Creating a New Me!

by JoyfulPamela

Sharing what I'm doing to change my physical and mental health for the better after a struggle with depression, weight, and numerous health issues.

I'm making changes in my life to create a new me both inside and outside. I wrote this page for anyone else who is ready to make a change for themselves!

When I started in January 2011, I would get out of breath simply walking from the living room to the kitchen to get a chocolate brownie. =P Now I can walk a couple miles to a local farmer's market to pick up fresh veggies and walk home without being tired!

I have a confession to make. Although my online name is "JoyfulPamela", I'm not always "Joyful". In fact, since I've decided to come clean, I am admitting that I have struggled through long cases of depression that nearly put me under. Because I felt so low, I started to care less and less about what I was eating. I would eat whatever would give me a temporary high. I also struggled just to get out of bed each day causing me to lounge around all day. The ugly truth is that I gained about 100 pounds over a 5 year period. My already low self-esteem plumetted even lower with every pound that showed up causing the depression to increase. My doctor's 'remedy' was to prescribe more and more drugs for depression, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, IBS, and other health problems which were multiplying quickly.

I did try to lose weight several times by eating differently and trying to exercise, but I always failed. Finally I started to feel sick all of the time in my digestive tract and whole body to the point that I slept a good deal of the day and didn't want to go out at all making me even miss some of my children's events.

The lowest point came about a year ago when I had a shocker reality check. I was having severe gastrointestinal pains and nausea, pains throughout my body, fevers, and a hard time breathing.  I had been having these problems for months that I tried to downplay, but this time it was beyond what I could handle. To the emergency room I went to be put into immediate gall bladder surgery for an inflamed gall bladder and gall stones. When I woke up I was told my immune system was extremely low, I had acute pancreatitis, and I apparently had walking pneumonia for the five months prior! Some of my lung's air sacs had collapsed over time. Fun, huh? What I was told was a simple in / out of the hospital gall bladder procedure turned into keeping me in the hospital for a stay. When I left, I had to take the oxygen tank home with me for another week and was told to relax and rest for about six weeks.



I have what? What does that mean?

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gall bladder.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that can occur in two very different forms. Acute pancreatitis is sudden while chronic pancreatitis "is characterized by recurring or persistent abdominal pain with or without steatorrhea or ...
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung, especially of the alveoli or when the lungs fill with fluid. There are many causes, of which infection is the most common. Infecting agents can be bacteria, viruses, fungi, or ...

Free Health Resources

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Life Changes ~ Take 1

A nasty wake-up call to start some changes!

 As I spent most of my summer in bed or on my couch, I knew that I was the guilty one who put myself in this horrible spot. I wanted to make a change in what I was eating and doing to try to lose some weight. Easier said than done!

1st Obstacle ~ Healthier meal planning became a part of what I wanted to do. I researched and read about good nutrition and found many conflicting bits of advice. Some say to focus on fats, others calories, and others carbs. Research is being done about many nutrients and foods, but apparently different studies have come to different conclusions! How is a common person supposed to know what is best to eat when the experts do not always know the answers?

I also came across several books, websites, and plans that claimed to have all the answers - as if their method was the perfect one for everyone. Remember if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is not the truth. Some of the claims that companies have made seem hysterical when you think about them. Plus, if someone has a set diet plan and exercise equipment, it does not guarantee success just by owning them. It there is success, it is because of what the person is doing with those items.

2nd Obstacle ~ Anyway, I tried to eat better. My next obstacle was that my family went into major revolt. "Why do we have to eat salad just because you are?" "Why can't we have as many soda and treats as we used to have?" "We don't want to eat that stuff you are making now." Sigh ... either I would have to listen to their daily complaining or I would have to cook two different meals - like that is going to happen! I barely have time to make one. The result was that I fell quickly back to cooking their favorite meals which were bad for me (and them, too, but they didn't want to hear it!)

3rd Obstacle ~ Although from the minute I got home from the hospital I decided I was going to exercise every day even if it was only a little, I found several things that stopped me. The first week home I was attached to an air tank via tubes. I realized quickly that they made it difficult to do anything besides pacing back and forth in one room. Once the tank and tubes were gone, I felt too tired to do anything. After about a month I started to walk short amounts down the street. Worked pretty well until I slipped one morning and twisted my ankle badly. My foot was at least double its normal size, and the ankle was almost completely dark black and blue. So much for walking! It took me until mid-fall before I could walk again without wincingl

4th Obstacle ~ To put it as simply as possible, I felt sick in my entire gastrointestinal track all of the time. While doing follow-up with the doctors from the hospital, I was run through probably every test possible with no solid results for the pain I was having.

5th Obstacle ~ I also was having almost constant headaches and migraines. Even if I didn't have a headache to start with, by the time I moved around and got the blood circulating, I ended up with a pounding headache. Who feels like getting up and moving around when they feel ill all of the time?

I apologize for sounding whiny and complaining. The reason I decided to include this section though was that I am hoping to reach others who like me at one time felt that it is hopeless to lose weight. I used to think that if someone succeeded, it was because they did not have as many difficulties as I was having. I have been learning that we all have our share of obstacles, but we can use them to improve ourselves instead of giving up!

A Health Success Story

This inspires me, I hope it does you, too!

Life Changes ~ Take 2

For real this time!!

As the holidays were approaching, I was still trying, but not doing so well. At the holiday meals and parties I truly thought I was being 'good' not taking Christmas cookies or large portions. When I went to my doctor appointment the first week in January though, the doctor greeted me by saying, "Well, I see by your weight gain that you have been enjoying the holidays."

I had been trying so hard to lose weight. Not only did I not lose anything, but I gained way more than I thought possible. I burst into tears and hit rock bottom!

What was I doing wrong? I was eating less including foods that were labeled non-fat and supposedly healthier, but I was still gaining. I decided to go public with my health issues by creating an online "Health Journal" on Squidoo. I figured I would have to face my fears and be honest to my friends and self in recording my diet and exercise.

Several of my online friends and Squidoo buddies were very supportive giving me tips and encouragement to get started. For the first time, I had a team to keep me accountable. It made me stop twice before stuffing a 'tiny' candy bar into my mouth if I knew I would have to tell them of my wrongdoing. I did openly admit when I made mistakes. To my surprise, my friends seemed to understand and would tell me not to give up but to try again the next day. I didn't want to let down these compassionate people, so I tried harder each day to keep on track.

For the first time, I started to make progress and move forward slowly. I started to have a feeling of "I think I can do this" instead of a feeling of defeat from the start! I noticed positive changes happening inside of my thinking not only for diet and exercise, but toward my dreams and goals. I truly think internal changes must occur before exterior changes, otherwise accomplishments will be much harder. I am learning that to make permanent improvements in my health, I have to make a permanent lifestyle change of diet and exercise. I did not always think I would be able to do that, but now I think I can!

*My Accomplishments So Far* ~ I now am eating a completely different type of diet than I did a year ago and am doing some sort of exercise every day. What I struggled to do at the start, I am now doing as a habit. I lost 22 pounds January - March with the help of my wise friends and another 12 pounds April - May with the help of SparkPeople (see below). I am not constantly having digestive problems, stomach pains, and headaches anymore. My blood pressure has dropped to healthy normal levels for the first time in 9 years. I am no longer taking anti-depressents and other medications for health problems with the exception of one for allergies.

YOU can make similar accomplishments for yourself!

What do you mean chocolate isn't a main food group?

Gotta eat better!

To be able to eat healthier, I needed to learn (and still am learning) exactly what that means! For instance, eating a serving of green beans is good, eating them smothered with tons of butter and salt is bad. Yes, I suppose that seems obvious, but many little things like that did not occur to me before researching nutrition. Other things were obvious to me, but I simply did NOT want to change how I was eating them!

I have read so many tips - some good and some bad. I guess it depends on each individual person and their particular health needs. I cannot list all of them here, but there are three that have made a possitive impact on my health that I wanted to share.

1 ~ One of my friends suggested that I stay away from processed foods because there are many hidden sugars, salts, and preservatives that we don't even think about. When I started reading food labels, I was shocked to see how much there truly were - especially on some things that were labeled low-cal and non-fat. This fact explained why sometimes when I thought I was eating healthy, I was getting more than I had bargained for! I am currently searching for alternate seasonings and sauces to enhance the taste of all the lovely green things that I am consuming. : )

2 ~ Another food change that I have made that seems to be a huge help is switching to whole grains. This was another hard obstacle for me since pastas are my favorite foods! I have cut down the number of grains / carbs I eat per day. The ones I do eat have all been switched to 100% whole wheat. (I did not know before that if it just says "wheat" that it does not have the same benefits as the ones marked "100% whole wheat".) This means all breads, bagels, tortillas, and pastas! I also switched from white rice to brown rice.

3 ~ Keep a food journal of everything that you eat! Yes, even the things you do not want to admit that you ate. I realized that many times I was eating and not even aware of it, or wasn't aware of how much of something that I was eating (portion control). Many times when I know I am going to have to record what I eat, I can stop myself from mindless and emotional eating.

Do you follow a diet plan?

The Best Exercise - Walking

Gotta get movin'!

I do not have one athletic bone in my body, so the thought of any form of exercise was complete torture to me at first! Many articles that I have read suggest that simple everyday walking is the easiest  way to get exercise, so I decided to give it a try. On nice days, I try to walk outside in the neighborhood or on local nature trails whenever possible.

It wasn't easy to get started. I had a long term goal of what I wanted to achieve, but since that seemed almost impossible, I gave myself smaller baby-sized step goals. The first few weeks I had to walk very slow on flat surfaces for short amounts of time and distance.My first goal was simply to get moving for 10 minutes a day 3 times a week. Yes, I know ... quite pathetic ... but I had to start somewhere. Each week since then I have been increasing the time, distance, difficulty, speed, and consistency to try to get better. I am now averaging 3 miles per hour per day after 5 months. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm sure working to get there.

JoyfulPamela's Challenge to YOU: Make a fitness goal for yourself! Dream up what you want your long term goal to be, then break it up into reasonable pieces. Be specific in each step what you want to achieve, then go for it! Be prepared for setbacks, but keep pushing forward toward your goal. There will be good and bad days, but it does get easier as you do it. Don't let excuses get in your way! Work around them even when it seems hard. The time and effort you give are worth it, because you deserve to feel healthier! I know you can reach your goals. Give it a try, then try again, then try again ... "I think I can, I think I can ..." Live your health dream and celebrate each step of your accomplishment!


Some Bible verses that inspire my walk:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" ~ Philippians 4:13

"Nothing is impossible with God!" ~ Luke 1:37

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19


Wise words from a small, green, alien Jedi - "There is do or do not. There is no try."  ;)

Comfortable Exercise Footwear

I was having foot and ankle pain everytime I tried to walk which discouraged me greatly. Someone suggested I try better sneakers. I am glad I did! With no walking pain now, I can walk much further distance and longer time! I love my Dr. Scholl sneakers!
Women's Dr. Scholl'S INSPIRE Round To...
Dr. Scholls
Only $70.00

An Exercise Excuse Breaker

No more excuses!

Since I'm not dedicated enough to go out walking in the rain and cold, I decided to get a treadmill to use on those yucky days. That way I have no excuse to not get moving despite the weather. I also find my treadmill very helpful when it is one of those days that I barely have any free time to go out or if it is a day that I can only exercise early morning or late evening. I should always have time to do at least 10 - 15 minutes of walking even if it is not convenient to leave the house. I don't even have to miss favorite television shows to exercise! (Walking sure helps my health more than becoming a 'couch potato' and eating an unhealthy snack while I do!)

It's easy to make excuses to not exercise, I know, because I'm really good at it. I think the secret to overcoming the excuses is to find your weak spots, think about how to overcome them, make a plan to achieve, then not allow yourself to deviate from it. If I can do it, you can too, friends!

Useful Exercise Equipment

There are all types and features of great treadmills. This one is similar to mine.
Merit Fitness 725T Treadmill
Horizon Fitness

Do you exercise?

Exercises to Get You Started

I do not have enough time and money to spend hours at the gym, so I have started doing short, free, exercise videos at home with my laptop. Here are a few of the many that may be found online.

Health Advice from SparkPeople

I highly recommend for anyone who wants to improve their health!

I'm sure you've noticed I have listed several SparkPeople resources above. First of all I have to say I am not trying to sell you anything, I simply want to share what I have been spending much time learning in hopes of getting information to you about something that is totally FREE which has helped me tremendously. If I can help one person take a step in the right direction to their health goals through this page, I will be happy. I wish someone had introduced me to this website long ago! I am not an affiliate of SparkPeople nor will I earn even one cent if you decide to become a member - I just hope this info will guide people to a site that can help their health in many ways.

So, what does SparkPeople offer that I am so fond of? Many things ...

Nutrition Tracker ~ Enter your current weight, health conditions, and health goals to receive free online diet suggestions and tracker. The SparkPeople tracker helps people notate the foods they eat and keep a record of the number of calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients that you choose according to your goals. The site allows you to choose your own foods, pick from their recommendations, or choose from thousands of healthy recipes that have been entered by nutritionists and other Spark members at SparkRecipes. If you have a favorite recipe that you want to use but do not know its nutritional values, enter it into the 'Recipe Calculator'. I've used this to convert many of my recipes to healthier ones.

Fitness Tracker ~ This tool allows you to enter your exercises and fitness minutes to help you track calories burned. Many exercise videos, photos, and directions for multiple levels are given to help you select the best ones for yourself. Exercises for certain equipment as well as ones which require no equipment may be found. View daily, weekly, & monthly+ reports of your calorie intake versus calorie usage to help check and maintain your progress. My favorite is the Map Route tracker which allows you to find the milage of the routes you walk.

Weight Tracker ~ Enter every pound and inch you lose to see how far you've come!

Goal Tracker ~ The goal tracker allows you to choose and record other goals that you may have in your life from as simple as how many glasses of water you drank in a day to very advanced goals that you specify which could be related to business or personal goals.

Spark Pages ~ Create your own blog to journal your achievements and thoughts!

Spark Community ~ Ask for help in your health journey, share your successes, find a Spark Buddy, read motivational stories and inspirational quotes, join a community team of people with similar interests or related health concerns, join one of the health challenges, and earn Spark Points and badges for your accomplishments.

You will find tons of free health related articles and advice, motivational advice, quizzes, polls, games, and more on the site that you may also receive in your email box if you prefer.One of the things that I like the best at SparkPeople is that you do not have to be perfect! Sheesh, if I was perfect, why would I need their help anyway? Some diet and exercise plans I have tried push perfection which just leads to failure if you ask me. :(  I have so many times before felt that if I couldn't keep up, or if I stopped for one day, or if I ate something bad that I had totally ruined everything - that I failed. I do not feel that way at SP. I feel encouraged to keep taking one tiny step at a time until I reach my goal. It is okay to fall if I get myself back up and simply start again a little stronger than when I first started.

You can also make many friends who are working together for better health. Leave a message on my Spark Page (JoyfulPamela) if you would like to become friends!  =D {HUGS!} We can do this together!

Healthy Links

Free resources that will hopefully help you as they did me!

Free Online Diet Plan, Fitness & Exercise Aids, Health Articles, and Motivation at SparkPeople
Why not give it a try? What can you lose ... besides weight? Seems to me that I have gained quite a bit of knowledge since I joined.

SparkPeople Videos on YouTube
Watch numerous free videos on YouTube for every type of exercise imaginable to get you started or to find new ones to add to your exercise routine. Beginner through advanced activities may be found.

Lysa TerKeurst ~ Crave God, Not Food
Lysa has many wonderful free devotionals and videos on her page about what Christian women should be craving in order to help control our temptations. See above for a link to her free devotional on Amazon, check out her page, or order her video and Bible study if you like below. She helped me to put things into a better perspective.

Health Journal
My first health journal on Squidoo where I tracked my food intake and exercise. You will find links there for my helpful friends and their health related pages which I think you will like!

The Plate Method of the Food Pyramid
Enjoy this easy to understand chart of what types of foods people should eat.

I have far to go in "Creating a New Me" ...

but with 34 pounds lost, I think I'm finally on the right path! I have a reason to be "Joyful"!
Me ~ JoyfulPamela
Me ~ JoyfulPamela

Life Changes ~ Take 3

The journey is just beginning!

Am I at my ideal weight yet? No way! I am going to fight to lose 70+ more pounds.

Am I a fitness or nutritionist expert now? Nope, but I have promised myself to keep learning more each day about how to eat properly and do exercises that will benefit my body.

Will I eat healthy and exercise everyday for the rest of my life? Of course not! I know that there will be days that I shove something into my mouth that should not be there. Unfortunately many days will pass when I can not or do not want to exercise, but I will keep pushing forward. Sometimes I will probably feel like I'm taking two steps back. I will not like it, but I can accept that I am only human when that happens and continue to take a step forward anyway.

Will you continue to push through difficulties? Will you fight the excuses? I truly hope and pray that wherever you are in your health journey that you will perservere through the rain to a beautiful spring rainbow! Wishing you well, old and new friends!

Updated: 06/24/2011, JoyfulPamela
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Do you have a health goal that you are striving to achieve? What is it? What advice can you share with others?

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dustytoes on 08/21/2011

Well reading this has certainly made me feel joyful (and we share the same name ;). Good for you - hurrah! You are a success because your attitude is good now and you are not a quitter. I hate making excuses, but do it too often, and most of mine were like yours (I won't make two meals either!). I get stuck in a rut and then find it hard to change. Stories like yours are what inspire the rest of us to set goals and persevere. SparkPeople sounds great - I will check it out. Thank you for this wonderful page!

MaxReily on 08/05/2011

This is such an inspiring story! I know how it feels to gain weight due to depression then be depressed because you've gained weight (or vice-versa). Either way it's a vicious cycle. The good news is it CAN be conquered, and I know you're going to do it! Thank you for sharing your experience and your helpful advice and resources. I know you from Squidoo, and like an earlier poster, I loved your name too--after having struggles with depression, the thought that someone actually called herself Joyful Pamela brought me joy too! Be joyful again as you create a new you, and also find joy in knowing that you're a beautiful person at every stage in the journey.

sheilamarie on 06/23/2011

Joyful Pamela, I've always loved your name. It makes me joyful just to say it! Thank you for sharing your story. We all have obstacles that try to get in the way of our living a full life and you have tackled those obstacles head on and given inspiration to others to do the same. Thanks for sharing your journey. I look forward to reading more from you.

petunia on 06/15/2011

Like you, I have been dieting in the new year - creating a new me. I love that phrase! I have lost 23, now working on the next 20! one step at a time. I love Spark People, too!

katiem2 on 06/03/2011

Seriously, I have a pair of Dr. S shoes and they are incredible. I'm already in great shape and yet I could feel my legs, toning all the way up to my bum. Be ready to get stealth. :) Great read

puzzlemaker on 06/03/2011

Your story is an inspiration. My #1 tip that has helped me to lose weight is this - don't eat ANYTHING after 7:00 at night (I usually go to be around midnight). I've lost 10+ pounds doing this along with walking.
You look great Pamela!

CherylsArt on 06/01/2011

Congratulations on your progress, and for sharing your wonderful ideas. One easy eating tip that I read about, and recently incorporated is to simply eat more slowly. Chewing food more slowly (and savoring it) allows the brain to recognize being full with less food than if it had been eaten quickly, which means less food eaten.

Jewelsofawe on 05/31/2011

This is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story and sorry you went through so many health problems. I have had alot of health problems in the last 5 years myself one of which is shortness of breath, and other stuff. I am glad for your progress. Woo hoo!

Carol on 05/31/2011

Fabulous job Pamela! Love the picture of you too. You are such an encouragement and inspiration to me and to others!

HealthfulMD on 05/31/2011

Congrats. I've seen recommendations to create a handle and even passwords that will inspire you to reach a goal. I think that Joyful Pamela is a wonderful affirming name to be using.

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