Member of the Month – Lori Mathers

Lori M B&ALori sat in the bariatric counseling session thinking, is this really for me? Is my doctor right; am I incapable of losing the weight on my own? The more she thought about it the more it made her angry; she could do it on her own! She didn’t want to have to supplement with shakes and vitamins rest of her life. That is when she called me. We sat in our strategy session talking about why her doctor believed she could not do it on her own and what her options were. Lori is not the typical person who needs to lose weight. The doctor didn’t believe she didn’t have the will power or the strength to make the changes needed. But rather, he was concerned she would be unable to do so because she has a chronic autoimmune skin disease with no cure called hidradenitis suppurativa. This disease causes her to get open wounds that will not heal. Things like rubbing, sweat and any irritant can make it worse. Sometimes the only way to heal can mean bed rest and/or surgery with skin grafts.

When Lori was first diagnosed with this disease just over a year ago, she naturally became depressed, realizing that so many of the activities she once loved where no longer an option for her. As the first year progressed, with multiple surgeries and bed rest, depression and weight gain ensued. The woman I met in my office that day was full of anxiety and fear yet with a determination to succeed. She decided to keep going to her pre-bariatric counseling appointments but joined Healthy3. This would allow her to go forward with the bariatric if she was unable to do it on her own. And that is when history was written.

She choose to lose weight with us due to the holistic approach, the one on one attention and the clear direction of how to eat, how to exercise and the lifestyle coaching that included journaling. After only a few weeks here, she knew she had made the right decision; she felt supported, comfortable and never intimidated. After only a few weeks of journaling and following this journey, she had an amazing “aha” moment; she realized this was not an external journey, but rather an internal/mental journey. This was less about how she could improve the outside so the inside felt happy, but rather working on the inside and the outside just improved as a benefit.

As time went on, she began changing the way she thought about the disease and her new life. Rather than focusing on what she could no longer do, she began trying new things that allowed her to still live but stayed within her restrictions. She discovered a love for paddleboarding and began to really enjoy strength training. She is discovering muscles she never had before, loving that when she looks in the mirror she is beginning to see some definition. Because of the nature of the disease, she lost a lot of strength during the first year. She would avoid buying the big bags of cat food because she could not lift them. The other day she bought a 22-pound bag of cat food, putting it in the cart and carrying it in the house on her own. To someone looking on this may not seem like much; but to Lori this was a HUGE triumph – evidence of her improving strength and overall health. After only a few months, Lori is down 20 pounds in body fat, her visceral fat (the dangerous organ fat) has dropped to within a low risk category and her body is tightening up. And, although these are all great things and were important to her at the beginning of her journey, they are not the biggest successes in Lori’s mind. Her biggest successes include her changing mental landscape and her growing strength. She loves that she now has hope for the future. That she has found a way to live actively, regardless of her skin condition and that she has found a place she can go to be supported, encouraged and be part of a community of like-minded individuals who want to see each other succeed.

When I asked Lori what her future looks like, she said, “I don’t know. I just know I’m not gonna stop! Although I may have many challenges with this disease, I just want to keep getting stronger and discovering new things I can do. This disease will NOT control me; I’m going to LIVE my life!”

If she could give one piece of advice to the readers, it would be this, “Never give up. There’s always a way. You have to keep fighting for yourself. Figure out what works for you. There will always be excuses. Don’t let yourself use them.”

Watching Lori as she has blossomed so beautifully has been transformational for me. It is so easy to get in our head and restrict ourselves from living when challenges get in our way. But as Lori has proven, if you get out of your head and face those challenges right on, you can still reach your goals; you can still achieve great things! Thanks you Lori for sharing your very personal story with us; you’re story is a breath of fresh air and provides such hope for the future!