Name: Tanya Filovets
Occupation: Medicare Enrollment Analyst
Hometown: Salem, Oregon
Start Weight: 170 pounds
End Weight: 125 pounds
Time Running: 13 years (but recently started running again after a long layoff)
Early in 2016, I could tell something serious was going on with my health, because I was having chest pains and heart fibrillations daily (sometimes several a day) when I drank caffeine or sugary drinks.
That year, I went on a mission trip to Ukraine with my husband, and the issues escalated—I started having pain and stiffness in my feet, ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, elbows, and shoulders. The most severe pain was in my feet and ankles, causing me to limp. I also woke up every morning with pain in the balls of my feet and my fingers locked up. Because of this, it take a lot longer to get myself ready and dressed for the day. Some days I could not put some of my clothes on without my husband’s help.
Once I returned home from Ukraine, I did tons of research, and based on the symptoms, I suspected I had rheumatoid arthritis. Five months later in November, I was able to get tested, and the rheumatologist confirmed my suspicion.
For treatment, I was prescribed prednisone—a strong, immune-suppressing drug—as a short-term solution to help with the pain. After that, I was put on a high dose of chemotherapy medications and injections that were supposed to help stop or slow down the inflammation happening in my body.
At the time, I ate whatever I wanted. I was in constant pain, and when I would feel sorry for myself, I would turn to junk food and binge Netflix for comfort. I rarely ate vegetables, and I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. I started calling out sick from work, and I remember not being able to brush my hair or my teeth or wash my face without a lot of pain. At one point, the arthritis had affected the soles of my feet and my ankles so badly that it hurt to walk.
I remember one morning in March 2019, I had called out sick from work again and my pain was so bad that I just started crying. For years, I was miserable, sad, and in pain all the time, and by the age of 26, I weighed 170 pounds. That’s when I realized something had to change.
[Discover how to run 10, 50, or even 100 pounds off with Run to Lose.]
My diet was actually causing more inflammation and, in turn, more pain. I came across the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and I abruptly stopped eating sugary, highly processed foods to see if it would help with my inflammation. I experienced withdrawal symptoms for a few weeks—severe headaches, fatigue, and high cravings for those foods that I stopped eating—within the first two weeks, my pain was about 60 percent gone. After a month of eating that way, I had lost 11 pounds and had gone completely off all of my medication.
Because of that success, I now focus mostly on eating fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, healthy fats, and meats. When I want something sweet, I will either make a fruit and veggie smoothie or bake something with minimal ingredients.
Once I changed my diet, I also knew I needed to start incorporating some exercise. I used to run in high school, so I decided to start again.
I remember my first run vividly. It was the end of April 2019, and I ran .8 miles. My lungs were on fire, and my legs felt like they were going to give out on me—but afterward, I felt so empowered and good about myself that I decided to keep going.
Slowly, I was able to work my way up to running five to six times a week, ranging from five to 13 miles. I was running between 30 to 40 miles a week consistently. I was not using any training plans, but I tracked my runs and stats by using the Runkeeper app.
By September, I signed up for a half marathon. I had fallen in love with running again, and being surrounded by people cheering me on was an amazing atmosphere.
My husband and I are avid hikers, but when I was sick, I couldn’t attempt anything strenuous. When I started running, I started thinking bigger for my hikes as well, and in June 2019, we summited Mt. St Helens, which I trained for through running.
Within eight months, I had lost 45 pounds. I still work hard to maintain my weight, but it’s much easier now that I’ve transformed my life.
I’ve completed my longest run (18 miles), longest hike (23 miles), and toughest hike (5,000 feet of elevation over 4.5 miles). It is very celebratory for me knowing that I am still battling rheumatoid arthritis, and that I am able to go out and do all these amazing things I never thought was possible for me.
I can say with confidence I am the healthiest I have ever been, inside and out. Knowing that I am no longer taking the severe immune-suppressing medications brings me so much relief. I have learned to listen to my body and respond to it. Some days I still hurt quite a bit, and I have to know when to take it easy or have a rest day. but my relationship with rheumatoid arthritis is nowhere as bad as it was when I was on medication and not paying attention to what I ate.
It’s worth all the hard work, sweat, and tears. That’s true for anyone who wants to go on a similar journey. Keep at it, even when it doesn’t seem like you are making progress—because you are. Keep going, even if that just means a one-mile jog instead of the planned five. Things happen, injuries happen, but it’s important to do what little you can to keep going. Don’t give up!
Recently, I have cut back on my running. I am currently running two to three shorter runs a week and have started focusing more on strength training and doing at-home workouts. I remember when I ran my 18 miles I thought, Only eight more miles to reach a full marathon, I would love to get there!
That has been my goal ever since. Who would’ve thought when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis that I’d be able to think that?
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