How New Year's Day Saved My Life

There’s something powerful that happens on New Year’s Day. We feel a turning of a page, an opportunity to do something new or something better. There’s so much hope and promise on New Year’s Day. On January 1, 2014, my daughter felt an urge to take advantage of this new page and clean my office. As a freelance designer, the holidays are especially busy—and my office perfectly reflected that with remnants from finished projects strewn everywhere. With the hope and promise of the New Year, we started organizing and it quickly became a challenge.

I was over 425 pounds and everyday tasks were becoming extremely difficult. Getting in and out of my car was becoming harder and harder, and I had to stop halfway up a flight of stairs to catch my breath so I could make it to the top. I was only 41 years old.

Back to the office: it took a while but we finished and it looked beautiful. I had a futon in the corner, and while my daughter used my phone to snap some pictures to send to my mom, I laid down to rest. I didn’t see the pictures until my mom sent her response congratulating us on our hard work. Before responding, I scrolled through the pictures and was devastated by what I saw. There I was on the futon; I barely fit. The picture looked like everything I always tried to hide in photos: how tired I was, how big I was and how unhappy I looked. I was embarrassed, and it was only sent to my mother.

At that moment, I knew I had to make a real change. A few months earlier I had done a diet program that promised a loss of up to 100 pounds in six months. Six months came and went, and I had only lost 75 pounds. Feeling upset, I quit the program—finding no happiness in the weight I did lose, focusing only on the failure of not reaching the goal. By the time January rolled around, I had gained every ounce of that loss back, and then some.

Now that the futon picture was in my life, I couldn’t escape it. I had heard countless stories of weight loss surgery, reports of either incredible success or miserable failure. I kept researching and found a program I was interested in, but I was too afraid to make the call.

Then the tables turned on Valentine’s Day. My husband—who is not an early riser—always gets up early on Valentine’s Day to leave a card on my pillow for when I wake up. This time, my joy at receiving my card was met with anxiety. I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I wanted to love myself the way he loves me, but why couldn’t I? I decided to call the program and set the wheels in motion that would soon change my life.

One of the most common misconceptions about weight loss surgery is that it’s an easy process requiring no effort. I’ve actually had people tell me I should have worked for my weight loss results. The truth is, undergoing weight loss surgery takes an incredible amount of work, discipline and dedication. From proper meal planning and portioning to hydration and vitamin needs, it can (and will) be a challenge until you find your groove.

After my new routine was in place, I knew I had to start moving my body. I started walking immediately after surgery, and soon my walks grew from steps to miles. I started feeling better and my weight was melting. My brother, a personal trainer, used MINDBODY in his business and encouraged me to download the app to check out fitness opportunities. That one app download, which I did partially as a favor for my brother, truly transformed my fitness.

By April 2015, I had lost my first 100 pounds and was walking a lot—but I was looking for something different. So I opened the MINDBODY app and found Anti-Gravity Yoga. The next class started in 90 minutes and I was an hour away, so I booked the class and took off! I loved the challenge of the class, but I also loved how much my body was able to accomplish. Feeling inspired, I started looking up more classes and found new and exciting things I never dreamed my body could do.

Then I decided to embark on the ultimate challenge. I have always been fascinated by the mental and physical endurance required to run a marathon. I decided I was no longer going to dream about it, but DO IT. In February 2016, I signed up for the NYC Marathon, running for Fred’s Team for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Training for a marathon takes serious effort and dedication, and if you’re unprepared it can be catastrophic. Getting the right balance of hydration and nutrition as a bariatric patient also posed some challenges, but on November 6, 2016, I crossed the finish line at the NYC Marathon and scratched an item off my bucket list—weighing 250 pounds less than I did on New Year’s 2014.

Losing weight is as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one. I decided to be very open about my weight as I went through this process, and by doing so, discovered many people have the same story. After years of gaining and losing weight, years of shame and guilt from it and years of behavior patterns that seemed impossible to change. I decided to start my YouTube channel, Navigating Weight Loss, to share my story and hear from those people who know intimately what it feels like to be trapped in your body with seemingly no way to get out. It can be done, and I’m living proof.