My story

I'm sharing my story with you to give you an idea about what a life long struggle obesity has been for me.  I have lost a lot of weight in the past, and I have gained a lot of weight as well.  I have tried many, many diets...Weight Watchers, Dr. Bernstein, Atkins, South Beach, cabbage soup diet just to name a few.  I've taken diet medications...Phen Fen, Meridia and Xenical.  Phen Fen and Meridia were taken off the market due to life threatening side effects.

I've starved myself and was even bulimic for a period of time in my late teens.  I have never shared the fact that I was bulimic with anyone before.  It's how I kept my weight around 200 during that period in my life.  I have always felt a lot of shame in association with the bulimia.  I was able to stop doing it on my own, mostly because my mother figured out what I was up to and confronted me. Even with all my efforts and intervention in the past, I have never been able to lose weight in a healthy manner and keep it off.  I'm determined to finally get off the crazy diet merry-go-round!

It wasn't until about grade two that I began to gain weight.  From about age seven and under, I was just a regular sized kid who pretty much ate what I wanted and was pretty active too.  That was before the days of video games and cable.  Either you were outside playing with friends, or you sat inside twiddling your thumbs.  We lived on a residential street that was littered with young families, so there was never a shortage of playmates.

I'm not sure what happened that made me begin to over eat.  My mother didn't let us go into the fridge whenever we wanted, but I became a master at stealing and hoarding food.  I remember sneaking into the kitchen when everyone else was in the basement watching tv and making myself a couple of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, then taking them to my bedroom to eat in private.  I had a pretty uneventful childhood, but my mother was a bit of a controller, and that could be overwhelming at times.

Once I started gaining weight the inevitable comments began.  I have two older brothers who would make comments and tease me about my weight.  And so would their friends.  That was really hard to hear on a regular basis.  The one place where I found comfort was in my binges.  Food soothed me and made me calmer.  My mother would also make food a reward for us.  It worked fine for her normal sized children (which was everyone else), but not for me.  I would obsess over food rewards and that would be the focus of my day.  This is a behaviour I took into adulthood.  That is why I don't use food rewards for weight-loss (ie: binge days, or days where I can eat a special meal if I lose x amount of weight).  Brings me back to obsessing about food and that is not a comfortable place for me.

So I struggled through primary school with a significant weight problem.  I was obese and I was made fun of on a regular basis.  "If only you could lose weight, because you have such a pretty face" became my mother's mantra.  My mother's, my aunt's, my mother's friends, the neighbour's, they repeated the same thing to me over and over.  It was tough.  It was hardest to be the sole obese member of a family of 8.  I'm sure my schooling suffered because it was the place I least liked to be.  I liked to learn, I just hated getting picked on.

Fast forward to my first year of high school.  I was brought to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and put on a protein sparing modified fasting diet.  This was a diet that was monitored by one Dr. Stanley Zlotkin.  He was super nice man and the plan was for me to kick start my weight-loss by being on this diet for 2 weeks, during which time I was hospitalized.  All I ate was protein, and a HUGE amount of vitamins and supplements.  I was in grade nine and weighed 210 pounds. By the time they released me, I weighed 190.  I remember that so clearly.  I stayed on a modified version of the diet for several months and had to go back to the hospital every few weeks for a weigh-in and consult with Dr. Zlotkin.

I didn't see the diet through to fruition.  I mean, being in high school was hard enough.  Being in high school obese and having to do a special diet was even harder.  I couldn't stay on plan and gave into the inevitable teenage junk food.  I did however manage to maintain my weight around 200 throughout high school.  I was obese, just not morbidly so...yet.

High school was a very difficult time for me.  I was awkward (due to the extra weight and the huge tortoise shell glasses I wore...thank GOD the perm grew out by high school).  Awkward and a clown.  Since no one would like me because of the way I looked, I made friends with humour. Humour which included laughing at myself.  A behaviour that was very self-deprecating, but won me some friends.  I was the token funny fat girl.  Little did all my high school friends know that I was dying a little more inside after each joke or snide remark I made about myself.

So after high school came my first crack at college.  I went away to college because I just thought I needed to get away from home and have a new experience.  I met one of my very best girlfriends (Elin) at Loyalist College in Belleville.  I love that I met her and Scott (her hubby) there and that they are still an important part of my life. I managed to stay around 200 during the Loyalist College years,  but sadly never made it as a photojournalist.  And if I need to be completely honest, photojournalism was not something I longed to do.  I chose it because it would take me away from home.

After I finished up at Loyalist College, I went onto Centennial College in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. I took the Child and Youth Worker program, and work today as a CYW.  So this program really was my calling.  I also gained a huge amount of weight.  Probably about 100 pounds.  I struggled at this weight for several years.  I binged, I partied, I didn't get any physical activity.  I was a HUGE mess and I had less than zero self-esteem.

During college, I still lived at home and was working part-time to put myself through school.  I started Centennial when I was 21 years old.  I don't have many pictures of myself from that time period, because I hated having my picture taken.  After gaining so much weight, I pretty much stayed away from the camera.  I made a lot of friends from Centennial, some that I still stay in touch with today.  It was an overall good experience for me.  I was passionate about school and excited about my future working as a Child and Youth Worker.

When I was 24, I began working on my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Toronto.  My weight continued to balloon.  I didn't really make any friends in university.  I just showed up to lectures, did the work and left. I actually couldn't tell you the name of one person in any of my classes, in fact the whole experience is a bit of a blur.  I know I graduated though, because I have the degree to prove it.  All I can say for certain is that at the beginning of university, I gained a lot more weight and weighed over 300 pounds by my 2nd year.  I started using Phen Fen in third year and lost about 30 pounds by the time I graduated.

When I was 28, I decided I had to do something about my weight issue.  Something drastic.  I went to Dr. Bernstein's Diet Clinic and shelled out about $2500 to go on a medically supervised starvation diet where I got B12 shots in my ass 3 times a week.  I lost about 100 pounds and was the lightest I had been since high school.  The diet worked, but wasn't realistic for maintenance.  I don't agree with Dr. Bernstein's methods, but in all fairness, I was also not ready to really lose the weight.  I wanted a quick fix.  And what a quick fix it was.  20 pounds lost a month!

I hooked up with my hubby the next year, and that's how he fell in love with me.  One hundred pounds lighter.  We were both young and stupid.  We were jokers, smokers and midnight tokers. Midnight toking brings obvious consequences...the munchies.  I started once again on my upwards spiral of weight-gain.  We married in 2002 and I weighed 281 on my wedding day.  I was happy I was marrying the man I loved, but miserable that I was so huge and couldn't wear the dress I wanted.  On a happy note, I was able to lose about 10 pounds just before the wedding.  My mother had to safety pin my dress on my wedding day to keep it from falling in the front.

For the next five years, I pretty much maintained my weight...no that's a lie.  I gained a lot at one point and was over 300 pounds again.  I went on Meridia and was able to get my weight down to 265 just before getting pregnant with my son.  I was pregnant in my 37th year and miracle of miracles, I had no complications during my pregnancy.  I had a normal blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, not even morning sickness.

But I did gain 45 pounds and the day before I delivered my son, I weighed in at 310.  I remember freaking out thinking they couldn't give me an epidural because I was too big. I did get an epidural but the machine was malfunctioning and it was no help.  No matter, I ended up having to have a c-section.  Apparently my pelvic bone is fused shut.  Who knew?  Not me until I was being sewn up on the operating table.  I was told then I could never deliver vaginally.  Sucked that I had to labour for 12 hours before learning that!  No matter...Julien was worth it!

After having Jules, I began thinking again about how I was going to get my weight under control.  I dropped about 20 pounds after giving birth and steadily maintained my weight at about 290.  I went to my family doctor, Dr. Pitt, and asked for a referral for Gastric Bypass surgery.  Dr. Pitt reluctantly sent me to Dr. Joffe in Toronto and I met with him at his office.  The waiting list was 2 years, and Dr. Joffe convinced me that the only way I'd get my weight under control was with weight-loss surgery.  I believed that this would be the "quick fix" I needed.  From what I've read and learned from WLS bloggers is that WLS requires a lot of work.  It's not a cure all, it is an aid to a lifestyle change.  

By the time my 2 year wait was up, I was still convinced that this was the route I was going to go. I called Dr. Joffe's office to find out where I was on the wait-list only to learn that he was no longer practicing in Canada because he lost his license.  Read about that here if you want.  Finally made sense to me why there was a  nurse sitting in on our consultation who wasn't even taking notes, she was just sitting there.  He was under investigation and couldn't be alone with female patients.

So I freaked out because I had to start all over again.  I went back to Dr. Pitt, got a referral to the Bariatric clinic at St. Joseph's here in Hamilton, and got the referral to Dr. Poon's clinic at the same time.  I started Dr. Poon's Metabolic Diet on September 17th, 2011, and had an information session at the Bariatric clinic the first week in December.  By the time December rolled around, I had already lost 33 pounds and just wasn't feeling the surgery anymore.  I never went to the information session.  I knew at that time that I had finally found the lifestyle that was the right fit for me.  I knew I could do this, and more importantly, I wanted to do it!  I was pumped and finally ready to take control of my life.  There has been no looking back since.  Here I am 122 pounds lighter and I can't imagine ever going back to my former self.  

I've said this before and I'll say it again.  If you want this badly enough, you can do it.  I used to say stuff like, "I'd die if I can't eat pasta", "I need to have Snickers Bars in my life", "I'll enjoy myself today, and diet tomorrow".  Tomorrow finally came for me on September 17th.  That's when my life changed.  Guess what? I can live without everything I thought I couldn't.  What I can't live without is my son and my husband.  And they shouldn't have to live without me because I finally killed myself with food.  I had convinced myself that  even though I was morbidly obese, I wasn't unhealthy.  Of course I was.  I was on two blood pressure medications for Pete's sake!  Maybe I didn't have Diabetes...but in time.  My birth mother battled with Type 2 Diabetes.  That would have definitely been in my future.  I'm finally done the denial and the excuses and let me tell you, it is so freeing!

I'm so close to reaching my goal.  I'm no longer obese...I'm in the over-weight range according to my BMI.  Once I reach goal, I believe the real work will begin.  I am going to have to be conscious of what I eat for the rest of my life.  I need to always be aware of my triggers and I need to keep up with my running and physical activity.  I don't deserve food treats because of how hard I've worked, I simply need food to survive.  The only way that my weight-loss is going to be a success this time around, is by changing the way I think about food.  Without that key piece to this equation, I will weigh in at 300 pounds once again.  And that folks is just not worth anything I could eat.

Before...about 300 pounds.
Only 20 pounds to goal!
Only 8 pounds to go.
Called myself at goal 14/03/13
125 pounds lost

24 comments:

  1. It's refreshing to hear your story and an inspiration!! I have a very similar story and I just turned 40 last December. I just started Dr. Poon 2 weeks ago and had my first weigh in today, and I lost 7 lbs so far!! I have a lot to lose, but I'm feeling positive and reading your story is very motivating!! Thanks for sharing and good luck with the last 20!! WOW!! Congrats, you look amazing and must feel amazing!!

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  2. Your story is so inspiring. I have 60 to 70 lbs to loose, started Dr. Poon 7 days ago and I've already lost 4 lbs. So amazing! I have only one question, when did you incorporate running into your weight lost regime?

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  3. Leigh, Thank you so much for sharing your story with so much candour. You are incredible. Keep up the amazing work. You inspire me.

    I'm not a runner, but I cycle. I started doing distance rides two years ago. I raise money for the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. My partner is a cancer survivor.

    Stay positive. Your story has helped keep me on the path.

    Sincerel

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  4. Great story - with a so far so good ending. I have a similar tale of woe - have spent almost 2 1/2 yrs losing 70lbs. Got off antidepressants which had added 30lbs, and steadily started losing. Only ate when hungry and smaller amounts. Started running 1 1/2 yrs ago. That was the clincher for me. Could only do 90 secs to start, but just finished my first half marathon this fall in goal time. I have been severely asthmatic from birth, so you can't imagine what being able to run has meant to me. It's perserverence and repeating the mantra ' I run because I CAN!!!"
    We all need a winning goal and like you, being healthy for my family was it and to get off the tired wheel of self -destruction and feeling like crap. I get told all the time how great I look and how I inspire others to move their bodies. I've even had guys tell me I have a rockin' bod - that truly blows my mind! So good for you and good for us for making such huge changes in our lives that will hopefully be contagious to others battling the same demons. Best of luck for the final few pounds. I never knew being normal BMI could feel so good :)

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  5. Wow this is remarkable and inspiring story. I personally have never had weight issues so it's quite eye opening to read about your experience. You have made a remarkable progress and you've got just a bit more to go :D Keep it up!

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  6. I would just like to thank you for sharing your amazing story. I have been looking for Dr Poon's phase 1 friendly recipes in order to help my mother reach her weight loss goal and your blog has proven to be a wonderful resource. I have struggled with my weight after suffering from some pretty intense Cushing's syndrome symptoms several years ago. Anyhow, since loosing over 50 lbs and now feeling the relief of being at a healthy weight, I have been longing to help both my mother and my sister get that same feeling. Your blog is a great source of inspiration and of wonderful recipes, so thank you!!! What you have done is utterly amazing and courageous. Congratulations!

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  7. You look amazing! Congratulations on finding a way out of obesity. I don't live in Canada but I have ordered Dr Poon's book. Do you think that's enough to get me started, or do you have to visit the clinic? Or maybe just check in with my own doctor?

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    1. Hi Anna,
      You can absolutely do this diet on your own. There was a spell where I couldn't make it into the clinic because I live 1.5 hours away from the closest one. I was just weighing in with my family doctor to make it a bit more official. If you are on Facebook, there is a great support group set up. You can ask questions about the diet and the members are extremely supportive. I'll add the link below. The best advice I can give you is to make sure you follow the diet 100%. It will truly help you get rid of your carb and sugar cravings if you don't cheat. It can be real tough at the beginning, but it's totally doable. Make short goals for yourself and re-evaluate frequently (ie: Make a commitment to follow the diet for two weeks, then when that two weeks is up, do another two weeks). Good luck Anna, and please feel free to email me anytime if you need support/advice, anything at all!
      leigh.costa@gmail.com
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/Drpoondiet/

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  8. Leigh,
    As you can guess, I have been following you for a while now and am so inspired by you! You look incredible. I am going to order Dr. Poon's book and I also see they have a clinic close to me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and story.

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  9. you are inspirational! will be following your blog from now on...Tomorrow morning begins Poon Day 3 for me....and next week all your phase one recipes join the rotation!

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  10. It was so refreshing and inspirational to read your story, honestly. Can't express in words how motivated I felt and feel. I know you might received tons of comments about it but really, really, I can't express in words (besides the fact that my english is not so fluent) but thank you for make the time and share your story with us. Hope (I'm sure) I'll have very nice news after reading you... Thanks

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  11. I am amazed at what determination and will power can do. I start this diet today and hope that I have the same focus and will power as you and hopefully the same results. Thank you for sharing your story.....

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  12. Congratulations for being consistent and sticking with the diet…I am glad I found your blog…I am thinking seriously about Dr.Poon's diet since I tried everything else…Thanks a lot for sharing your story..

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  13. Thank you for your story I'm on the diet now and you really are my inspiration.

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  14. I am impressed with your honest approach. Your blog is inspiring and the posts motivate to take action. I am happy I found your blog and read what you share here.

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  15. I FOUND UR SITE YESTERDAY..AND UR FB..LUV BOTH SITES..TY FOR SHARING UR STORY.

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  16. Hello Leigh,

    I found your site today as I was searching for some recipes that I can modify to Dr. Poon's diet. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You look great. I would love to know how you are doing now. I have struggled with weight all my life and tried every fab diet under the sun to lose my chubbiness. I was living in denial thinking the same thing, "I'm still healthy, even though according to my BMI I'm obese class II".
    This is the 3rd time I'm trying Dr. Poon. The first time around I lost 60 lbs in about 5.5 months (finally weighing in under 200 - I was 198). At that time I got pregnant. One of the happiest moments of my life (right up there with my wedding day). After I gave birth to my precious daughter in February of 2013 I gained back about 40 pounds and then being home on maternity leave I gained another 20 and there I was back to my heaviest weight of 257 pounds. I decided to go back to Dr. Poon again in July 2013 and was doing great for about a month and a half, and got back down to 230 but then started having vertigo and I quick. Yes, I will admit, I took the easy way out and saw the vertigo as a good excuse to go back to my old ways. And here we are, it is the fall of 2014 and I'm back at 259 pounds. I've been to my family doctor and she sent me to another clinic this time that focuses on small portions and exercise...and as much as I know that that is the healthy way to live ("I'm a nurse after all" - and believe you me I have heard that many times) it does not work for me. Moderation is just not really part of my vocabulary. I can't stop at just one chip or one mini candy bar etc. So I decided to start Dr. Poon again on my own. It has been 5 days and I have lost 12 pounds. I know I have been going on about me, but I just want to let you know that I have found your story inspirational and it gave me the kick in the butt that I need. You are so right, I can live without bread and pasta and junk food. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. You gave me hope that I can still be social and lose weight. I have always feared weekends away with friends cause you make poor food choices (burgers, fries, beer etc). You gave me strength and recipe ideas to realize I can still have a burger, just slightly modified and homemade and skip the beer and wine cause I CAN live without it. Thank you and again Congratulations.

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  17. Thank you for sharing! I am going to start with Dr poon hopefully soon.
    I am been refer next week
    I hope I can be as strong as you! God bless you and your family!

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  18. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I am still trying to figure out my relationship with food and why I like things so much. This program (Poon) is teaching me that I can live without them. Yes I want to lose weight to come off the medications I take but also to stop limiting what I can wear (love clothes) and places to go where I do not feel judged.

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  19. I was reading your story tonight in my e-mail of Healthy Living Everyday. I love the before & after pictures.
    I started my weight loss journey for the 2nd time :( I started on 10-27-2014 & as of 10-1-2016 I have lost 65lbs :) I am very pleased with my weight loss & so is the Dr BUT!! my arms which I call wings are not going away. I see you had the same problem but now look at your arms. I really like to know what you did to get your arms down to skinny? What kind of exercises did you do to get your arms to go back to the way they are now? I so want my arms to get back to skinny like they use to be.
    I look forward to hearing from you & hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank You for your time.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Sandy J. Traver

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    1. Hi Sandy, I had skin removal surgery on my arms. The only way I could get rid of the loose skin. See under my tab Plastic Surgery:-)

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  20. Wow, your an inspiration. I too have been struggling with my weight all my life. Starting Dr Poon next Saturday. Have over 100 lbs to lose. Thank you for your story.

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  21. I started Dr Poon's diet 2 weeks ago and so did my wife. We cheat a little bit and I still lost 8 pounds in 2 weeks just from cutting carbs, fruits and juices. I still drink milk, eat cheese and snack on pistachios instead of ice drumsticks and nachos. I feel great and looking to get to my ideal weight by Feb 2017. I weighed 190 2 weeks ago, weighed 182 this morning and I aim to go down to 165 by Feb 2017. I still have my daily glass of wine and a Stella Artois beer with dinner. I used to have dinners but not now. I cut out frozen entrees for lunch at the office and having a chicken Caesar instead. Wow this diet is working!!
    From Michael B. Mississauga

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  22. My last blog has an error, I meant to say I used to have late dinners but now now. I try to eat on time
    Cheers, and good luck with your diet,

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