After being incapacitated because of her weight, a Texas woman quit eating carbs and drinking alcohol — steps that helped her shed 139 pounds and enjoy life.
“I thought I was happy; I didn’t know I was depressed,” Misty Mitchell, 36, told TODAY. “What I thought was happiness was me just surviving.”
In 2003, when she was 23, Mitchell's grandmother started hospice and Mitchell quit school to care for her. She sat around mindlessly eating, which led to a rapid 60-pound weight gain. Over the next four years, she slowly gained more, with her weight increasing to 285 pounds. Shocked, she started the Atkins diet and lost 110 pounds.
Mitchell kept the weight off until 2009 when she started eating carbs again and problem drinking. What began as too many drinks while out escalated to her guzzling a half liter of vodka a day, or about 11 drinks and 1,000 calories.
She knew she had a problem, but told herself it wasn’t bad: She never passed out anywhere, drove drunk, or missed work.
As her weight ballooned to 296 pounds, the 5-foot-6-inch woman couldn’t push the cart down the grocery store aisle without getting winded. Mitchell struggled to fit in her seat belt, bend over to put on socks, or care for her now 12-year-old daughter.
Then she experienced a herniated disk, causing excruciating pain.
“I was completely bedridden,” Mitchell said. “I was close to 300 pounds. I can’t even explain how terrible it feels to be stuck inside that body.”
While disk surgery eliminated the pain, Mitchell realized her life “was in shambles.” She had lost her job and had to sell her house. After a meal of Frito pie and a pint of ice cream, she decided she had to make a change.
“If I kept drinking what I was drinking, I wouldn’t lose weight,” she said.
In February 2015, Mitchell stopped drinking and started a ketogenic diet, eating less than 20 grams of carbs a day to keep her body in ketosis. She immediately lost weight, but struggled to control emotional eating and drinking.
“I was so pissed at my life, it kind of fueled my drive. Every time I would think of drinking — which happened a lot — or eating carbs, I remembered that anger,” she said.
After losing 60 pounds in six months, that anger transformed into something healthier.
"I'm not plagued with those negative thoughts. I could just be happy," Mitchell said.
That motivates her to skip drinks and ignore emotional eating. But one piece was still missing — working out. She feared the gym, but found unexpected inspiration from watching the movie “Wild.” Much like the main character, Mitchell decided to "take her life back."
Since November 2015, she's only missed two days at the gym, transforming herself from 60 percent body fat to 25 percent. Her goal weight is 148 pounds, which would mean she has lost half her body weight. She's currently at 157 pounds.
She hopes to inspire others with pictures on her social media account.
"I really like who I am now and it is who I always wanted to be," she said. “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Mitchell used these tips to avoid the lure of emotional eating:
1. Drink water
People often confuse thirst with hunger. If, after drinking water, you still feel hungry the sensation is probably authentic.
2. Know the hunger
Did you feel hungry suddenly? There’s a good chance it’s emotional, not true hunger, which comes on slowly.
3. Paint your nails
Thinking that a pint of ice cream will help with that bad day? Paint your nails instead. It’s tough to snack with wet nail polish.
4. Brush your teeth
Brushing teeth sends a signal to the brain that it’s not time to eat.
5. Take a walk
Distracting yourself from cravings will help them dissipate and you'll get extra activity.
Read other inspiring stories of ordinary people slimming down in TODAY's My Weight-Loss Journey.