EASO Patient Council: An inspirational success story

How I changed my Lifestyle

HOW I CHANGED MY LIFESTYLE

Changing my views on how to live healthy is probably one of the most important things I have done in my life. I think it has actually saved my life.

It is a big step forward, but most certainly worth the effort of throwing oneself into the project. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

How I changed my LifestyleAfter trying practically everything the industry has to offer on dieting and losing weight, I sat down to rethink. Where was I going next? I couldn’t go on carrying this burden of weight around. It was hard enough just getting through the day, doing my daily household chores. Excruciating pain every day, and the endless negative thoughts about myself was getting unbearable. I was my own worst enemy, couldn’t stand the sight of this big, fat woman I saw in the mirror every day. She didn’t even smile at me but was quick to find all the ugly words to hurt and humiliate me.

I felt my very soul getting heavier. I was exhausted both physically and mentally.

I am married with two children, a dog and a cat.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with MS (Multiple sclerosis). The news dragged me further down mentally
because it is quite a shock to be diagnosed with such a horrific disease.

I had no respect for this kind of disease that was here to stay, that may just drag me all the way down. Where was my life going?

I was very sick for a time and was in hospital and physical therapy, ended up in a wheelchair for a while but stood up again and decided to do my best.

So, it was not an easy road for me, to change my everyday lifestyle. To be so fat, to not be able to move around freely because of the fat and because of this disease that sneaks up on a person and makes life difficult. More than once and more than twice. What can a person in this situation do?

To starve myself was my technique over the years. Losing weight fast, giving up and watching my weight go up again like a shooting rocket. Boom, back to the beginning.

Find a new diet and new diet pills. A new way to lose weight fast and then everything would be fine. I‘d be slim. I‘d be thin. But where did that come from? It was always on the agenda, to be thin. But then I thought, why not take a different direction? A decision to be healthy? Why not go for a lighter way of life, without all the self-abuse? Dieting and starvation are abusive. And the results are bad, to say the least. Years and years of abusive behavior, both physically and mentally. All done by me. Wrong ideas about life itself, my self- esteem smoldering at my feet.

I found the answer to my problems at „Heilsuborg“ in Reykjavik.

Heilsuborg is a fitness center where doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychiatrists, professional trainers, physical therapists and other wonderful experts work to help people. It was there that my eyes opened and I sat up and listened.

I registered for a year of health solutions, especially designed for people seriously overweight. The whole year is used to build up self-esteem and be more confident in your own skin, to help people with the beginning steps of exercising and to believe in yourself. A lot of time goes into understanding the benefits of the right nutrition.

Nutrition is an essential part of changing your lifestyle. Effort goes into getting people on the right track regarding nutrition, plus exercise. To relearn how to eat, to eat yourself away from being obese, not to starve yourself but to eat right.

How I changed my LifestyleI was terrified my first few weeks there. I knew nothing about this kind of lifestyle and we are afraid of our ignorance. I was best at dieting, starving and tearing myself down mentally. It was almost too much for me to even walk in and participate at first. I couldn’t find any gym clothing that fit in any of the stores, nothing would fit that seemed appropriate for working out in a gym. It was so hard to arrive in an old, stretched t-shirt and very old pants that stretched so much just to fit this big body of mine.

It really took an effort on my part to begin working out. I couldn’t get down on the floor for exercises, because then I couldn’t get up again without help and I wasn’t about to ask anyone to help me up off the floor! Obese people are ashamed of their size and do not want to ask for a little help. So I exercised standing, or sitting on a chair.

A few weeks went by and suddenly I could get down on the mat by myself to do exercises, and stand up again. A miracle was in the making. And more were to follow after a while. I was a member of a fitness center and I was working out!

To start with I worked out 3 days a week. It was incredible how well it was going.

But very soon I pulled a muscle in my calf flop. But it wasn’t an option to give up. I took my crutches with me and did my exercises. Just did what I could and what I trusted my body to do. Anything is possible if you’re motivated.

The staff at the center are absolute gems and very professional. I received so much help from Erla Gerður Sveinsdottir, MD, MPH, Medical Director and the owner of the center (Heilsuborg).

And I also believe a few of the trainers and staff are angels in disguise. People have helped me more than they’ll ever know. That they believed in and helped a person in my condition, a woman who was seriously overweight couldn’t be an easy task. But these wonderful people certainly know just how to go about it.

I myself took on the role of seriously changing my eating habits and gave myself a promise that the days of either starving myself or overeating were over, a new road ahead. I would not abuse my body with food again and would start from the beginning.my new life would be far different from the old one. I was very sincere and serious about my goals and changed literally everything about my life.

How I changed my LifestyleToday my diet is made up of clean, good for you ingredients. Clean food is my life today. I eat healthy and try as best I can to make everything from scratch. I no longer buy processed foods, or foods that are chock- full of added ingredients. Fatty fast-food or food that damages the body is no longer a welcome factor in my life. I only offer myself and my family good, wholesome food. As I myself prepare all meals, I always know what ingredients are used and take care to choose all herbs carefully, as I want everything to be as fresh as possible. Meals are to be well presented, taste well, healthy and very appetizing. I also take care to have various and different meals as it is an important part of the whole.

Today I am fifty kilos lighter, I go to the center 6 days a week to do my workouts. It is essential to add various exercises to your workout and to rotate.

Today I run because I enjoy it. I walk about 10 kilometers once or twice a week, exercise 5 days a week. I’m now into lifting so my schedule is pretty intense.

I have changed this tired, sick and broken body into a strong and healthy one. Today I can walk into any sports goods store and buy anything off the rack. And at last they fit.

Every morning now I do get a smile from that person in the mirror. And I do say nice things about myself. I think positive and see before me a healthy, strong person. No more will I scold and tramp on my self-esteem for little mistakes. Keep going, never give up!

Today I have my own website embracing a healthy lifestyle, I have over 4.500 followers on Facebook. My articles have been published in two news mediums here in Iceland. I also write and publish photos of my lifestyle cooking daily. People ask for recipes and I encourage them forward to a better, lighter life.

We don’t all have to be thin or skinny, I am no longer convinced that nothing else is optional. Just make it our goal to feel better. Eat well, sleep well, have a more optimistic view on things, exercise and enjoy life. Life is too short to wage a never- ending war with oneself.

Today I am forever grateful for having found the health center that put me on the right track toward a better life, a place where miracles are performed. To see people come in for the first time, wishing they were wallflowers, with a heavy burden to bear, embarrassed and with low self-esteem, then to see them come to life, to smile, to believe in themselves, to believe they can do this, to want this. To see how life is really to be lived.

These centers are essential for those who bear the burden of serious obesity. We need a lot of help if we are to flourish and grow. We need the skilled professionals.

Image_005We need time and we need to feel respected. We are people with feelings. More often than not we are broken in body and spirit. The spirit needs to be healed as it is such an important part of the process. The mind is the big machine that needs to function normally. The mind carries us half the way, helps every small detail to solve problems, to help us believe in ourselves and feel pride in who we are.

I am eternally thankful to Dr. Erla Gerður, and to the center. At last I believe that this dream is possible.
I went with great anticipation to the convention in Sofia in the company of Erla and had the pleasure of being introduced into the world of professionals tackling obesity, I both saw, listened and learned. After the convention I realized that the wellness center here in Reykjavik is doing all the right things. We need this kind of center to reach out and help others. We need professionals helping us every way they can, in all situations.

Everything we need is at Heilsuborg. Being obese is not just about being fat, it is a disease that can destroy and even end lives if nothing is done and is a growing problem. It cannot be cured with a quick-fix, it has to be treated with a long-term program and a changed lifestyle to help people find a better life. We must never judge fat people by what the scales tell us! We are people and need the freedom to be ourselves. It is never an easy task to lose weight and stay trim the rest of our lives. It is a work in progress, always. But it’s worth it. To get fit and out of the fight with fat is simply a miracle, but it is possible. But I repeat, it requires a lot of work that never ends, it has to last a lifetime.

Today my family is very thankful for having taken the reins and taking control of our eating habits. Together we have lost 80 kilos. 80 kilos lighter after taking this big step toward a healthier lifestyle.
It’s never easy, but well worth the effort. I have never been happier in my life.

Sólveig Sigurðardóttir
Reykjavik, Iceland

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