This is the essay I submitted to Quick & Simple Magazine that won me the beautiful sapphire-and-diamond bracelet you see here:
"I'm less than half the woman I used to be, yet in so many ways, I'm twice the woman, wife, friend and employee I ever was.
"I've lost close to 190 pounds in the last 18 months with the help of gastric-bypass surgery. Though many consider it to be a coward's method of weight loss, I've never worked so hard in my life. Surgery has required me to focus on myself and my health for the first time in my life.
"I used to consider exercise a luxury I couldn't afford and used that excuse to remain sedentary. I convinced myself that my job was too demanding to allow for planning and cooking my meals, and I often ate fast food daily. I spent many years hiding behind my job, saying that if only it were less stressful, I would have the time needed to lose weight. Then I was diagnosed with obesity-related infertility after a year of trying to conceive. My weight problem was no longer something I could put off to deal with later when life was less hectic.
"It was then that I realized something had to change. I knew bariatric surgery would force me to rethink my priorities. Rerouting one's innards leads to an altered perspective. Suddenly, exercise was a necessity instead of a luxury. Planning my meals was as important as breathing, because protein deficiency would lead to serious complications. Rest became something upon which I depended. Before surgery, I would sleep two to four hours a night, figuring the time most people spent in bed was better spent at the office or trying to catch up around the house.
"Surprisingly, focusing on me and my needs didn't make me lazy or put my job in jeopardy (my biggest fear). These changes have made me more productive. It's amazing how much you can accomplish in a standard day when you're operating on eight hours of sleep and are appropriately nourished and hydrated. I've gone from working 18-hour days to 10-hour days, and my husband loves the fact that he finally has a wife who comes home at night and has energy left over to devote to him. And most importantly, my weight loss and change in perspective have prepared me for the challenges of motherhood -- something I hope to experience in the near future.