Alyssa’s Story

How My Mother’s Death Saved My Life

Since I was five, I have gradually gained weight. I was 5’4″ and weighed 145 lbs., by the time I was eleven. In middle school, I shot up to 180 lbs; and unfortunately by high school I had already reached 220 lbs. I grew up in a family in which everyone was overweight, including my mother, and who knew no different. My mother and I had tried on numerous occasions to lose the weight: joining a gym, taking part in the newest fad diets, and even went as far as to look into surgery.

My mother received a gastric bypass in 2003 and after only a few months had broken the staples holding together her stomach. It was then that we realized that food was more than just a delight to my mother and to me as well, it had become an addiction. We continued to seek out new ways to lose weight and get healthy, but never had the drive or ambition to reach our goals and failed miserably each time, gaining more weight as the time passed.

On June 26th, 2004, my mother suffered a stroke as a result of a triple bypass she had the week previous to that. A pulmonary embolism was the official cause of death, but in the end it was because of one simple truth. My mother’s addiction to food ended up slowly killing her, and she died of heart disease at the young age of 45.

Even five years after her death, I was continuing to gain weight, hearing constantly that I was “going to die” and I was “going to leave my family even younger than my mother had”. By the time I was 22, I had reached a whopping 286 lbs (100 lbs more than my mother weighed at my age). Yet, I still had not grasped the fact that my weight was rapidly spiraling out of control and at the rate I was gaining, I was already past middle age!

It wasn’t until February of 2010, when I went to the doctor that I realized just how serious my problem was. I had noticed that my ribs were beginning to poke out and it concerned me, so I went to the doctor to have him take a look. I hadn’t even seen a scale in months and the last time that I weighed myself, I was 240 lbs; so when I stepped on the scale and the number read 286 lbs, my very first red flag was thrown.

The doctor, one of my heroes in life, came into the room and looked me over doing his normal “uh huh… that’s interesting” doctor mumbo-jumbo, before turning back to me. I’m a huge hypochondriac, so I was expecting an answer like cancer or inflated lung disease or some other fictitious disorder. The answer I received instead was like being punched in the gut. He patted my leg and smiled sadly before saying, “I hate to say it Alyssa, but you’re fat.” Of course, I knew that I was overweight but I had no idea that it could cause problems like your ribs beginning to protrude. He spoke for a few more minutes about how my weight had caused the issue before looking me dead in the eye and saying the one thing that I had heard a thousand times before, “Alyssa, I don’t want to see you end up like your mother.”

Immediately tears began to roll down my cheeks and for some reason those same words I heard so many times before from so many people I loved, rang differently in my ears and I heard what he was saying. This man had gotten through to me and the only explanation I had for it was that he was the man that cared for my mother up until the day that she died, even going as far as to attend her funeral. He had cared for my family for years and watched my mother’s spiral towards death. If anyone knew the impact my weight was going to have on my life, he was the person.

I left his office that day, determined to beat the ticking time bomb that was counting down within me. As I had said so many times before, I made a vow to lose my goal of 80 lbs. By this time, however, no one believed it was possible because I had failed so many times before. It was different this time. Unbeknownst to my family and friends, something had clicked in me supercharging my ambition and determination.

I started off slow, switching to only drinking water and lost 30 lbs. The next big step was to find my center and learn to remain calm, so I quit my high stress management job and found a job that allowed me the time to heal my self esteem and give me a break from the fast paced life of managing a restaurant. Within the first week after I quit my job, I told my girlfriend that I wanted a gym membership. It was the first time that I had ever actually been serious and therefore, she took me seriously and I got a membership at Life Time.

I had a few personal trainer sessions that I received with my welcoming MyLT bucks and learned where I was at as far as fitness was concerned. I was 247 lbs when I started working out. My BMI was a devastating 38.6, which is considered level II obesity. It was certainly discouraging finally realizing how far I had let my weight get out of control, but I kept hearing this voice in the back of my head telling me not to give up, to never let myself fail.

A few months after I had joined the gym, I signed up for the 90 day challenge confident that I could win. I made my goal to lose 30 lbs in three months; one that I knew would be challenging but doable. Three months of intense workouts five times a week for at least an hour and a half each time and at the final weigh in I had lost 40 lbs, and decreased my BMI by 7! I thought I had the competition in the bag. I had lost an amazing amount of weight in three months and worked myself harder than ever before, but as the winners were announced, I noticed that my name had not been called.

Immediately, I was discouraged. I had worked so hard, and for what, to lose the competition? My workouts started to suffer and I fell into a pretty deep depression, feeling as if I had somehow failed myself and failed everyone else who had begun to cheer for me and believe for once that I was capable of taking control of my life. I began going to gym less and less until I was lucky that I could go two-three times a month.

Months dragged on and I was still losing weight, very slowly however. I kept control of the one thing that had managed to conquer my life for 20 years, my addiction to food. Six years ago, lunch for me consisted of: two packages of ramen noodles, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while the noodles cooked, and then a sandwich and chips when the ramen was finished. Now, lunch consists of a pork loin, a small portion of macaroni or other side item, and fruit. To this day it still amazes me that I was ever able to demolish that much food. The thought of it fills me up now!

I was driving one night with my girlfriend, discussing my mother’s death and how it was still having a hugely devastating effect on me. I couldn’t understand why such a wonderful, brilliant woman could die. She had given so much over the years and it seemed as if she had so much more to offer; so why was it that she had died? It dawned on me very suddenly, as I looked in the mirror and noticed the remarkable difference in my face from a year ago, that I was her reason. My mother died to save my life. Without her death, I never would have been determined to change my future.

In one year, I lost 115 lbs, lowered my BMI by over 10, and lowered my body fat percentage 14%. I can now run three miles, and have gained muscle strength I never before could imagine! When I began this incredible journey, I wore a XXXL and size 46 pants. Today, I wear a medium (which fits loosely) and a size 32 pants.

My mother is the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and to this day she is still my hero. She gave her time while alive to save battered women’s lives; and she gave her life to save mine. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank her for the ultimate sacrifice and illustration of a mother’s love for her child.