Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Misty Pierce is 5’8” tall, and currently weighs 145 pounds. In 2011, after a health scare she pursued gastric bypass surgery in order to live a healthier life. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I was always overweight, even as a little girl. Getting teased about my weight was pretty much a regular occurrence until middle school. Then I wasn’t picked on as often, but the things said were much more hurtful. I remember doing the Slim Fast diet when I was in 5th grade. I was 10 years old and 120 pounds. It was the first of many unsuccessful diets.
My mom was a single mom of four kids on a very limited budget and the food we ate was mostly processed, rarely fresh fruits or veggies, and there wasn’t a lot of it. I ate as much as I could for each meal, since the next time we ate there may not be much. As I grew older and started earning money of my own, my relationship with food changed a bit. I had a lot of personal things going on that were beyond my control and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I found that I could control food. I often just ate until the food was gone. Even now, I struggle with emotional and binge eating.
In October 2010, my mom had a disposable camera developed. I was looking through the pictures and came to one of my husband and me. I felt sick. I knew that I was big, but not that big. About a week later at home, I started having chest tightness and pain and labored breathing. My husband took me to the ER right away. Fortunately, it was not a heart attack, but the doctor said that I was lucky. He said that with my medical issues and my weight, it would happen, it was just a matter of time.
I had to face the fact that I was killing myself. Every bite I took, every missed opportunity to move my body, I was just creeping slowly to my coffin. Being told that I could have a heart attack at only 27 was the turning point for me. I made an appointment with my doctor and we made the decision that, given my existing medical issues and history of failed diet plans, the best course of action was gastric bypass.
For the gastric bypass, I had to follow a special bariatric diet. From December 2010 until February 2011, my day of eating consisted of two high-protein/low-carb meal replacement shakes, two high-protein/low-carb snack bars, and a high-protein/low-carb soup. The week prior to the surgery was strictly the meal replacement shakes. Six weeks after surgery, I was cleared for physical activity and started working with a personal trainer twice a week, doing mostly weight training. I used a stationary bike at home.
In 2016, after pregnancy, when I was ready to tackle the pregnancy weight gain, I assessed my food intake. I had an appointment with my endocrinology/diabetes doctor (for PCOS, not diabetes at this time). She suggested a low-carb/moderate healthy fat/and moderate protein diet consisting of “real” food. I immediately cut out the majority of the processed foods, drastically reduced the baked goods, and increased the veggies. I ate a lot of salad with spinach, baby greens, tomato, chopped boiled egg, and usually a vinaigrette. Sometimes I’d add cucumber or mushroom, and if I had it on hand, I’d throw in some avocado.
I ate chicken, bunless burgers with lettuce, and taco salad in a bowl. In this way I was able to cut back on carbs. During that time I had been focused only on my diet, no exercise. I hit a plateau. I began to get discouraged so I started working out. I found an app that had a workout that could be done in my living room and took no more than 10 minutes per exercise. I started small, doing two workouts at night, alternating the apps, until I could do three, and then all four.
I was on a roller coaster of emotions during this time. I would feel empowered one week and a total failure the next. I was, and continue to be, scared to death that I am going to make one wrong move and end up heavy Misty again.
I would say that my daughter is the biggest motivation as well as my reason for not giving up. I needed to lose the weight to get healthier so I could be there for her, to live and experience life with her. I want her to love her body, to take care of it, and to have a healthy relationship with food. I have to be the example of that for her if I want that to happen. Giving up was never an option.
Physically, I felt amazing. I have done permanent damage to my back and knees, but having that weight lifted definitely eases the pain and pressure. I can walk more than 20 feet without getting winded. I don’t worry about sitting in chairs in public and wondering if I am going to break it, or find a different way around so I don’t have to squeeze by someone.
Emotionally — well, that is tough. You couldn’t pay me enough to take the 181 pounds back, but sometimes I miss that me. Crazy I know, but it was a wall, an excuse, and now I don’t have that so I have to face things myself. At the same time, there is the feeling I get when I see my body. When I see parts of my body that have loose, stretched, saggy skin, I feel like a failure. I betrayed my body, betrayed myself, by not taking care of it all those years. So when I see my body, I feel self hate.
Losing weight opened the door for me. I was able to go to the park and enjoy watching and playing with my daughter instead of just playing in the yard. I went out on dates with my husband, no longer scared to sit in a booth or afraid to eat in front of people. I felt like I was being seen as a person for the first time, acknowledged by others in a positive way as opposed to a look of disgust or a rude comment.
My eating hasn’t changed much in the last year and a half. I eat mostly low carb. A few examples of what I eat as a meal are: a sausage patty and an egg topped with some cheese; a scrambled egg topped with taco meat; or a taco salad bowl. There are so many great resources available for low carb and keto recipes. There are even ones devoted to dairy-free and gluten-free recipes. There are books you can buy, but there are a ton of websites and blogs with the information for free.
I still use the fitness apps, usually five days a week. I just got a treadmill and have added cardio to the weekly rotation.
I am inspired daily by the different weight loss stories I hear about. I know how hard it is, and to see some of the things these people overcame actually gives me a push to keep it up. I am also inspired and motivated by my daughter. She is one of the biggest reasons I fought so hard to get the last 90 pounds off. She is only six, but she is wise beyond her years. She tells me how proud she is and that I am doing a good job.
One thing I struggle with is the skin. After being that overweight for that long, plus a pregnancy, my skin is stretched, loose, and saggy where it shouldn’t be. I have been told — and agree — that the loose skin is much better than the weight. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about it. I detest it. I am trying to look past the skin and see the good, but it’s hard.
Another struggle is binge eating. There is a difference between binge eating and compulsive overeating. With binge eating disorder, you eat a large amount of food, you don’t have control of the eating, and often eat to the point of feeling sick. After the binge, you usually feel ashamed or guilty — a lot of times you keep the binge to yourself. If you are like me, you belittle yourself for the binge. There is a book, “Brain Over Binge” by Kathryn Hansen, that has been a great tool and helped me gain insight as to why I may binge. It is kind of like AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] or NA [Narcotics Anonymous]; you have to take it one day at a time. Knowing some of the things that sort of trigger my binges, or trigger the emotion that leads to a binge, helps immensely. If possible, I can avoid it. If not, I prepare for the possible scenarios and the chance of a binge decreases.
This is a lifelong journey. The first leg is a rollercoaster, so buckle up. You will rise and you will fall. Don’t beat yourself up or quit if you slip up. It happens, so get back on the track. There will be times the coaster stops (your weight plateaus, scale isn’t moving) and it seems like you are going to be stuck there forever. Don’t worry, sometimes a little adjusting is needed, sometimes the scale isn’t moving but you are losing inches, and sometimes you just need to give it some time. If the coaster starts to go backwards, do not worry. Your weight will fluctuate. Just know that as long as you keep at it, you will reach the end of the ride and can start the next part of your journey.
Also note, there is a huge weight loss community available online you can look to for support. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who is going or has gone through what you are at the moment. Use your resources.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
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