Annabelle Jimenez's knees ached constantly. Her back, too.
She knew why. Having long struggled to control the quality and quantity of her diet, her weight had ballooned to 380 pounds.
"I couldn't walk a block without feeling extremely tired and in pain," she said.
Jimenez grappled with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal condition that increased her risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and high blood pressure. For years, doctors had urged her to lower her cholesterol level. But because they hadn't put her on medication, she didn't take it seriously enough.
Time to make some major changes
Then she endured a series of wake-up calls, all in a short span.
Her doctor said she was prediabetic. Her son's father had just survived a cardiac arrest and a triple bypass operation. The fact he was diabetic, and thus at higher risk for heart problems, made an impact, too. And she knew her family history of heart disease was another major risk factor.
She added it all up and came to a conclusion: At 34, it was time to make some major changes. If not for herself, then at least for her son, Jaylin, who was 9.
Mindset is important
In August 2015, after more than a decade of considering gastric bypass surgery, Jimenez underwent the procedure.
Through diet and exercise, she's cut her weight nearly in half, and inspired her son, husband and mother to get healthier. Jimenez became so devoted to fitness that she's been certified as a personal trainer. In March, her efforts were recognised with the Go Red For Women New York Lifestyle Change Award.
"I am stronger than I thought I was and I don't want to go back to where I was," she said. "Mindset is important, and you have to believe you can do it."
After the surgery, Jimenez welcomed exercise into her new lifestyle.
The first year, she sweated to videos at home. In August 2016, she began working with a trainer at a gym.
'Success can be achieved'
The bigger adjustment involved her diet.
For many years, she was a single mom who worked full-time, and she fell into the habit of skipping meals during the day, then gorging on fast food or low-quality snacks from convenience stores. That continued even after getting married in 2012.
Since the gastric bypass surgery, she's more methodical in her meal planning. She now maps out each meal and snacks for an entire week. She's eliminated fatty and high-sugar foods, and swapped sweetened beverages for seltzer water.
Jimenez lost 100 pounds the first year, then 80 the next year.
"I feel happier than I have ever been," Jimenez said. "There is so much enjoyment when you are able to reach your goals. I honestly believe that once someone is serious about changing their life and take on the challenge of enduring a difficult road, success can be achieved."
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