How I Lost 158 Pounds Despite Chronic Back Pain

Lisa Gonzalez Smith, 28, of Edinburg, Texas, fought through pain to get fit and healthy. She lost 158 pounds! 

i lost 158 pounds

In 2011, Lisa’s mom confronted her with the brutal truth: At the rate she was going, Lisa was going to die. “That really upset me,” Lisa recalls. “So I tried a bunch of fad diets and even went to a lap-band seminar, but the procedure was too expensive and the side effects scared me.” On a whim,
she decided to give Weight Watchers another try, because it had worked well for her when she was in high school. “My initial weigh-in was tough, but the group was welcoming,” she says. “After the first week, I lost 5 pounds, and that was enough to get me on track.”

Ever since she was a teenager, Lisa Gonzalez has coped with chronic back and leg pain. She met with a number of doctors and therapists over the years, but none could find a way to relieve her suffering. At one point she hurt so much she had trouble getting out of bed, let alone exercising. She gained 113 pounds in a four-year period. By 2011, at age 24, she weighed 313 pounds. And the pain wasn’t just physical. “I graduated from the University of Texas–Pan American magna cum laude,“ she says, “but I could never land a full-time job. I went on interviews, but I had no confidence. My obesity made me sweat profusely; it seemed like I was extremely nervous and uncomfortable.” She took part-time work as a salesclerk, scarfing down burgers late at night after her shift ended. She knew something had to change: “One doctor told me I would be paralyzed by the time I turned 30 if I didn’t lose weight.”

Lisa realized that changing her eating habits alone was not enough. She met with a physical therapist, who devised an exercise regimen that wouldn’t exacerbate her pain. She began swimming, then running and now runs with her husband four times a week. She recently completed her first 10K and has started a Weight Watchers at Work program at her alma mater, where she landed a job as the provost’s executive assistant. Her advice to those struggling with obesity? “You have to pace yourself,” she says, “and find something you love to do that keeps you moving. Losing half my weight didn’t happen overnight.”