Thanks and admiration to our friend Eliza for opening up about this sensitive topic, and reaching others who may need to hear her story.
Weight, a topic most people care not to always talk about. Add in having IBD and that’s a whole new ballgame.
I’ve struggled with my weight for more than half my life, I’ve only lived with IBD for 5 years. I’m not sure which I dislike more, dealing with Crohn’s or struggling with my weight. To be completely honest, one of the first things I knew about IBD was that it could cause weight loss, and the saddest part, I was excited about that fact. I didn’t understand the consequences that came along with weight loss from IBD.
I was almost angry and bitter at first when my Crohn’s didn’t cause me to lose any weight at all. I saw people who struggled with keeping weight on as “lucky,” and now, looking back, I can’t believe I ever thought that about their side of the struggle. I only saw the outward appearance, I didn’t understand everything else that came with their struggle of keeping weight on. It makes me sad to think, at one point, I was jealous of them. Instead of understanding how awful it was for them, I found myself feeling helpless, lost, stuck, bitter and very angry. That isn’t an easy thing to admit, and I didn’t admit that for almost 3.5 years after being diagnosed.
My path, and attitude changed, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to CCFA Team Challenge. Without Team Challenge I would probably still be a very angry, bitter and depressed person about my IBD. I am certain without it I wouldn’t be sharing my story, because I most certainly wouldn’t have one.
I say that because, not only did I finally start accepting that I had Crohn’s, and it wasn’t going to just go away one day, I was introduced to some people who played a very important part in my journey to losing 70 lbs while managing my Crohn’s. Team Challenge allowed my path to cross with Darrell, a Team Challenge coach who is also a personal trainer.
Because he saw something in me before I saw it in myself, I’m able to share my story with you, in hopes it gives someone the strength and courage to believe in themselves and know anything they want to do is very possible.
Before joining the team and meeting Darrell, my struggle with diet was a losing battle. I couldn’t eat a single vegetable without making numerous trips to the bathroom. I knew I was desperate, and I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling anymore. Darrell introduced me to AdvoCare, a brand that offers nutritional weight-loss supplements and products. At first I was not sure this was for me. Why was it different from anything else I’ve tried? How was I possibly going to undertake something that would require me to eat more veggies, when I couldn’t even handle one? But, I realized all my other efforts weren’t working, and I decided, with his care, to give it a try. I was already feeling bad, so if it didn’t work, I would just feel the same, right?
In January 2014, I started on the 24 day challenge, with guidance and amazing support from Darrell. This was my game changer, my Hail Mary, my all in jackpot win. For my own journey with Crohn’s, it worked and helped me travel on a road I had so desperately wanted for years, even long before Crohn’s was added to the mix. The challenge started me on an upward cycle, including changing what I ate, using their products, and exercising more, which gave me more energy, allowed me to increase exercise, and made it easier and easier to stay healthy. It was definitely mentally tough, and took my body some time to adjust, but I had started my new path.
Although my Crohn’s meds put me technically in clinical remission, I still had been struggling up to this point with the combination of lingering Crohn’s symptoms and my weight battle. But, I was starting to feel better, making less trips to the bathroom, and eating foods that in the past had sent me there time and time again. This change helped my body respond in a positive way over time. I began to feel normal for the first time since I had been diagnosed 4 long years prior. My body was responding in a way I honestly didn’t think was possible anymore, and I finally realized that there is something to be said for having the proper tools, including my Crohn’s medication, to keep my disease in remission. My body knew what to do better than I thought.
Now I’m not saying it’s perfect for everyone, as we all know having IBD it is different from person to person, and what works for some in terms of medications and food triggers isn’t the same for the next person. In terms of my journey it worked, and helped me travel on a road I had so desperately wanted for years, long before Crohn’s was added to the mix.
I’ve asked myself why this time was different, why was it now that I could tell I was ready to commit to myself. After thinking long and hard, maybe trying to have some huge epiphany about this, I realized it was far more simple than I thought.
I wanted it, and really truly meant it. I had finally found myself at the crossroads, and instead of picking the same path I had all those times before, I went with the road I hadn’t traveled before. I finally believed in myself and wanted it for myself more than I had wanted anything else.
I would be lying if I said it was easy and just all of the sudden happened. No, there was no magic pill or wand that came in a box. It took my dedication to myself knowing I deserved to feel great about myself when I looked back in the mirror, something that I hadn’t felt since almost 3rd grade. Being 28 years old and not remembering the last time I was “happy” with my reflection was a very powerful tool for me.
Bottom line is it came down to I was finally ready to do it for myself. Not my parents, not my friends, not my significant other, not strangers who I felt judged by every day, but myself. I wanted this for myself more than I had wanted anything else, so I refused to give up on myself again. I was paving a new path and though I had plenty of speed bumps, and even at times what felt like mountains standing in my way, I pushed though each new obstacle knowing that no one but me was going to do it. I also had incredible support from people who believed in me and wanted to see my success sometimes probably more than I did at moments.
It took my 28 years to understand something, without having the true desire to want to be better for myself, nothing on it’s own was going to be better. I was the one in control of my daily thoughts, what I did or didn’t put in my body, how I spent my time, either in front of a TV on a couch or doing something active instead. As much as I prayed everyday all those years for that magic pill, or special wand, I finally after all this time realized that I already had everything I needed to make this dream possible, I just had to get out of my own way. Once I did that, I started to find I was capable of so much more than I had ever allowed myself to even dream of, and that is a very powerful realization.
If you’re an IBD patient going through a similar struggle, you can get there! Here’s my advice:
- Want it for yourself, and not for anyone else, or because society tells you you’re not “okay” or that you should lose weight. Commit to yourself and take your own life back. There are so many uncertainties in life, including IBD, but this is something you can control, you just have to find the right tools for yourself.
- Find that buddy, or support system who wants to see you succeed as much as you do, because when that dark cloud comes overhead, they’ll be the force you need to let the light shine again, and remind you of how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come, and even though it’s not easy at the moment, you’ve already proven that you’re capable of great things if you fight for them.
- Don’t pay attention to the scale. This was a hard one for me to even understand, as I wanted to see a certain number, but as we all know, that’s not the singular determinant of health. It should be about how you feel in general, not what reads below your feet in the morning.
- Accept your disease, and understand that no matter what you did or didn’t do, you have IBD. I can never go back to when I didn’t have it, when I wasn’t sick, and when I didn’t have to do injections. Allowing Crohn’s to have power in my life more than it already had, wasn’t doing any good. Instead of dwelling on these things, I had to prove that I wouldn’t let Crohn’s run my life or be my excuse for being otherwise unhealthy.
- Believe in yourself. Know that you can absolutely do this if you’re ready for it and really want it. Change is scary, and it’s scary to take on the weight loss battle, especially when you’re already battling IBD. It may seem like a long road to travel, but unlike Crohn’s, which never ends, weight is something we can put in a good place and keep it there by loving ourselves enough to do it.
Eliza is a Crohn’s patient who lives in the Metro Milwaukee area. She’s a veteran of the CCFA Team Challenge program, and is making her marathon debut this fall, made possible by her successful journey to healthy weight!