28-year-old, Elizabeth is a professional firefighter in St. Louis, Missouri. She’s an advocate for women of color in male dominated fields, and very passionate about promoting diversity. She experienced significant weight gain following a surgical operation following a work-related injury which affected her physical capabilities. A health scare at the doctor’s office led Elizabeth to change her lifestyle and eating habits to lose weight and turn her health around. Read on to find out the steps Elizabeth took.
Tell us the start of your journey
As a firefighter, I was used to being pretty active. I’ve always been an adventurer. A work injury left me with an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tear and subsequent surgical reconstruction, and I was forced to slow down. I spent 6 months in physical therapy, and after, I was so unsure of myself, uncertain about my physical capabilities and I no longer trusted my body to keep me safe. In the course of a year, I gained 50+ pounds.
I didn’t notice it at first. I didn’t “feel” good, but when you see yourself every single day, it’s hard to notice small subtle changes until they become BIG changes and hit you in the face. It started with little things, being out of breath quickly on an emergency call at work, not being able to get my gear on as quickly as I did before, and eventually led to things like not being able to close my bunker pants and most embarrassingly, literally busting out of my uniform pants at work, in front of my entire crew! I knew I had to make a change, and that I wasn’t doing my best to be my best, and to be an asset to my community as a first responder. But there was worse to come.
The turning point
I needed a second surgery on my knee. I was left with a significant amount of nerve damage. I was in pain every single day. There were days my leg would swell and I felt like I could barely walk. After doing some routine lab work in preparation for my second surgery, my doctor informed me that not only did I have PCOS, (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, I was also in Stage 2 Kidney failure, positive for signs of CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) AND very close to being diabetic. I was CRUSHED, and frightened. Especially since I’m only 28! There is nothing like the fear of dying, or being incapacitated to get a person to get their act together.I changed my life, THAT day.
What steps did you take to better health?
Because I have PCOS, I knew that weight loss would be significantly harder, as women with PCOS are insulin resistant. So I decided to try low carb and keto, along with intermittent and extended fasting. I worked out EVERY SINGLE DAY, no matter what, for about an hour and a half. I would do an hour of HIIT OR light strength training, and 30 minutes of fast paced or steady state cardio. I took three weeks off of working out when I had my second surgery, but I kept my diet clean and fasted frequently.
In 9 weeks, I lost 38 pounds. In nearly 13 weeks, I lost 48, and by the 14th week I lost a total of 51. I am no longer pre-diabetic, my PCOS symptoms have improved drastically and my kidneys are almost at completely normal function. My goal is 29 more pounds before I’m at my maintenance weight, but at this point, I’m more concerned with my level of endurance and strength. I’m down 51 pounds, from 245 to 194. There were absolutely days I wanted to quit, or that I felt I would never reach my goal, but I learned to focus. Your internal voice has to be louder than any external noise.
My relationship with food and health in general is far different now. I look at exercise and eating right just as I would look at getting gas for my car or buying groceries. Necessary tasks that help me complete my day. I have so much more mental and emotional stamina and pride from taking charge of my health.
On my days off, you can find me working out, doing volunteer work, and on Instagram giving out content related to keto, low carb eating and fasting.
A word for the women
I would tell anyone starting a health journey to ENJOY the no scale victories just as much as when you see the numbers move. Clothing is an amazing gauge of progress. Dress up for yourself. Appreciate when your pants and shirts feel too big. Notice how much easier you breathe when climbing stairs. Pay attention to how your body feels and moves. A number doesn’t gauge physical ability.
Be patient. You didn’t gain the weight overnight so you won’t lose it overnight and that’s OKAY.
Learn to enjoy building and rebuilding your body. Amazing things don’t happen in one day.
Follow Elizabeth’s fitness journey on Instagram @gritandgrace