Fitter, Stronger, Healthier: one mom’s journey in overcoming health setbacks and a life-long battle with weight.

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March 24, 2013
Fitter, Stronger, Healthier: one mom’s journey in overcoming health setbacks and a life-long battle with weight.

Many of you already know me (at least by name) and for those who don’t, I am the wife of IFBB pro bodybuilder Erik "The House" Fankhouser. I started this blog so that I can share my journey to health with you all, and my hope is to inspire at least one of you who follow along to take the challenge with me. This is going to be an all access blog—no sugarcoating anything! I plan to post pictures of myself, share my thoughts, and talk about how I feel about my weight and size as the days go on. Everything I share will be as real and as honest as it gets, because anything less won’t do you (or me) any good. Don’t worry, I am well aware of the critics out there. Many during the course of my husband’s career have criticized me. Most would think the negative comments would sting, but I do not allow it to affect my every day life. I know who I am, and my husband, my family, and my friends do also!

Those who are familiar with me know that I am not your typical pro bodybuilder wife and when I say typical, I mean in terms of size and shape. I am well aware of myself and how I look; I never claimed to be Barbie! The truth is, I have struggled with my weight my entire life. My senior year in high school (1999) is when Erik and I first began dating (yes, a lot of years!). The one thing I know is that over time I have gotten comfortable with myself, and somewhere along the line I stopped taking care of myself. I dove head first in to caring for Erik, and then later for our children. I am sure most moms can identify with me on this; it’s easy to forget about you and worry more about everyone else around you. You unknowingly start to neglect yourself. As mothers, I think it’s just in our DNA to put those around us first.

Well, ladies, after many years I have finally come to the realization that if we do not care for ourselves, then who will care for those we love when something happens to us? When you look at it that way, it really makes you start to think.

So when did this aha moment come about? Let’s start with a little back history. I have two beautiful children, Xavier and London, eight and three years old, respectively. My children are my world! Almost four years ago this August, I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. That’s about the time that the insane rollercoaster ride began. The moment she was born was the only highlight during that time in my life, as I had been through hell in the many days leading up to and after her birth. It all started two-and-a-half weeks before when I was life flighted to a Pittsburgh hospital and put on a steady drip of insulin! (Let me point out that I have no family history of diabetes.) I started having severe chest and abdominal pains several days prior. In fact, I went to the hospital three times in the course of five days and the doctors just kept telling me it was the baby.

I know my body, and I knew that whatever was wrong with me had nothing to do with the baby. I mean, I had already carried a child before her and knew this was different. So, knowing something wasn’t right and fearing that I would lose London, I begged them to do more and more tests. We tried for four years to get pregnant with her and I wasn’t about to lose her seven-and-a-half months into my pregnancy. On the third day of this pain, I woke up very lethargic and had lost my vision. I woke Erik and we called our doctor, and I was told to go to back to the hospital immediately. After being there for several hours the doctors finally did a blood gas test. The results came back that my blood glucose levels were at 750! Absolutely insane! They could not believe that I wasn’t in a comma with my blood glucose being that high.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with pancreatitis, which was caused by broken up gallstones that had blocked the duct to my pancreas. I spent the next two-and-a-half weeks hooked to a steady drip of insulin in a Pittsburg hospital, and they were constantly monitoring London during this time. My condition was so severe that they had to administer 500 units of insulin a day—and my glucose levels still weren’t budging. Eventually the doctors were able to break the toxicity and get my glucose levels under control. They first told me that my pancreas would heal and all would go back to normal. Okay, I thought, I can handle this. Then, after an amniocentesis, they discovered London's lungs were fully developed and that meant she would be delivered a month early.

So, my healthy baby girl was delivered on August 25, 2009. Soon after I gave birth, my glucose levels stabilized. Thank God, I thought, I am going to be normal again! That didn't last long, as I had to start doing insulin shots not long after. Four days after having my C-section I was sent home with my newborn girl to recover from surgery —and take care of my four-year-old son Xavier. Lucky me!

I spent the next year doing four to five shots of insulin a day and was also put on Metformin, a pill that helps control the glucose expended by other organs. After seeing me go through all that pain and anxiety, and confirming that my pancreas did not appear to be healing, my endocrinologist finally recommend an insulin pump. I was absolutely devastated. Being on an pump was the worst possible scenario, or at least it seemed that way at the time. I've been on it now for two years, I can honestly say that I am very thankful for it. But with this comes mixed feelings. I am happy to be alive but I also started to feel as though I was destined to be fat for the rest of my life. As you may or may not know, taking insulin isn't the best thing for someone who already has a weight problem. Insulin can cause you to store fat. Ugh! And so began the yo-yo dieting!

Check back next week for more on my experience with yo-yo dieting.

Heather Fankhouser