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Jan 17, 2012

A More Meaningful Life: After 30 Years, Debbie Neeson Overcomes Agoraphobia, Obesity

Debbie Neeson doesn't remember exactly when or why it happened, but sometime during her late twenties and early thirties she began what would become a 30-year struggle with agoraphobia. For Debbie, the anxiety disorder that causes its sufferers to avoid situations where they fear they may be overcome by panic or helplessness affected every aspect of her life.

Grocery shopping had to be done seemingly by the timing of a stopwatch. If Debbie couldn't have the parking space closest to the supermarket's doors (in order to leave the store as quickly as possible), then she'd have to send her kids in to do the shopping. Just driving to the store required a herculean effort in itself, as Debbie feared something may happen on the drive; and, traveling by plane was out of the question. A night out at the movies was impossible to enjoy with Debbie sitting in the back row of the theater with car keys in hand ready to run. When her husband Mark, a Navy Reservist, would come home from sea, Debbie would purposely arrive late to pick him up just to avoid having to go inside the airport.

It wasn't just the mundane, everyday events either. Agoraphobia left its imprint on some of the most important occasions in the Neeson family's life. At a high school graduation, Debbie sat on the lawn on a hill next to the stadium's bleachers until her daughter's name was called. Then, she ran in to get a closer look before heading back to the lawn where she was closer to the exit and the car. At another daughter's graduation, she parked in a disabled parking spot and waited there until it was time to watch her child receive her diploma.

Throughout this agonizing, decades-long battle, Debbie navigated her way through a life that hurled commonplace challenges her way as well, including divorce and single motherhood before marrying Mark. Mark's job demanded that he spend two months at a time away from home working on oil tankers at sea; and, it kept him away on Navy Reserve assignments when not at sea, leaving Debbie to take sole care of their three girls.

It wasn't until two years ago through counseling that Debbie conquered her fear of taking medication to control her agoraphobia and restore some amount of normalcy to her life. But by then, the damage to her physical health had been done: high anxiety led to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which in turn led to depression and a harmful relationship with food. All this inevitably resulted in demoralizing and destructive weight gain. At the age of 60, Debbie was more than 100 pounds overweight.

"Food was always a comfort, and I loved food," Debbie says. "I always told myself I didn't care about my weight and would just tune out when conversations turned to weight loss and diets. But, in reality, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself."

The Courage to Begin
When Debbie's daughter, Ashley, introduced MonaVie to her parents, Debbie says something just "clicked." She and Mark enrolled as distributors on the spot, which is completely out of character for Debbie who is the kind of person who thoroughly investigates a situation before making any commitment. When the benefits of consuming MonaVie Pulse and MonaVie Active started to become apparent, she knew that her initial instincts were right.

Her moment of truth, both in MonaVie and in her life at that point, came when the company launched the MonaVie RVL Premier Weight Solution. Although Debbie hadn't been happy with her body for years, she wasn't so sure she had the courage or dedication to begin the process of revealing her best self just yet.

"My daughters, who were both overweight, were very excited," she recalls. "I wasn't. I didn't think I was ready to start a diet or weight-loss program. But, I knew that if I was going to be serious about doing the MonaVie business, I had to do it."

Tentatively, Debbie tested the RVL waters along with her husband and their daughters, who provided the support she needed to persist. She came to find out that the program had none of the features that she dreaded. There was no counting calories or keeping track of points. No pre-planning or preparing meals in advance. As Debbie puts it, "it was just so easy!"

A New Life. A New Routine. A New Debbie.
"I walk on the treadmill every day," Debbie says. "The treadmill is in our garage with a big-screen TV, so I can walk and watch. If I don't walk in the morning, I do it at lunch or in the evening—whenever I can work it in; but, I do it every day."

The words seem like they're coming out of another person's mouth. After years of relative immobility, Debbie can't believe how much she now loves to exercise. But, taking that first step on the treadmill took just as much courage as it did to make the decision to begin the RVL program in the first place.

"I started out walking at a snail's pace and only for 10 to 15 minutes," Debbie explains. "I was scared when starting out because of the phobia and panic attacks I had before. Gradually, I have built up to being able to walk for an hour every day at 4.4 miles per hour on a 6.0 incline."

And, of course, her diet has done a 180-degree turn for the better on the RVL program as outlined below. In addition, Debbie replaced her old stock of snacks. The candy bars and baked goods have given way to a perpetual supply of sliced bell peppers and raw broccoli in the fridge. Debbie noticed that she likes to snack when she's bored, and these tasty vegetables provide for much healthier mid-afternoon bites. Debbie also drinks half her body weight in ounces of water each day, as she finds that this really helps melt away the pounds. And, just exactly how many pounds has Debbie shed?

"I have lost 90 pounds on RVL and want to lose about 10 to 15 more," she says. "I never thought I could look like this or feel as good as I do now. I'm healthy!"

Debbie's Daily RVL Routine
7:30 a.m.
Get granddaughters ready for preschool

8:30 a.m.
RVL Shake

9 a.m.
Go to work, run errands, do housework

11 a.m.
RVL Snack Bar
2 RVL Dietary Supplements

1:30 p.m.
RVL Shake

4 p.m.
RVL Snack Bar
2 RVL Dietary Supplements

6:30–7 p.m.
Healthy meal

Set Me Free
For the first time in a long time, Debbie feels good. Transforming her body has changed her life in ways she never foresaw. She now enjoys playing with and chasing her two- and four-year-old granddaughters for longer stretches of time. On walks with her husband, Mark sometimes has to ask Debbie to slow down. Even the seemingly small things like no longer shopping for clothes in plus-size stores have boosted her self-esteem and self-confidence to previously unknown heights. With her new body, Debbie has ended the chapter of obesity in her past and begun to rewrite her future. She looks forward to traveling to places she's never been and helping others overcome their fears, reach their goals, and get healthy. It is her dream to help everyone feel as great as she does. That's one of the reasons why she decided to share her story now.

"I have always felt that by sharing our stories, struggles, and experiences, we can help each other with our challenges," Debbie says. "My weight loss has made me feel so good about myself; it has set me free."

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