Once on 26 medications, 1 woman lost 150 pounds and is training to hike the Grand Canyon

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In 2019, Rebecca Poehlmann of Dallas, Texas needed 26 medications to manage health conditions like prediabetes, fatty pancreas disease, fatty liver disease, migraines, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts, blood pressure, anxiety and depression. She needed additional medication to manage the side effects of all the drugs.

“I was in so much physical pain and mental pain. Everything hurt. It hurt to walk. It hurt to sleep,” she tells TODAY.com.

“My brother started getting concerned. He wanted to take walks with me, but I was so heavy I turned him down. I would go back to bed. My dad, who was a doctor, also voiced his concerns. My doctors were worried about me. They warned me I could die of a stroke or heart attack, but I wasn’t listening. I had given up.”

After losing her brother and father, Rebecca Poehlmann's weight climbed to 285 pounds. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)
After losing her brother and father, Rebecca Poehlmann's weight climbed to 285 pounds. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)

In December 2019, Poehlmann’s brother and father passed away within a week of each other. “After that, I turned to food for comfort and gained another 30 pounds,” she says. Her weight climbed to 285 pounds.

Her husband finally said, ‘Honey, I think your weight is going to kill you. And I can’t live this life without you.’ My brother, my dad and my husband, the three most important people in my life, had all told me they were worried I was going to die. I had to do something,” she says.

Poehlmann, 44, decided to have weight-loss surgery, which turned her life around. She lost 150 pounds and put on muscle weight, reversed prediabetes, fatty liver disease and fatty pancreas, and no longer needs medication for high blood pressure. She’s down to just six medications.

“I can tie my shoes now. I can fit into my shower now. I can sleep without pain and suffering. I don’t fear having a stroke or heart attack at any minute and leaving my husband a widower,” she says.

And she says it’s the improvements she’s seen in her mental health and her fitness that have transformed her life: “I came from a very dark place, and now I’m living my best life.”

Here’s how she did it.

At one point, Rebecca Poehlmann was on 26 medications to manage health conditions like prediabetes, fatty liver disease, migraines, blood pressure and depression. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)
At one point, Rebecca Poehlmann was on 26 medications to manage health conditions like prediabetes, fatty liver disease, migraines, blood pressure and depression. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)

Weight-loss surgery got her started

In December 2020, Poehlmann had gastric sleeve surgery. She points out that weight-loss surgery isn’t the easy way out: “At first, it felt impossible.”

And managing her diet with a very small stomach is challenging. “At first, you go from overeating to just having liquids. You basically have no stomach,” she says.

Now she drinks two large protein shakes a day since she needs 80 grams of protein daily. She has five small meals, and in between, she aims to drink 80 ounces of water. She can’t drink water 30 minutes before or after a meal because it will fill up her stomach.

She needs to focus mainly on protein, with minimal carbs or fat. She eats shrimp, fish, tofu and sushi and tries to eat some chicken and steak.

She’s pleased with her progress, but she’s dealing with an unwelcome side effect: loose skin. She would like to have surgery to remove it, but she estimates that would cost $50,000, and her insurance does not cover it. “I’m about 90% happy with myself. If I had the plastic surgery, I would be 100% happy with myself.”

Gastric sleeve surgery helped kick off Poehlmann's weight loss, but learning how to eat healthfully and exercise were key for losing weight and keeping it off. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)
Gastric sleeve surgery helped kick off Poehlmann's weight loss, but learning how to eat healthfully and exercise were key for losing weight and keeping it off. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)

She focused on fitness with walking and strength training

Poehlmann joined Life Time on New Year’s Eve, 2020, and she was in tears, crying to the head coach: “I said, ‘I can’t do this. There’s no way I’m going to take off all this weight.’ She said, ‘You can and you will do this.’”

As Poehlmann started going to the gym, she felt like she found a second family. “We all support each other,” she says.

At first, she would walk and learn how to complete exercises correctly. She slowly built her fitness. Now she spends an hour in the gym Monday through Friday, taking a class called GTX that’s half weightlifting and half cardio. After that, she spends an hour in recovery with air compression massage or water massage.

Poehlmann says she felt like she found a second family at Life Time Fitness.  (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)
Poehlmann says she felt like she found a second family at Life Time Fitness. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)

“Now I can do 250 squats with 80 pounds on my shoulders. I can do all sorts of planks, and I didn’t even know there were so many kinds of pushups. I can do burpees, box jumps, bosu planks and power cleans. I never believed I would ever have this much muscle. I never thought in my life that I could do these things. I feel so accomplished every time I leave that gym.”

Her fitness extends beyond the gym. She can go parasailing and ride horses again. “There are so many things that have weight restrictions. If you’re anywhere close to 300 pounds, you can’t ride a horse. I like being able to do these things again.”

She’s been surfing, and she’s training to hike the Grand Canyon and to run a half-marathon. “Fitness is a huge part of my life. I’m doing things I never thought I’d be able to do,” she says.

After losing 150 pounds, Poehlmann has picked up hobbies like surfing, horseback riding and parasailing. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)
After losing 150 pounds, Poehlmann has picked up hobbies like surfing, horseback riding and parasailing. (Courtesy Rebecca Poehlmann)

Her mental health improved along with her physical health

“Society is mean to obese people. And there’s so much shame. Even now, I have shame that I ever got that big. People who are heavy carry a lot of shame and a lot of embarrassment. They lock themselves away, and they isolate and that leads to really bad depression. That’s exactly what I did,” Poehlmann says. “I had given up on life. I didn’t like myself. I was even suicidal when I was heavy. It was bad. Everyone was worried about me.”

At one point, Poehlmann’s best friend took her to Florida. On that trip, she told Poehlmann she was a good person with a good heart. “That resonated with me, and I started to find self-love when I was heavy,” she says.

Now, she feels transformed: “I’m a different person now. I’m hopeful for my future. I know that I’m going to keep this healthy lifestyle. My mental health is just so improved. I’ve never been happier in my entire life. I didn’t know that it was going to take me 44 years to get here, but I got here. And now I’m this person who’s on top of the world.”

Once contemplating suicide, Poehlmann’s new lifestyle has transformed her mental health.
Once contemplating suicide, Poehlmann’s new lifestyle has transformed her mental health.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com