Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Feb 22

No Mercy for Maintainers

It was after 7:30 am and I was still waiting for the doctor to arrive.  My husband made a valiant attempt at keeping me calm but I knew the longer I waited, the more anxious I was going to get. 

The nurse poked her head into the door and before she could say anything I asked, ‘When is the doctor due to arrive?’ 

‘He won’t be here until 8, but there is a video we like to show new patients so I’m going to put that on for you to watch.  He should be here by the time you finish up.’ she said.  She hit the Play button and moments later my doctor appeared on the TV screen welcoming me to the hospital’s Pain Clinic.  He began discussing why chronic pain plays a part in a vicious cycle for patients. ‘When you’re in chronic pain,‘ said the doctor on TV, ‘it’s difficult to exercise.  When we don’t exercise, numerous things begin to happen – we grow weaker, and sometimes begin to gain weight.  Because of this, depression can set in, and…’  I could finish the rest of that sentence without the video’s help:  when you’re depressed, you have little motivation to do anything, including exercise because you’re in pain.  Throw in for good measure one’s tendency to binge eat when she’s under stress and you have a vicious cycle that can be debilitating if not tended to.

When I worked for my dear elderly friend Patty, I watched as pain slowly robbed her of any desire and subsequent ability to perform simple tasks without becoming short-winded and weak. Arthritis had taken over and she lost her will to exercise daily even though she knew if she didn’t make the effort to move regardless, her body would deteriorate which, unfortunately, is what happens to many people.  Sometimes the pain becomes such a major player in our lives, everything else seems futile.


This year will mark my 8th year of maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss.  I feel confident saying that the past 9 months have been the most challenging I have ever faced as a maintainer. Major surgery and a subsequent degenerative disc issue in my back have been actively threatening my livelihood. 

I have always relied on the act of movement to help keep my weight steady and my body strong, but as of late I’ve felt like a swimmer struggling against a very strong current, just barely able to keep her head above water.  What does one do when her Golden Key to Success is being threatened?  Does she sink, or does she swim?

Some things I’ve noted during this time of transition :

What works today may not work tomorrow.  To me this means I can’t always rely on exercising that extra length of time to compensate for that double-serving lemon square I chose to eat.  I am constantly re-evaluating what I can and cannot consume.  Despite my best effort I am not always going to be able to have my cake and eat it, too; bodies age; we suffer injuries.  Adjustments are necessary and crucial in maintenance. 

When I was heavy I often thought of my body as my enemy and I have recently noticed these feelings trying to resurface. As a result, I am constantly reminding myself to be flexible.  If I am in too much pain to do my regular exercise routine I do have other muscle groups that I can work on (hello, hand weights).

Having something else to focus on is extremely helpful.  I built my online business while recuperating from surgery last year.  I engrossed myself into my art and the therapeutic benefits I gained from making that decision has brought me so much satisfaction, I cannot begin to describe it.   A few weeks ago when I was getting very little relief in my back, I still managed to paint in short, mini bursts throughout the day as much as my body could tolerate.  When I called the painting finished, I stepped back and saw that I was probably doing some of the best work of my career:

…perhaps the most important thing of which I’ve noticed is how important it is to have a solid support system in place in the form of friends (online and off) and family – people whom I can turn to when I need to vent, want to eat, or have a hand to hold onto. 


It’s now Friday morning and I am attempting to type this while laying on my side in bed.  It’s been 2 days since my spinal injection and I continue to wait while the side effects of the shot dissipate so I can see whether or not it will provide the relief I desperately need.   I am getting ready to put away my computer and go to my closet where my workout clothes lay. I will do what I attempted to do without success yesterday: walk beyond half a mile.  Today, I will aim for a mile; tomorrow, I will attempt to go farther. 

I may not be moving on yet, but I’m moving, nonetheless.  Right now, that’s what’s important. 

Have a good weekend, everyone,



You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. NewMe says:

    Oh Ellen, I’m terribly sorry to hear about the pain you’re in. I have lived with chronic pain for about half my life–much of it back pain, with a generous dose of arthritis in my knees and hips. I know what severe back pain feels like too and it really isn’t pretty.

    Unfortunately, you are right on the money when it comes to exercise and weight loss maintenance. Exercise has not been shown to do much in helping people to lose weight (Dr. Sharma has a lot to say about this), but it is an important part of maintenance. This is actually pretty scary, since we also know that maintainers must exercise harder and more faithfully than their never-overweight friends. (something that we’ve learned from the National Weight Control Registry). Not long ago, I took a brief trip to the dark side and stepped into the fetid waters of a blog written by a successful maintainer who delights in cruelly mocking other weight loss bloggers who, for whatever reason, are still struggling with their weight. She is a mega-exerciser. I noticed that she mentioned some back pain and that she was still exercising through it. Will she pay for this one day? And will she deserve the pain it causes her, given the way she treats others? I won’t go into those karmic waters. I am also studiously avoiding her blog now.

    But back to you, my friend. Keeping your body moving does not necessarily mean exercising (aka burning lots of calories). If you can, I would suggest finding a warm pool and spending a 1/2 hour or so just doing some water walking. Make sure the water is up to your chest. Don’t try doing exercises that would be painful if you were out of the water. Just walk. That will move your body and hopefully even relieve some pain.

    I’m thinking of you and hoping that you will feel better soon.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for such a lovely comment. This is exactly what I mean about having friends being a support system. (((hugs)))
      This blogger mystifies me. We all struggle in one form or another – even her. I’m sure she just chooses to write about the things in which she considers herself successful. Belittling others for their shortcomings is indeed testing the karmic waters of fate.
      I hope you are enjoying your chocolate/orange tea from David’s – I’m already planning my next order and that sounds like a good one to try :)

  2. vickie says:

    I am so glad you are writing about this. It will help others. Love the painting.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you, Vickie. We don’t think about such things until we are exposed to them. This is giving me a look at a side of maintenance I’ve never had to deal with before. A bit scary, the unknown. With time I’ll figure things out, I’m sure – but it’s really therapeutic to write it out.

  3. NewMe says:

    P.S. Beautiful painting!

    P.P.S. I went to my local David’s Teas, bought some chocolate-orange tea, and thought of you.

  4. Sharon says:

    As you know, I am well acquainted with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and yes, there have been times (last fall for starters) that I’ve had to face the idea of having to curtail my hiking. I know that will someday come and will have a huge impact on me both physically and emotionally. So even now, I am trying to plan ahead. What will replace it? Will long, long walks on flatter surfaces closer to home without the need to carry a backpack do? Who knows? Time will tell, but the thoughts are always there in the back of my mind.

    Sure hope this injection helps. I’m so proud of you for the way you have steadily worked through the difficult year you had in 2012. You are a stronger person and source of encouragement to the rest of us.

    • Ellen says:

      You are so smart, Sharon. Planning ahead, even if it’s just an occasional thought to get you used to the idea of change is a good thing, I think. I’m generally a planner myself, but this whole thing hit me out of left field. I really thought after my surgery I was going to be practically bionic! No such luck. Thank you for your comment. Means a great deal to me.

  5. It’s sad, but beautiful in a way, that the razor sharpness of pain (both physical and emotional) can cut through the layers of self to get to our core. Your heart shows in this painting, Ellen, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

  6. So thinking of you!!! Pain can really take control of our lives. I’ve felt that recently.

  7. debby says:

    You touched on several things that all of us are going to have to deal with at one time or another. Maintaining, pain, and aging. It seems to me that a lot of us in blogland (well, probably in all of America) would rather avoid thinking about the inevitability of aging.

    I love the bird!

    • Ellen says:

      It’s funny Debby, because I figured I was years from needing to think about this subject, much less discuss it. However, it will affect us all at one point or another. It’s how we deal with it (and not let it beat us) that’s important.

  8. Hanlie says:

    I’m so sorry you are going through this. A colleague of mine, who is about the same size as I am, is going through the same thing – still considering the shot – and I can tell you that you have to be a hundred times better off than her simply due to the fact that you’re not carrying extra weight. That doesn’t mean that you’re not suffering a great deal!

    I think your work is getting better all the time!

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you, Hanlie. I’ve had this trouble since college and it was extremely painful when I was heavy as well. The pain is actually the same (for me) now as it was when I was heavy, although my back doesn’t go out now like it used to. Talk about pain – oh, my…it was/is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I really feel for your colleague.
      I think my work is improving as well. I’ve really grown fond of painting this bird series.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *