STRATHAM Ten months ago, Lisa Mitchell could barely get out of bed.
Mitchell, 53, of Epping, weighed 245 pounds and had battled severe depression and anxiety since she was a child. She said she receives disability benefits for a chronic back problem, which forced her to quit her job several years ago.
Today, she is 55 pounds lighter and credits her commitment to exercising at Planet Fitness with her husband, Phil St. Clair, for her healthy transformation. She said going to the gym has been a helpful means of coping with her depression.
I was coming in three, four, five times a week; it was the only time Id get away from the house, Mitchell said. Id have my ear buds in, music going, my arms and legs were going and I wouldnt be stuck in my head and its awesome. The people here are so friendly and helpful.
Mitchells healthy journey began when she was attending physical therapy for her back pain last summer. After leaving her day job as a procurement agent for a Portsmouth company, she said she couldnt even resume her work as a professional artist because her back pain was so bad, which compounded her depression. Soon she would be diagnosed with diabetes, anemia and high blood pressure, she said.
“(Art is) what I did to enjoy myself and escape, and I couldnt, she said. I used to do that a lot more before my back (problems) and the depression. Its a vicious cycle and I was miserable.
Once Mitchell said she maxed out the physical therapy appointments her insurance would cover, she said wanted to continue using the recumbent stepper for a cardio workout at Planet Fitness. She said it was the only machine that didnt aggravate her back while she was using it during physical therapy.
I started in the pool (at physical therapy) because I couldnt stand up long enough to do regular physical therapy (at first), she said. I couldnt even go across the pool without feeling like I was going to die. I couldnt catch my breath, I couldnt walk up a flight of stairs. I said to myself this was crazy and I had to do something.
Mitchell said she and her husband were looking for activities to do together and they decided to buy memberships to Planet Fitness. They had joined the subscription-based movie ticketing service MoviePass, but were not satisfied because of the limitations on the service.
We had joined MoviePass because we were looking for something inexpensive to do together and it was $10 a month for each of us and they were always sold out or blacked out, Mitchell said. I said the gym is $10 a month, lets just do that instead.
Mitchell said her secret to success is making short-term small, measurable goals. One example early on was on cruise in February where she said she simply wanted to be able to walk around. Years earlier, during a trip to Las Vegas, she said she had difficulty walking and was constantly holding up her group.
We went on this cruise and I didnt have to stop, Mitchell said. I did a lot of stretching and a lot of Advil, but my husband didnt have to wait for me.
Her next goal after her cruise was to get to 200 pounds, she said. She said a key to sustaining her dedication was not to deprive herself of the food she loves, but rather to keep better track of her caloric intake. She said she and her husband regularly pick up a snack at Taco Bell after they work out or get an espresso.
Its not a diet, I eat the carbs, I eat the pizza, I eat the cheesecake; I dont eat the whole thing anymore, she said. Ive found the best salads at every restaurant around here. I just eat 500 less calories than I burn. Thats easy peasy.
Through Mitchells transformation, her husband has been a dedicated workout buddy she said. However, while St. Clair was out of commission recovering from foot surgery, she would go solo to the gym, he said.
Lisa got me back into working out, St. Clair said. Shes so inspirational with the way she talks about how good she feels when she works out. Im really proud of her.
Today, Mitchell said, she no longer needs her diabetes medication, her iron levels are better and she expects to be taken off her blood pressure medicine next time she visits her doctor. She said she would like to drop down to 175 pounds by Christmas.
I figured when my eating situation and exercise situation start to balance, that will be my happy place, Mitchell said. I have muscles now. I didnt realize I had muscles.
Mitchell said after being overweight her entire life she wanted to speak out in hopes of inspiring someone else to change their life for the better as well.
Looking at my old pictures versus my current pictures, thats what keeps me motivated to keep coming back, she said. You could come from the worst place in the world, and you have every day to make that change. Its never too late to change things.