OneStepStories-MaureenOI had to make a change because I wanted to learn how to feel good about myself. I wanted to live.

For the past five years, I have been in and out of gym memberships and on and off diets. I would drop 50 pounds just to gain it right back when I quit a program. I hid my low self-esteem behind my outgoing personality, finding food to be a way of coping with events happening in my life.

In December 2013, I took a vacation with my family in St. Thomas. I felt too self-conscious about my weight to join them  parasailing, and I knew right then that I needed to make a change… I was missing out on life, on memories, on being me and finding out who I could become. I had been researching weight loss surgery, so upon returning to Michigan, I made several appointments with bariatric centers throughout the state and had my first consultation for weight loss surgery that January. Whirlpool had just started offering bariatric surgery as part of our insurance. However, they had stricter pre-approval requirements than other insurances. In order to be approved, I was required to try and lose weight on my own for one year (most only require 3-6 months of attempted weight loss) with documentation by a physician, complete a psych exam, and a sleep test. With support from my family, closest friends, co-workers, I embarked on my journey. I committed to going to the gym, to eating healthy and to finding myself through this transformation. I even started a blog to document my experience which, in turn, helped me gain even more support and confidence. I had so many people reach out to tell me that reading my story was helping them and I had no idea I could have that impact. By the end of the year, I had lost 70 pounds and dropped my BMI by 9 points! On January 12, 2015, I had Gastric Sleeve Surgery at the DMC Bariatric Center in Detroit, which changed my life forever.

The changes in my life have been just as  mental as they have been physical. The way you feel about yourself doesn’t just change because you drop jean sizes. You have to work mentally on learning how to love yourself no matter your weight. I have lost 143 pounds to date and continue to set goals. I’ve decreased my 5K walk time by over six minutes and I hope to run my first full race this year. I’ve gotten stronger both mentally and physically and no longer have to hide my insecurities behind my outgoing personality. While I still sometimes struggle mentally and physically with all the changes that have happened this past year, I can honestly say my life is so much better than the day I was sitting on that beach afraid to parasail. Whirlpool played a huge part in this because if they had not introduced bariatric surgery as part of our insurance plan, I would not be half the person I am today… literally.

Don’t be afraid to start. That is the hardest decision. Don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed. Don’t be afraid, period.

Maureen Ovington, Benton Harbor, MI

March 10, 2016