid has been checked and rechecked and it’s fine. I’ve had additional hormone panels ran and they checked out fine. I’ve had regular check ups and all of my blood work, HR and blood pressure are excellent so my doctors do not have any concerns. My neurosurgeon and neurologist are keeping an eye on the potential pituitary tumor, but they do not believe the weight gain is related to this since my hormone panel was fine.
It is what it is. I’ve found that eating clean, low-carb foods make me feel the best so that’s what I eat. I’ve learned to eat when I’m hungry, not when I’m bored or sad. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Do I eat healthy 100% of the time? No. I love to indulge in some dairy-free ice cream or Keto treat from our favorite dessert place (shout-out to Dewster’s!). And you better believe I will be doing Christmas baking and Christmas cookie partaking come December. My goal with food is to continue to view it as fuel and put the things that make me function the best inside of me. And to never say never. Having a healthy relationship with food takes work, and I’m still learning.
So. How do I explain 36 extra pounds? I don’t.
And I don’t need to.
I’ve shown some signs of early menopause and I’m turning 40 next month which definitely has a part to play in all this. I’m certain my stress levels have something to do with the weight gain and inability to lose it. My stress has gotten considerably better over the last few months and I’m so grateful for that. My vitamin D levels being so low at my last visit certainly didn’t help things and I’m hopeful that once they are back where they need to be, we may see some leveling out of weight. As you would imagine, running with extra weight is harder, but it’s not stopping me and it won’t. COVID took away our beloved Derby half-marathon and our Run a Myelin My Shoes event at the Indianapolis Marathon, so we are just training to run in the Not Today, MS 5K on September 29 and a virtual 10K with our race team in November.
Here’s the point, kids. I believe in an enemy. A real, dark, ugly, soul-crushing enemy who loves to sneak in our thoughts and tear us down. He whispers and points out our flaws… not to help us improve, but to shatter our confidence and make us doubt who we are. He’s been at work in my life for as long as I can remember and everyday the battle for my mind and my thoughts is bloody and unrelenting. Right now, he wants me ashamed and embarrassed at my weight gain. As I type this, thoughts of what certain people will say or think are rolling through my mind and making me doubt whether or not to even post this…
But I also believe in a very real Savior. And He… well, He thinks I’m “perfectly and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). He loved me at 346 pounds and 165 pounds and now at 201 pounds. He was not proud of me for my weight loss… but rather He was pleased when I took steps in obedience to Him. He reminds me that this life is a journey and I’m to keep giving over each and every thing to Him. He reminds me in this life I’ll have my fair share of trouble, but he has overcome all the troubles I could ever face (John 16:33). He just asks me to keep taking the next right step and to seek Him for my daily bread and that if I seek Him, I will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So I try to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33), before I seek anything or anyone else’s approval.
I will keep moving. I will keep eating the healthiest fuel that makes my body feel the best. I will not base my identity on a number on the scale or on the tag of my shirt. I will not look at current pictures of myself and pick my body a part. I am a child of God. And He will keep using me for His purpose. And that… that makes Satan pee his pants, so there :).
So. If you made it to the end of this incredibly long and soul-bearing post, congratulations. I’m not an expert on anything. All I can share here is my experience.
I may not be a doctor, but my friend Brittany Ingram, M.D IS and she graciously shared the resources below with all of you! (Thanks, Brittany!!!)
Not sure if you have an eating disorder? Click here for a screening tool —> https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool
Might have an eating disorder and not sure where to start? Click here —> https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/where-do-i-start-0
Want some more information about the Health at Every Size movement? Click here —> https://haescommunity.com/
Book Recommendation for HAES and intuitive eating–> https://christyharrison.com/book-anti-diet-intuitive-eating-christy-harrison
Body Positive Instagram Accounts to follow: