Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Sherry Cameron is 35 and 5-foot-7, and she currently weighs 150 pounds. In 2016, after being diagnosed with a serious neurological condition, she decided to lose weight to help manage her symptoms. This is her weight-loss story.
The turning point
Up until I had my first child at the age of 20, I never struggled with my weight. I was active, and I could eat basically anything I wanted and didn’t have to think twice about it. Soon after I gave birth, it seemed that the weight would not come off no matter how hard I tried. I also began struggling with severe postpartum depression, and this was the beginning of my detrimental love affair with food.
In early 2016, I began to notice dramatic changes with my vision. While watching television or working on my computer, I would see random shapes jumping around the screen, bright colors that weren’t there, and I began to feel immense pressure behind my right eye. After seeing an optometrist, a neuro-ophthalmologist, and a neurologist, and enduring multiple medical tests, I was finally diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, also known as IIH.
This is a rare neurological condition that mimics a brain tumor without a tumor being present. Your body overproduces cerebrospinal fluid, and that fluid begins putting enormous pressure on the brain. My health began deteriorating quickly, and I soon found myself nearly blind, beginning to stumble as I walked, struggling to think of simple, everyday words, and suffering unbearable migraines.
Having already tried different medications without success and with lumbar punctures helping decrease the fluid for only a day or two, I was faced with the decision of either having weight-loss surgery (obesity is a risk factor for IIH) or having a shunt placed in my brain to drain the fluid. Knowing the failure rate on the shunts as well as the high risk of infection, I opted for weight-loss surgery.
I was blessed to have Dr. Hargroder put in my path. He successfully performed a procedure called a mini-gastric bypass. It was not an easy decision to make, and I was terrified in the beginning, but Dr. Hargroder helped put my mind at ease.
After the initial liquid and soft food phases were complete, I began planning my meals daily, ensuring that I focused on the quality of food I was putting into my body. I had previously focused on counting calories when I would diet, but this time I focused more on portion control. My crockpot became my best friend.
Due to the disorder I was still fighting, my exercise was limited in the first few months of this journey. I was sure to push myself to do a little more each day. Rather than park in the closest parking spot at the store, I would park farther away. Small changes like that helped me dramatically.
The relationship I had with food was one that proved to be extremely hard to turn away from. The more I would try to not think about it, the more I wanted it. I soon gained a newfound passion for cooking, and this helped me mentally.
I was able to enjoy all of the tantalizing aromas as they filled my kitchen. Being able to see, touch, and taste the food as I was making it became a form of therapy for me.
Although there were times I thought I had made a mistake and wanted so badly to stuff my face with cake, life placed obstacles in my path to ensure I wouldn’t. I found myself divorced just two months following my surgery, and soon after purchasing a home for myself and my children, I was laid off from my career of 18 years.
All of this was life-shattering to say the least, but it forced me to recognize the amount of strength I had and to remember the reason I began my weight-loss journey to begin with. Had I never lost this weight, I would have certainly not chased my dream of becoming a registered nurse. I didn’t have the ability to do so physically or mentally before.
A few months following my weight-loss surgery, I began to see improvements. I felt better, and my vision was slowly improving.
After 18 months and I am down 165 pounds, I feel amazing, and best of all I am in remission. The IIH is essentially gone. I still struggle with dizziness upon standing and an occasional migraine, but it is nothing like it was before.
When we are overweight, we tend to believe it’s the cause of all of our unhappiness. It’s not until the weight is gone that you realize those demons are deep-seated within you, not in the scale.
Emotionally, it has been harder. I was surprised by this. I thought that what I lost in weight, I would gain in happiness. I found myself struggling more severely with depression, even questioning my existence at one point, but the love of my children along with family and friends pushed me through this.
The most surprising to me has been the way others have responded to the weight loss. Mostly positive, thankfully. However, there are some who suddenly want to pop into my life now that I am thin but wouldn’t give me a second thought when I was 315 pounds.
Strangers are also more kind. Opening doors for me, offering a warm smile in passing. I had been warned of the newfound attention I would receive once the weight was gone, but deep in my heart, I couldn’t understand this. Being an individual who treats someone the same no matter their appearance, this reality made me sad.
I understand the need for physical attraction when you are pursuing someone romantically, but physical attraction shouldn’t be the driving force behind your kindness. It is not needed in order for you to be a decent human being.
I wish so badly I could be the person boasting about their dedication and hard work in the gym, but I am not. I am a mother of three and in nursing school, so I barely have time for anything else.
My exercise comes in the form of chasing my three children who are 15, 12, and 2. I do find it hard to sit still for more than 30 minutes. I am constantly up and moving my body, whereas before it was the opposite. I would move for only about 30 minutes and sit on the couch for hours.
I am very particular about what I put in my body now. I opt to purchase higher-quality foods such as organic because I feel better when I consume it. Frozen meals and anything with a lot of preservatives creates a war within my body and does not settle well. The only exception to this is chocolate! I was not fortunate enough to lose my sweet tooth along the way. I find that eating one to two fun-size Hershey bars a day helps to keep my sweet tooth under control.
I do not deprive myself one bit. If I see a piece of pie and it looks good, I eat it. It’s all in the portion control. I allow myself one to three bites and then I walk away from it. I find that in doing this, my mind isn’t constantly thinking it’s missing out on something. It has become very easy to control.
My children motivate me daily. In the times when I want to give up, I take a moment to look at their faces and it helps me remember what I am fighting for.
I am taking my obstacles and turning them into teaching moments for my children. I am hoping that they will learn to never give up and when faced with hardships, you have to push forward no matter the pain. In a sense, I want to teach them how to give life the middle finger when needed and show it who’s boss.
As crazy as it sounds, my brain struggles with seeing the progress at times. As I sit here, I still feel like that 315-pound woman, although I know I am not. Then there are days I look in the mirror and wow myself. It is a huge mental struggle. My mind plays tricks on me, and I am just an unwilling bystander in the middle of its tug-of-war.
Keeping progress photos has helped me countless times. I flip through them as needed to remind myself how far I have come and where I was. It puts things into perspective and helps me push through those challenging times.
Realize that you are worth it. Obesity does not define you. We all have our reasons for the weight gain. Whether it be genetics, depression, food addiction, or any of the other hundreds of reasons, and it is not your fault.
This battle is one of the hardest ones to win, but also the most rewarding in the end. Your physical appearance does not define who you are, but health is necessary in order to grace this world with your awesomeness as long as possible.
Everyone has a reason to push forward and take control to regain their health. If you are fighting to find that reason and don’t believe anyone cares, I do! From this point on, you have a cheerleader and someone who believes in you, now it’s up to you to fight and take back what is rightfully yours!