I woke up one morning and threw away all my excuses

There is no weight between 85 pounds and 175 pounds that this Real Life Biggest Loser hasn’t seen.  The struggle to control weight can go in both directions.  After battles with accidents, rheumatoid arthritis, injuries, osteoporosis, and a hysterectomy, Jeri finally found her sweet spot.  How?  She woke up one morning and threw away all her excuses.

Name: Jeri Stracner

Age: 53

All time high weight: 175

Current weight and height: 5’6″, 125.

Total weight loss: When I lost, I got down to 111 lbs, so total weight loss was 64 lbs. I don’t like being 111 lbs. I prefer my weight to be 123-125.

When did you begin your weight loss journey? I’ve always been thin. I was a thin baby, a thin child, a thin teenager, and even a thin adult.  My first struggle with weight was in my early 20s, right after my 2nd daughter was born. I wanted to lose the baby weight, and I ended up losing way too much. I weighed about 85 lbs. At 5’6″, that was unhealthy and I knew it. It took a few years to get back up to a normal weight, but I did. It was a hard struggle. I continued to stay thin for years. During that same time period, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is not the type of arthritis everyone’s grandma has. It’s an immune system malfunction that causes your immune system to attack your joints, and it also causes problems with internal organs. Without proper treatment, it can leave a person deformed or crippled within a few years of diagnosis. Being so young with a crippling chronic disease, I wasn’t looking forward to a life of medicine. So I started eating whole grains, no sugars, different herbs, etc., and I kept exercising. I ended up needing medicine in addition to the healthy lifestyle, but I needed far less than others in my situation, and I was okay. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up the healthy eating for long, mostly because I had given up too many foods I really liked. I did keep my weight down, but not in a healthy way. In the year 2000, I was still very thin and I felt that I was too old to be that thin. So I set out to gain about 10 lbs. A lot of things combined at that time, and instead of gaining 10 lbs, I gained a lot more!  Some of the factors that contributed to my weight gain were (1) a total hysterectomy; (2) a bad bicycle accident that crushed my right shoulder. I had it replaced, but the surgeon was a quack and removed 2 of my muscles and some of my tendons. The surgery resulted in no active range of motion of my right arm — none at all; (3) the stress of the accident caused the RA to flare, and I was put on long-term prednisone use; (4) the RA flare made me become sedentary and I quit exercising. By Nov. 2005 the 10 lbs I set out to gain had turned into 60 lbs, and I reached my high weight at 174 lbs. I was on prednisone for 7 years. It did horrible things to me. I got off the prednisone, and I started losing weight shortly after that. The weight loss made a tremendous difference in my energy level, and by 2007 I was down to 150 lbs. In August 2007, I went to my rheumatologist for a checkup, and he told me, “Lose 12 pounds and you’ll feel fantastic!” I was offended because I’d already lost 25 pounds, and I didn’t feel I was overweight. But when I was put on blood pressure medicine, and my bone density kicked over from osteopenia into osteoporosis, I decided to do what he said to do. I ended up losing a lot more than 12 pounds.

Jeri in 2004 at her all time high weight

How long have you kept the weight off? 4 years

What motivated you to lose weight?  Did you have an A-HA moment? My A-HA moment was when I had the really bad doctor’s appointment I described above.

To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? Oh my gosh. I was tired all the time. My blood pressure was up. I had stomach issues from eating crap. I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, and any additional weight was horrible on my joints. I’d already had knee surgery (bilateral synovectomies, plus cleaned up all the torn cartilage), I’d had wrist surgery due to super thin bones that had deteriorated, my ankles were always hurting, my core was so weak I fell down all the time. One time I fell down and actually broke my eye socket!! The nerve in my face is still messed up from that — that was in 2005.

How did you lose the weight?  Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. I counted calories. I tracked everything I put in my mouth. Everything. Even condiments. Then I started out walking. I was babysitting my grandchildren at the time, and I’d stick the 3 yr old in the stroller, and we would walk. And walk. And walk. Plus, we’d dance in the living room. He was my best dancing partner!!! Whatever we needed to do to move, that’s what I did. For the first 6 months, it was nothing but dancing and walking. In May 2008, I took up running. I was so bad at it. I was embarrassed to be seen, so I went to the cemetery — way back in the back — and started running. I couldn’t run for 30 seconds, but I wasn’t going to give up. I’d run as long as I could, then I’d walk a little. Then I’d run a short spurt again, and I’d walk a little. But July of that year — 2 months later — I ran my first 5K race in 33:23. By November of that year I’d run my first half marathon and a 16 mile trail race, and in April the following year I ran my first full marathon.

Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? I had no influential person when it came to weight loss. It was a personal journey. I had to do it for myself. My mother died when she was 67 years old. She had lupus and diabetes and so many other health problems. My health was headed that direction. Only I could change my own health-destiny. So I was my own best influence. Just sheer determination. A few years before I got serious, I joined Curves. There was a big poster on the wall that said, “She woke up one morning and threw away all her excuses.” At that point I wasn’t really ready to throw away my excuses. But then I woke up one morning, and that’s exactly what I did. That’s my motto. That’s the theme on my Facebook page, my Twitter page, and my Sparkpeople page. I woke up one morning and threw away all my excuses.

Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back?  If so, how was this time different? I’ve never had to lose weight before, not until I got older. So I’ve never done the “lose it, gain it back” thing.

It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? Every day is a decision. Every day. This is my life, and I am responsible for it.

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? I never thought of it in terms of easy or hard. I just knew I had to do it.

What is the hardest part for you now? There is no hard part now. It’s something I do every day. Being active and healthy is how I live, and I won’t go back to being sedentary and unhealthy.

If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? I would say, “Take care of yourself. You only have one you. Really. That’s all. You owe it to yourself to take care of you.”

Do you worry about gaining weight back?  How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back?   If I feel like I’m getting off track, I start tracking my food again. It’s so easy to slip up when it comes to food. I mean, seriously, everybody needs to eat. And I don’t believe in good food/bad food. Most of my food is healthy, but I have ice cream almost every night. The only thing I avoid is gluten, and I only avoid it because it makes me sick. Tracking food can always get me back in line if I start to drift.

Can you tell us how your participation in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? I have a tremendous group of online friends who have the same goal — healthy living, running, being active — and I communicate with them through Facebook, Twitter and Sparkpeople. We all “get it.”  And honestly, my husband is not all about health. I wish he was, but he’s not. My daughters are busy with their lives, and they aren’t all about healthy living, either. So the people I talk with about my healthy life are the people I know online.

What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? I have gone off my blood pressure medicine and my bone density medicine. My joints feel good, and for the most part, my rheumatoid arthritis stays pretty calm. I don’t fall down anymore. Oh my gosh, I fell so many times the year I broke my eye socket, I was very frustrated with myself. It was all from having a weak core. If I lost my balance, then down I’d go. I couldn’t catch myself. I still do have some issues with rheumatoid arthritis, it will never just go away. My joints will always have some inflammation in them, and they’ll always be slightly painful. My feet are not in good shape at all. But I modify things I do so I can accomplish what I want. And with my 3rd (hopefully final) shoulder replacement, I have enough range of motion in my right arm now that I can modify upper body exercises. I’ve really learned a lot about perseverance and strength of character — about working hard to achieve goals. Not everything fits into an easy mold, but you make do with what you’ve got. I’ve become confident in my abilities, and I know if I set my mind to something, I will get it. Truly, I woke up one morning and threw away all my excuses.

Shamrock Shuffle 2011

If we want to follow you, where do we find you? http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage.asp?id=JERIBERI1

Thank you Jeri for sharing this amazing story of resilience.  You have definitely found your sweet spot.

Jeri works as an accounting clerk and lives in the Bluegrass Area of Kentucky with her husband Michael, her niece Kristen (she’s 28 with cerebral palsy), and 2 rotten dogs named Jackson & Charlie.

Read about other Real Life Biggest Losers right here.

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