Journey to a Better Lifestyle: Adventures in Wellness

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A Better Me– Overcoming Physical Challenges: Injuries, Weight-gain, and Menopause

I am a fighter. And I have been battling injuries like a herniated disc and a bone spur, fluctuating weight gain, and menopause for years. It’s been quite the journey. In this post, I’ll share my experiences, the roadblocks I’ve encountered, and the valuable lessons I’ve picked up along the way. Join me as we ride the rollercoaster of life’s challenges together and revel in healing and personal growth victories.

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Herniated Disc

A Decade of Unbearable Pain

Doctors misdiagnosed me with sciatica for ten years when I was suffering from a slipped disc. The injury happened during a spin class in Germany, initially leading me to think it was just a pulled muscle. Unfortunately, it didn’t heal and quickly deteriorated. My husband even had to carry me from the sofa to the emergency room. I attempted various treatments like medication, muscle relaxants, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and pain therapy, but none offered lasting relief. The pain would vanish, only reappearing if I moved or stretched improperly. This cycle persisted for a full decade. The pain became so unbearable that it confined me to my bed, where I worked and ate from. Only then did I decide to explore the surgery option, something I hadn’t considered before?

Surgery–How Confidence Healed My Pain

Well, you know what they say – first impressions matter! The very first surgeon we met was the one we chose, and let me tell you, this man’s confidence could’ve filled a stadium. The surgeon believed he could easily fix my pain and injury as if it were mere child’s play due to his huge ego. My husband convinced me this was the right doctor, too. So, we scheduled the surgery, which took place in a Wichita Surgical Clinic at around 10 am. And would you believe it? Ten hours later, they wheeled me to the front door, and I was pain-free and ready to conquer the world. I guess both Mr. Confidence and my husband knew what they were talking about, huh?

Are you considering surgery here in Korea? Check out my experience of having surgery at Yeongnam University Hospital.


Navigating Menopause to a Better Me

As I maneuver through menopause, hormonal changes, aging, and lifestyle factors cause frustrating weight gain. Dropping estrogen levels slow down my body’s metabolism, making it more challenging to maintain or lose weight. The natural decrease in muscle mass as I age also impacts my metabolic rate. In this section, I share my personal journey with the process, my current weight loss difficulties, and the strategies I use to tackle these challenges.

Even though I follow a balanced diet, exercise, and practice stress reduction techniques, menopause still presents weight loss challenges. I realize this journey isn’t a linear path, and it has ups and downs. Sometimes, I became discouraged and didn’t approach the process with patience, persistence, and self-compassion.

However, I’m learning to refocus my mindset– constantly reminding myself that progress matters more than perfection. I concentrate on the positive steps I take towards a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. By sharing my experiences, I aim to inspire and encourage others facing similar challenges, letting them know they’re not alone in this journey. Together, we can overcome the hurdles of the process and build a stronger, more resilient foundation for our well-being.

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Opportunity for Personal Growth

Oh, what a journey it’s been! In 2020, the herniated disc had practically turned me into a bedridden sloth. At the same time, the bone spur made every step feel like walking with a stone in my shoe. After the surgeries, I felt thrilled to be walking, jogging, hiking, and generally living the dream without pain because I was back on my feet. I lost over 50 pounds, with just 25 more to go. But, surprise! Experiencing a setback, I gained most of the weight back, which led to putting my pursuit of a better me on hold once again.

I had packed on so much weight in the past few years that I became a defiant warrior against anyone suggesting that I wasn’t beautiful just the way I was. In fact, I’d rather gain a pound than lose one, just out of spite. And those pictures my husband took of me? I despised them, convinced he was trying to make me look fat. Because, you know, that makes perfect sense.

Staying Grounded: Embracing Life’s “Seatbelt Extenders”

But that changed for me when I sat in seat 16A, and I couldn’t fasten my seatbelt. I had to ask for a seatbelt extender on the February flight to Korea. And I was mortified. I cried for the first two hours of that flight. I couldn’t imagine traveling for the rest of my life like that. It was like I finally could see– ME and not who I thought I was. The goal is to be a better me, just a little less of me.

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Weight-loss is Hard Enough

Although some of me still clung to the belief that I was beautiful just as I was (and I was, thank you very much). I had to face the music and admit that I wasn’t exactly treating my body like the temple it deserves to be. It wasn’t until I decided to lose weight for my own well-being that things got real.

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It’s not about external beauty – it’s about the lifestyle. The truth is when you start treating your body with the respect it deserves, nourishing it with a balanced diet and incorporating healthier eating habits, outer beauty tends to follow naturally. Deep down, I understood this, but I wasn’t living it. I had fallen into the trap of seeking easy fixes, but those quick solutions were temporary band-aids. It was time for personal growth and a lasting cure. I had to seek help.

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The Imfamous Dr. Kim

Daegu Weight-loss Clinic

When I returned to Daegu, I headed straight to Dr. Kim’s Weight Loss Clinic. She was well-known in the Daegu expat community, and I was desperate to shed some pounds. After six to seven months, I lost about 50 pounds, and at first, I was ecstatic. However, when I started attending nutrition classes and using the scanning machine, I realized that I was losing much-needed muscle and fat and was exhausted from not eating enough food. This exhaustion even affected my preferred exercise of hiking.

Being a woman in my 50s, I know that muscle is essential to a long, healthy, and active lifestyle, but Dr. Kim and I disagreed. She was known for giving her patients the “hard truth,” even if it hurt their feelings. She believed that I needed to lose the weight as fast as possible, no matter what.

I didn’t want to take ten pills every day without knowing the long-term effects, so I decided not to return to Dr. Kim’s clinic. However, the problem lies with gimmicky weight loss programs and diet pills. As soon as you stop, the weight returns. She is not an endocrinologist, so she could not treat my other concerns either. To be honest, I don’t miss having to stay near a toilet either.

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Getting Good Answers

Hyosung Women & Children’s Hospital & Daegu Catholic University Hospital

The weight and mood swings, joint pain, and disrupted sleep were signs I needed to seek medical attention. So I scheduled an appointment with a healthcare provider to check my hormone levels. American medicine falls flat on routine testing. Korean healthcare does not. Annual screenings for more than diabetes and high blood pressure are standard practice.

Diagnosed with Graves Disease

I decided to visit Hyosung Women & Children’s Hospital to undergo their comprehensive check-up, as it came highly recommended by some friends who were impressed with the thoroughness of their annual wellness appointments. During the check-up, the doctors discovered that I had Graves disease, which, although not life-threatening with treatment, required further attention. They subsequently referred me to the endocrinology department at Daegu Catholic University Hospital.

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What is Graves Disease?

Graves disease is a medical condition affecting the thyroid gland in the front of the neck, producing hormones responsible for regulating various body functions. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to produce an excessive amount of thyroid hormone.

This overproduction of thyroid hormones leads to a condition known as hyperthyroidism, which can cause a range of symptoms such as weight gain, increased appetite, anxiety, sweating, and trembling. Graves disease can also cause an enlargement of the thyroid gland, known as goiter.

After repeating the necessary blood tests, my endocrinologist prescribed antithyroid medications to regulate my thyroid gland and manage the symptoms caused by the disease. During my follow-up appointment a month later, I was pleased to learn that the medication to address my faster-than-normal heartbeat was no longer necessary. However, I would still need to continue taking the other prescribed medications for at least 18 months.

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Weight-loss Plan of Attack to a Better Me

One of the challenges of managing Graves disease is that it can send mixed signals to the brain, causing a person to feel both hungry and full at the same time. This can make it difficult to regulate food intake and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, Graves disease can cause other health complications if left untreated, such as heart problems, osteoporosis, and eye problems.

But I have to admit I was a little scared, too. Your body tenses up when a physician informs you that you have a disease. And I couldn’t imagine giving myself a shot in my abdomen every morning, either. So imagine how I felt after the first shot; I could barely feel it. It’s not painful at all. So far, I have not experienced any side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, low blood sugar, headache, and stomach pain.

What is Saxenda and How Does it Work?

My endocrinologist also recommended Saxenda– a daily injection that could help me manage my weight. This medication works by overwriting the mixed signals my brain receives, which can lead to a reduction in calorie intake. Over time, this will lead to a better, but little less of me. The daily shots are just one step in the treatment plan to get off this rollercoaster.

Saxenda, is a medication that can help to regulate appetite and food intake by activating the same receptors in the brain as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). The body naturally produces GLP-1, which regulates hunger and food intake. A daily injection of Saxenda activates the same receptors, helping to reduce appetite and calorie intake. Over time, this may lead to weight loss.

Although Saxenda or any similar medication can effectively manage weight, it’s important to understand that it’s not a quick fix or a shortcut. I use it alongside a healthy diet and exercise program to achieve the best results. Additionally, it’s not suitable for everyone, and discussing any potential risks or side effects with a healthcare professional before starting Saxenda is crucial.

However, Saxenda is not covered in my Tricare insurance plan. So we’ve paid for it out of pocket. In South Korea, a 3-week pen cost 140,000 KRW. Consequently, the same prescription can be $1,4000 and may not be covered by insurance.

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That being said, it’s a great relief to finally receive a diagnosis and treatment plan to effectively manage all my medical conditions. By following the recommended treatment plan and making positive changes to my lifestyle, I am confident that I can manage my condition and improve my overall health once and for all.


I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the surgeons, physical therapists, nurses & nutritionists who put me back together these past few years. And for my husband, who took such good care of my mind, body, and soul to get to where I am right now. Check back next month to see my progress. My immediate goal is to lose 6 pounds, work out 5 days per week, write at least three blog posts per week, and my first vlog for our upcoming trip to Singapore. No more excuses.

This is a journey, so I will take time and enjoy the process. I like me, so I’m not interested in being brand new– but a better me.

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