How I Overcame the Worst Tragedy Imaginable, and Lost 150 Pounds

Jessica was faced with the unthinkable, and handled it in the most amazing way possible.

My entire life, I’ve been the chubby girl, the overweight girl, the shy girl. I never knew what it was like to shop anywhere but the plus-size section of a clothing store, and I had no idea that you could enjoy physical activity.

Through it all, there was food; always, everywhere—food. I remember us as a family gorging ourselves at family dinners. The meal wasn’t over until everyone at the table was miserable. That’s how I thought you were supposed to eat.

And I loved food! Food was my crutch in every way. I was happy, I ate. I was sad, I ate. I was bored, I ate. I didn’t realize then how big a role food played in my life, but it was probably my best friend in the world—and it never let me down.

But we had an unhealthy relationship, me and food. I was a yo-yo dieter with a total all-or-nothing mentality. I’d either starve myself and exercise incessantly, or binge at every meal and sit on my butt all day. I’d drop 50 pounds only to gain 60; moderation was a foreign concept.

The Love of My Life

Then in 2010, my world changed. I met the love of my life. His name was Paul, and he saved my life. He was everything I never knew I wanted. He supported me through nursing school, and we got married and built a wonderful life together. We had lots of friends and loved socializing, which usually involved food and alcohol. I was the picture of “fat and happy.”

But by 2014, things had gotten out of hand, health-wise. After packing on 116 pounds over the four years, my weight peaked at 341 pounds. I was constantly out of breath, and avoided any physical activity for fear of what I’d look like or not being able to do it at all.

My weight also meant that we missed out on a lot. Paul and I dreamed of traveling, but it didn’t happen. Sure, money played a role, but the bigger issue was the fact that I didn’t think I’d fit in an airplane seat. There were so many things I wanted to do— traveling, horseback riding, sky diving, running marathons, riding roller coasters—none of which I could, because I was just too heavy.

The Surgery

Eventually, I looked into gastric bypass surgery and found a phenomenal bariatric program that incorporated the use of a dietician, support groups, and an exercise regimen. I’d been skeptical of surgery, but this program surprised me. It was everything I needed.

So I started getting ready. I told my family and loved ones, and prepared myself mentally as well as physically. I needed to lose 10% of my weight before I would be eligible for the procedure, and did so with dietary changes and activity, getting down to 295 pounds.

In the months leading up to the surgery, Paul and I listed and sold our home and closed on our brand new dream home. I was slowly becoming healthier, and Paul had quit drinking. We both had solid, promising jobs, and Paul was even up for a promotion at work. Our future was so bright, and getting brighter.

The day of my surgery, November 12, 2014, was a Wednesday. Paul and I got up super early and drove to the hospital, and I remember thinking that I’d never seen him look so concerned; he was normally the happy-go-lucky type. But he was perfect, and so supportive.

The surgery went off as planned, and Paul was there with me at the hospital all day afterward. My doctor told me I needed to be walking and drinking before I could leave, and Paul was determined to make sure I got there. He was my advocate and drill sergeant, walking me around the hospital floor and telling me “Drink, drink, drink. Walk, walk, walk.”

My discharge was delayed until the afternoon of the next day, and my mom came to spend the night with me while Paul went home—he had work in the morning. Before he left for the evening, he hugged and kissed me and said, “I love you, baby. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“How Cruel Life Can Be”

The next morning, I couldn’t get a hold of Paul, and began calling around to find out if anyone had seen or heard from him. I remember having this nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach, and telling my mom that I knew something was wrong.

I soon learned that his goodbye hug the night before was the last time I would ever hold him. The very night of my surgery, my husband died. How cruel this life can be—Paul’s life ended right when my new life began.

And so, my real journey started. I became determined to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I could live my life to the fullest and do all of the things I missed out on before.

Finding a Path Forward

Several months before my weight loss surgery, I had found DietBet. After the surgery, and Paul’s death, I continued to use the games to keep moving forward. I loved the deadlines and accountability, and getting paid to lose weight seemed like a no-brainer. Early on, a DietBetter reached out to congratulate me for joining and encouraged me to keep going—the positive community and ongoing support has been so helpful.

I’ve lost so much weight now that I was able to have skin removal surgery. I’m now doing more weight training, and I can see definition in my arms. I’ve NEVER had muscle definition on my body, ever!

I’m so passionate about losing weight that I talk to everyone about it. Many people also come to me with their struggles, and I enjoy helping them find ways to overcome them. Surprisingly for me, a lot of people wanted to hear my story, so I even started a blog. If you’d told me at any prior point in my life that I’d be the one excited about fitness and health and that others would look up to me and my health achievements, I would have laughed and called you insane!

The Rebirth

Since Paul’s death, I’ve passed so many milestones and done so many of the things we talked about doing together. I have:

● Traveled without requiring a seatbelt extender.

● Traveled alone.

● Gone horseback riding. 

● Gone indoor skydiving and tandem skydiving.

● Rode on roller coasters.

● Dressed up for Halloween.

● Taken a ride in a helicopter.

● Attended my first adult pool party, and wore a swimsuit.

● Shopped in the regular section of the store.

● Completed a 5K.

● Gotten a pixie haircut.

● Donated blood (my vital signs had previously always been too high).

● Weighed LESS than the stated weight on my driver’s license.

● Gotten within nine pounds of “average” weight on the BMI scale.

● Reached ONEderland.

● Lost more pounds than I currently weigh.

I was also able to climb the steps up to Mt. Rushmore and spread some of Paul’s ashes, bringing him to his 50th state, the only one he hadn’t been to.

Along with these feats is the day-to-day stuff: I take the stairs and am not winded. I don’t have to worry about stores having my size. I don’t have to avoid the armed chairs in waiting rooms. My hips don’t crowd the person sitting next to me on the shuttle to work. My bath towel wraps around my body easily.

I thought I was happy before, but now I’m happy in a different way. I always felt like I was held hostage by my weight, and while I still struggle with my body image, I’m not a hostage anymore.

I know there are a lot of skeptics of bariatric surgery out there. There’s this stereotype that it’s easy. It’s not; it’s a tool. You still have to do the work. I’ve had to completely change my habits and my relationship with food and exercise.

It’s been difficult, but I chose to put myself first. I hated that my weight held me back, and so I changed it. I took the death of my husband as an opportunity to live my life to the fullest, just as he had all of his life.

I want to tell everyone out there who is struggling with their weight: you CAN do this. You deserve to be healthy. And it all starts with just one change. I won’t say it’s easy, but I will say that it’s worth it.

Follow along with Jessica's incredible journey on her blog, Transformation Through Loss.

Individual results may vary from Success Stories.

Make it WayBetter

Life is precious and short. Remember to make each day count, and to hug those you love!