Sheila Howard didn’t recognize herself in the mirror after she ballooned to more than 300 pounds in her late 40s.
“I looked foreign to myself. I said, ‘I know you’re in there. You’re trapped inside yourself, and we’re going to get you out,’” Sheila recalls now at 57.
It took years, but she finally did, after two scary medical diagnoses, multiple surgeries – and completely changing her lifestyle to include exercise and healthy eating.
Now, she’s down below 180 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches tall. Her medical conditions are being treated. And she’s on a mission to help others persevere on their health and fitness journeys.
“Exercise has been a part of my life for a long time,” she says. “It’s like my second chance.”
A Long Road Begins
Initially, Sheila was unable to lose the weight she gained for her two pregnancies, despite dedicated workouts and eating right. Her weight reached over 300 pounds.
“I went from this small person all the way to this bigger person in just a few years, and the weight continued to pile on unexplained,” she says. “I tried all the different programs, I had a personal trainer, I had diet pills, water pills – just anything I could think of that I could afford, I tried. I went to the gym. I did all the things I was supposed to do, and none of it worked.”
Sheila was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It’s a common disorder caused when your thyroid gland, in the front lower part of the neck, doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.
The thyroid controls your metabolism, and without enough thyroid hormone, your body process slow down, according to WebMD. You have less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.
That diagnosis helped, but it was far from the end of Sheila’s journey. She was next diagnosed with leukemia. And she was eventually able to undergo gastric bypass surgery, at her doctor’s insistence.
Didn’t Want the Easy Solution
She resisted it for a long time because she wanted to make lasting, overall lifestyle changes – not just get a quick, easy fix. But her normally placid doctor had a “come to Jesus” moment that brought Sheila to tears.
Since the surgery, she has kept the weight off through a dedicated workout routine of weightlifting, running, and – her favorite — hula-hooping. She has overhauled her diet, too.
“With the weight-loss came my full lifestyle transformation,” she says. “I knew surgery wasn’t enough. I wanted to be fit, not just lose weight.”
She’s even written a book about her journey. The title? “Trapped Inside Myself.”
That was true for a long time, but through medical help, healthy living, exercise and determination, Sheila has made sure that it’s not true anymore.
We are here to help if you’re having similar issues with your weight, exercise and diet. Of course, talk to your doctor if you have health concerns. And do as Sheila recommends: Keep looking until you find the solutions you need.