My health journey

icurvy collage - health journey

Do you have a mentor? I do. She’s fabulous. Inspiring. She gives her time and advice openly, honestly and generously. Her support has been invaluable to me, so when we caught up recently and she suggested that I should share my health journey, I took it under serious consideration. Not just because she’s my mentor, and not just because it’s not the first time she’s suggested it to me – but because she pointed out that I got my happily ever after. 

I searched for answers for many years. My case was pretty unique. Women email me all the time asking for more information about what happened to me in the hopes that my answers may be their answers. I hope that none are you are reading this hoping that I’ll have the miracle answer for you as I don’t believe that will be the case. What I do hope is that my story will give you hope. That it will give others the confidence to trust their gut instinct, to not give up the search for answers, to make the hard calls and to keep trying… Because I know it’s worth it. 

The question that makes me feel most like a fraud is when people ask me about my ‘weight loss secrets or to share my tips. The truth is my persistent weight gain was my ‘illness’. My body did not function the way it should for almost 10 years and over that time, it caused me to consistently put on weight. 

Over the years I had doctors who felt it was their ‘duty’ to give me the ‘wake-up call’ I needed about my weight. Stern talks about the health risks of obesity. One doctor even told me to imagine my mum crying at my funeral every time I ate fast food or junk food. My protests that I actually ate really healthy most of the time mostly fell on deaf ears, but more often than that were met with scoffs of disbelief and eye rolls. 

As far as most medical professionals were concerned, I was fat – partly because of my genetics but mainly because I was too stupid or too ignorant to eat healthily and exercise regularly. 

I was regularly accused of being a ‘secret eater’ by health and fitness professionals. I’ve had personal trainers refuse to work with me anymore because, according to them, if I “wasn’t going to even be honest with myself about what calories I’m eating, then it’s pointless them investing their time in helping me”. That was particularly brutal. There’s still a sting in that one that makes hot tears fill my eyes. 

It was just before my wedding. I was working out every daySometimes twice a day. Bootcamp, spin class, abs class, Zumba, boxing… I started the hard core dieting and training 16 weeks before my wedding. The diet my trainer had me on was insane, dangerous and unhealthy, and it worked only for the first 4 weeks. Like most diets I’ve tried, my body initially responds well, but quickly adjusted and resumed weight gain. I kept at it though. And kept putting on weight. The trainers would see how hard I worked in class, and I would swear to them black and blue that my food diaries were correct, but it didn’t add up so the fat girl must be lying. This was my life for many years. 

The constant assumptions by medical and health professionals that “fat = lazy or ignorant” wore me down. There were things that didn’t add up: my excellent blood pressure, my outstanding cholesterol levels, my super fit resting heart rate and great blood work. People paid more attention to what I looked like and their own assumptions about what that meant in terms of my diet and lifestyle than actually listening to me and looking at the evidence. 

I stopped bringing it up. It was embarrassing and the result was always the same.

Now, there seems like a lot of downtrodden doom and gloom. I want to point out that I was, completely OK with my body. I bought nice clothes, took pride in my appearance and had a husband who loved me just as I was. I knew I was healthy and relatively fit. I accepted my body as part of me, and my life was good. Becoming skinnier did not make my life better! I’m smiling like a goon in each and every one of the pictures in this post – because my life was great, I travelled the world, I had great friends, an amazing family. This is not a story about how miserable I was when I was heavier, because I wasn’t. 

Anyway, after a few months of not-being-pregnant, turned into well over a year of not-being-pregnant, I decided to give a new doctor at a local practice a go. I was so scared she was just going to tell me it was related to my weight and I had to lose weight to conceive. I’d been trying hard unsuccessfully to lose weight for almost 10 years – and I had pretty much continued to gain weight. 

I walked in the door, and there she was – several months pregnant… and tears just started flowing. I told her everything, and she listened intently, she was comforting, gentle, non-judgemental and she promised we’d start at the beginning and look at things properly. And she did. And things did not add up. And for the first time, instead of giving up, or scribbling out a prescription for Duromine (or some other equally horrible weight loss drug) she ordered more tests. 

By listening to what I was saying instead of judging me by what I looked like, my doctor saved my life. 

We found a raft of things. Two in particular that were working together to change the way my body was functioning: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and some rather nasty tumours. So many of my symptoms finally made sense – my body and metabolism were constantly adjusting and prioritising the survival of the uterine tumours. So, they had to go. 

Some drastic surgeries were my only option as the tumours not only needed to be removed, but my body, hormones and metabolism all had to be reset. The medical team had their concerns – my body had operated incorrectly but consistently for 10 years. What if simply removing the tumours didn’t actually fix it? 

The treatment ended up being a little bit of a gamble. In theory it should work, but there were risks It may not work. I may not be able to conceive naturally. I may not have had enough of a viable uterine wall to sustain an embryo. There was a very real possibility that despite all best efforts, I would still not be able to have a baby. And add to that the normal risks of surgery. But, at the end of the day – I didn’t really have a choice. I could let my body continue to malfunction, continue to put on weight and be unable to have children; or take a gamble on the treatment plan. 

The good news is that it was obviously a success. Once my body reset, I started to lose weight. A lot of weight. Over half my body weight is gone and I have a gorgeous little girl. It could not have worked out better. 

I still carry the skin of my former self. I try to think about it as part of the journey to my happy ending. I can’t lie – I don’t love it, but I also don’t hate it, as it’s part of me, part of my journey, part of the story that brought me the greatest joy of my life.

So that’s it. Like I said – my message, I hope, is one of hope. That if things don’t add up to you, keep asking, keep persisting. I was lucky enough to find a doctor who had an open mind. My hope is that medical and health professions take more time to understand the complex relationship between weight, health and fitness. And I hope, that like me, others get their happily ever after. 

icurvy collage health journey 2

30 thoughts on “My health journey

  1. Oh Jo this such a wonderful story. It feels very familiar. I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS also but its just in 1 ovary at the moment. And I have an insulin resistance. My doctor has put me on medication but so far its not making much difference to my weight. I did lose a lot of weight a few years ago but put it back on and now have been trying to shift it for more than 2 years and its not workingggggggg! This has inspired me to keep asking at the doctors and keep working out.

  2. Good for you Jo, I also have pcos and was diagnosed at age 15 by an article my mum took to my doctor after many doctors also turned a blind eye to my symptoms. I still battle with my weight, may I ask if I was the ‘reset’ that changed your weight loss journey or did you change your eating like low gi?

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully written story. Over the past few years I’ve discovered that PCOS in varying degrees and symptoms is quite common. Hearing other women’s stories and yours is comforting.
    One important take out from your article for me is that all people should not be so quick to judge others, rather opening your ears and not jumping to conclusions can actually help your fellow man. This applies to everything in life.

  4. I should not have read this whilst at work Jo, I have tears in my eyes! You are awesome hon, super inspiring to others and one of the most amazing people I know!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story Jo. I’ve been struggling with ongoing health issues and weight gain is one thing that is doing my head in. Like you, I’ve been accused of secret eating, or attending a continuous all you can eat buffet and no one seems to believe just how restrictive my diet has been. I’m starting with a new DR this week, one that will hopefully look at the whole picture rather than the individual specialists that treat different problems/areas. I’m nervous to say the least but hopeful I might finally get to a stage where I can manage.

  6. Oh Jo, I’ve got tears streaming down my face. Thank-you for sharing your story. I know it will help many women out there. I’ve had some of those humiliating experiences you’ve had – doctors and personal trainers not believing that you weren’t spending your days at the Maccas drive-through. Even with an eventual diagnosis of hashimotos, most GPs still only treated my “levels” not how I was feeling. That moment at the specialist where his answer to my inability to lose weight was to “just stop eating” still makes me crangry (crying/angry). The PT who slammed my body so hard that I got sick every two weeks and put on 1-2kg a week instead of losing it – I now know this is the worst possible training for my condition. Your message and mine is that we need to trust ourselves and our knowledge that something is not right and persist in making medical professionals find the answers. So ladies, if you’re reading this and things are not adding up with your health, seek out those answers and don’t stop until you find them. Life is too short.
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    1. Could not agree with you more Nikki. We are the expert in ‘how’ we are feeling and we have to trust that when we don’t feel like everything’s alright. I know that sharing your journey inspired me, so I hope that our message can be out there and helping other women x

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your story Jo. It’s just another great example of how everyone’s journey is so different and how the kindness and patience of just one person can make all the difference. I’m so glad you got to the bottom of what was going on and am thrilled you’ve been able to have your gorgeous little one. x

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I made the decision a year ago to have gastric sleeve surgery after a lifetime of trying and failing again and again to maintain a weight where I felt well. Where my chronic back and neck pain were under control. Where I didn’t constantly get sick (it may not be the case for everyone but when I’m really overweight it impacts my energy and I get sick all the time). I lost a lot of weight, several times, over more than a decade. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t maintain it. Eventually I found a dietician who actually believed me when I said my food diaries were correct and I really hadn’t consumed more than 1300 calories a day but I still put on weight. Over the years, I’ve had these talks from GPs and I had one dietician tell me to stop coming to see her if I wasn’t going to do my bit. I strongly suspect I have both PCOS and endometriosis (like every other woman in my generation in my family) and so does my GP. Now that I have lost weight because I simply can’t consume enough food to put it on, the other symptoms persist and I know I need to do something about it. Years ago, another GP who I really respect suggested to me that one of the treatments for PCOS is weight loss. But unexplainable weight gain is a symptom! Lose weight and you’ll get this thing that makes you put on weight under control. Riiiight.

    Your post has inspired me to do something about my health and get the PCOS situation checked out. I’ve been so fixated on getting the weight off that I forgot I promised myself to take care of these other things too. So, thank you.

    1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your rocky road to this point, but I’m glad that you are putting your health back on the priority list. Too often we let it drop off and put up with things we shouldn’t. I wish you all the best x

  9. You know, I’ve always wanted to ask if you lost a lot of weight but always decided not to because I didn’t know if you’re open about it. I have a similar story (PCOS) – well just 20% of my starting weight, but I still carry the skin of my previous weight too esp in the arms.

    I’ve yoyo-ed dieted in the past. I’d lose weight, gain it all back and more. But the last attempt (still ongoing, by the way, as I have a lot more to lose) was also helped by my new GP, who worked me up for PCOS and who scared (well, good scare) me that she’d make me take Metformin if I didn’t lose weight.

    Congratulations on the weight loss. It’s a great feeling. 🙂
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  10. Wow Jo, I didn’t know any of that – it’s interesting and i’m glad that a doctor finally started listening with their ears and not making assessments with their eyes. Thank you for sharing that. x

  11. Hi Jo, finally had a moment to read your story. It must have been so disheartening to be eating well and exercising and still putting on weight. I can’t believe how you have been treated by health professionals! I only wish someone had listening to you sooner. It sounds like it all worked out in the end with weight loss and the gift of a gorgeous little girl. Bron x
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  12. Thank you Jo for this lovely story. You are right, it’s not just about losing weight. It’s about changing your attitude toward life, your health and your body. It’s about changing your lifestyle. The reality is that it’s not going to be very easy. It is going to take time and lots of efforts on your parts. But it is also going to help you become healthy and once you start doing it, things will become somewhat easier. But be aware, there will be lots of temptations and even days when you don’t feel like following it through. Just remember one thing, what you are doing is for yourself and your own body. Think of it this way, doesn’t it hurt when we have to take our baby for the shots and she cries with the shock of the niddle, yet we take them next time, why? Because we know it’s for their own good. It’s going to help them fight against any future ailments. Well, this is the same.

    Cheers then
    Isabelle Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of savoy cabbageMy Profile

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