WW

Of Wellness and WW

Back in 2018 I wound up with multiple compacted nerves on the top of my left foot. The doctor I saw at that time basically told me I could either have surgery or lose weight. I’ve struggled with obesity my entire life…well, since adolescence at least, though I was always teased about being bigger than the other kids. So, losing weight sounded hard. However, as a single parent to a child with special needs, with no source of income of my own at the time, I knew trying to recover from surgery would be beyond challenging and more acutely painful. Losing weight became my goal . . . again.

That was about the time Weight Watchers rebranded to WW and updated their slogan and program to be more focused on overall wellness and not just losing weight: Wellness Wins. I joined and decided I was going to use it like an AA or NA meeting. I knew that with Binge Eating Disorder and my lifelong history of starting a weight loss program, sometimes a fad diet but often just lifestyle changes, I would lose weight but couldn’t sustain the changes on my own. I knew that I eat for way more reasons than simple, physical hunger. I needed support and accountability.

I was working on my mental health and parenting a child with special needs. I was not able to be employed due to those two things. I committed to 90 meetings in 90 days. I did it! I completed the 90 workshops in 90 days. I wound up losing about 30 lbs. Then finances were just too difficult and I hit my traumaversary season. I stopped attending workshops and let my WW membership go. Eventually the weight creeped back up.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving of 2019. My middle child, who was 27 at the time, was pregnant with baby #4. They and their partner, along with three littles, wound up houseless and had nowhere to go. So, they moved in with me. By the time COVID hit, they were on extended maternity leave due to some complications.

I started staying with a friend due to how overcrowded my apartment had become and how the sensory overload affected both me and my youngest child who is on the Autism Spectrum. My youngest grandchild was born in April, four days before I started a job which had me engaging with people who struggled with their mental health and couldn’t consistently follow COVID protocols. Since baby and parent were both so medically fragile, I continued to stay with my friend.

At her house were all the things: chips, cookies, candy, soda, and regular (almost daily) take out. I ballooned up to about 300 lbs. So, from the time I ended my WW journey in February of 2019 until I moved back into my apartment in November 2020, I gained close to 60 lbs.

Fast forward to February of this year. I started with a new Primary Care Provider and got a baseline physical. My diabetes had been left unchecked for so long that I was in danger and had already started experiencing neuropathy in my feet. The information about the diabetes and the status of my health, even though it scared me, it also triggered the Depression and the Binge Eating Disorder and I gained 12 lbs.

At the end of March I began a nutrition program which was very expensive and unsustainable behaviorally because of how rigorous, complex, and rigid it was. On April 1st I rejoined WW, with the knowledge that the other program would only last a month or two and that I would use it as a bridge until I could stabilize medically and use WW to support the ongoing healthy lifestyle and mindset changes I need to make the changes last as a complete remaking of how I live life in healthy and constructive ways.

WW isn’t just about weight loss. As one member I know puts it, “This is about taking care of my health through changing my lifestyle behaviors. The weight loss is a side effect.” Members support and encourage each other. They share successes and struggles. While scale victories are celebrated the NSVs (Non-Scale Victories) are celebrated as well and sometimes more than the weight loss. They focus on four pillars: Food, Activity, Sleep, and Mindset. For me, it’s about mindset.

I’ve participated in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for mood and symptom management for the cPTSD and the Bipolar. Everything WW teaches and focuses on about mindset and how they approach the lifestyle behavior changes reminds me of DBT. So much so that I call it DBT Lite. Attending virtual workshops daily and going in person to the studio once a week are what is keeping me grounded.

Finances are shifting again. It really looks like I’m not going to be able to continue attending WW if I have to pay for it. They have a Refer a Friend program where if I refer a friend who joins, we both get a free month.

The trouble is, I don’t have that many friends. So, I’m putting this out into the blogosphere. If you or someone you know is struggling with their health and their weight, and they don’t want a fad diet, but want to learn how and why to make long-lasting lifestyle changes, with the encouragement and support of others who know what it’s like, please consider WW.

Just like AA, WW works if you work it and it’s a day by day, moment by moment choice. If you or your loved ones check it and decide to join, please join using the link below. Doing so will help me to continue my journey with the support I need.

https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/checkout/iaf/?iaftoken=3F73F2E300

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Long time, no see

2:11 am on Sunday, July 17, 2022

Insomnia has struck again. So, I decided I need to start blogging again. Not for anyone other than myself or any reason other than I miss writing…even though I don’t really know what to write about anymore. I just looked and realized it’s been more than a year since I wrote anything here. I’ve written posts on FB and IG. Many of those have been essay length. But, nothing like blogging.

I miss the blogging community I used to be part of. I miss that sense of connectedness through language. So, here I am, wanting to rebuild my writing self. Who knows, maybe I’ll build something new inside of me.

For anyone who followed me in the past, I’ll try to give a quick synopsis. For any who are reading me for the first time, I’ll introduce myself.

July 16, 2022

Hi, I’m Lillian.

I’m a 53 year old mother of three and grandmother of four. My youngest child is 13 and experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. My two oldest children are 35 and 29. The 29 year old and their 29 year old partner have four children: 8, 7, 4, & 2…their family lives with me. So, when my teenager is home, there are eight humans and one canine…in a two bedroom, one bath apartment. Yeah. You read all of that right.

After not being employed since mid-2012, primarily due to mental health reasons and the special needs of my youngest, I was finally able to rejoin the workforce in April of 2020. I started as a Residential Counselor in Supported Housing for adults experiencing mental health challenges. A year later, I transitioned into my current role as an Adult Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist. Basically I get to use my lived experience of coping with mental health challenges (and navigating all the systems which impact a person living with those challenges) to walk alongside others going through similar challenges.

Who knew my trauma history and mental illness could be a positive force in the world? I certainly didn’t for most of my life. Now, here I am, doing the work my life has equipped me for. I’m turning the excrement of my life into fertilizer in the lives of others. That gives me a sense of purpose…something I lacked for a very long time.

All I could see were my limitations and defects.

It’s Disability Pride Month. There isn’t a fully official flag…yet. I did some research on what the colors represent and put together a flag which represents what I live with on a daily basis.
Black = Sleep issues = Sleep Apnea
Purple = Chronic/Acute Pain = Fibromyalgia & Neuropathy
Red = Heart issues = High Blood Pressure
Blue = Thyroid issues = Hypothyroidism
Yellow = Obesity
Green = Mental Illness = Bipolar 2 Disorder, Depression, cPTSD, & Binge Eating Disorder
Black = Sleep issues = Chronic Insomnia

My Disability Flag

Currently there are two main things I’m struggling with out of this laundry list of ailments: Diabetes, type 2 & Bipolar Disorder, also type 2.

Back in February, I found out that my A1C was 11 and my non-fasting blood glucose level was almost 500. If you don’t know what these numbers mean, that’s actually great for you. It means it’s likely you don’t have diabetes concerns. On the other hand, if you research it and check out the symptoms list, you may discover you need to learn more about it. Anyway, basically, I should have been hospitalized…and my doctor of that time actually requested I go to the ER to get checked out, three days after those tests were done.

In March, I started a rigorous (and expensive!) nutrition program. It worked. I lost seven pounds the first week. By week three I had to reduce my insulin intake by 15 units. On April 1st I rejoined WW (Weight Watchers). I was on a roll and doing really well with my activity, my eating, my thinking, and my creativity. I had more energy. I gained more confidence. I was feeling really proud of myself. Then my bipolar brain started going haywire.

All those feel good things and lifestyle changes, along with seasonal changes, impacted my neurochemistry and sent me into manic mode…but I didn’t recognize it until several weeks had passed and I was completely off the rails with risky, out of control behavior. I couldn’t face the truth until I realized how much I was risking: my health, my mental health recovery, my relationships, and my future. It was very demoralizing once I faced the truth.

I talked to both of my therapists, my prescriber, and my newest doctor. Adjustments were made and it took another few weeks to come down. Then, I spiraled down. I stopped moving. I reverted to old patterns and the binge eating began. I quit the nutrition program…I couldn’t afford it and the “health coach” I had was really aggravating me. Then, I stopped attending the WW virtual workshops and skipped the in person studio workshop, after two weeks of weight gain. Additionally, financial changes out of my control started happening with my employer and a creditor. So, I realized I wouldn’t be able to continue with WW, once my initial membership commitment expires in September.

I very nearly gave up.

Friday night I logged into my first workshop in nearly two weeks. I showed up at the studio yesterday and weighed in. I had gained almost eight and a half pounds in two weeks. My heart plummeted and I felt nauseated. It was very disheartening. At the same time, it was motivating. I went home and decided I was going to something to make me feel good about myself and I did my makeup, which I hardly ever do. I used color, which I never do. I used green to represent the Bipolar I’ve been battling.

I’m still committed to taking the bad and using it to do good.