What she does recall is that as the number on her scale continued to climb, eventually reaching 285 pounds, she was depressed, uncomfortable, and unable to be part of her children's lives in the way she wanted to.
"I couldn't make it to my son's football games. I couldn't go watch my daughter cheer," recalls Valerie. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, struggled for years to get her cholesterol in check, and needed to use a CPAP machine due to severe obstructive sleep apnea. "Sitting on the bleachers was so uncomfortable and painful, so I just stopped going."
In 2016, Valerie’s mother, who had also struggled with her weight for most of her life, made a big decision; she underwent bariatric surgery at Saint Agnes Hospital. As her mom began losing weight, Valerie realized she also was ready to make some serious changes that could improve her life for the better.
"As my mom got smaller, I got jealous at first, and then I got motivated," Valerie said. "I decided to tag along with her to a bariatric support group meeting at Saint Agnes, and once I was there and heard so many stories of success from people who are a lot like me, I knew it was the right decision."
Valerie underwent surgery on March 21, 2017, opting for the same procedure her mother had a year prior, the sleeve gastrectomy, based on her overall health and weight loss goals. She committed herself fully to the program, and sure enough, the weight that had slowed her down for so long, began coming off. She’s cleared her closet of all of the size 20-22 clothing that once fit her well. Today, Valerie wears a size 2, and sometimes shares clothing with her 13-year-old daughter.
"For a long time, I turned to food to cope with the hard things that happened in my life," says Valerie. "Now I make decisions about food to be healthy and the best version of myself I can possibly be."
For example, the "old Valerie" wouldn’t have thought twice about having two or three helpings of fettucine alfredo for dinner. The "new Valerie" chooses grilled chicken with a side of veggies, always reminding herself to be mindful of portions, eat slowly, and listen to her body when she is feeling full.
"It's funny to run into people I haven't seen for a while, and they don't recognize me,"said Valerie, who no longer requires treatment for diabetes, high cholesterol, or sleep apnea. "And it's pretty amazing when your kids tell you that you look pretty. Those are the moments that really remind me of how far I've come."