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After bariatric surgery, returned to active roots

Jan Monroe, 64 Pounds lost: 161

Jan Monroe was outdoorsy as a young woman, and the activities she enjoyed – skiing, biking, tennis – helped keep her thin.

The weight came on slowly, with the births of her four daughters over the course of 20 years; with her change in priorities from fitness to her relationships in church and with God; after two knee replacements 10 years apart, her extra weight compounding the effects of old ski injuries and normal wear and tear.

She could walk only short distances, and she developed sleep apnea. She avoided concerts and sporting events, because she worried she wouldn’t fit in the seats.

“The whole thing snowballed until my whole life became very sedentary,” she said.

After many unsuccessful diets, the 5-foot-8 Monroe weighed 366 pounds when she first met her bariatric surgeon.

In February 2012, at age 63, she underwent a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, in which a surgeon creates an egg-size pouch using part of the stomach and connects it directly to the middle part of the small intestine.

She’s shed 161 pounds. But the surgery and her preparation for it – she had to lose more than 10 percent of her weight presurgery and meet with a dietitian and a mental health professional – represented only the first steps. Along with adhering to strict rules for what she can eat and drink, Monroe said a commitment to exercise has helped her knock off the pounds.

“Some people think (surgery) is the easy way out,” Monroe said. “It is not.”

Although the South Hill’s Fitness Together is a 30-minute drive from her Ponderosa-area home, Monroe chose it because it allowed her to work with a trainer in a private room, bypassing the embarrassment of working out in front of others.

Building up from five-minute sessions on a recumbent bike, she works out at the center three times a week, starting with 40-minute cardio workouts before spending 45 minutes lifting weights under her trainer’s guidance.

Monroe has relied on her “church family” and her own family for support.

Last summer Monroe’s youngest granddaughter, now 3, got a life-threatening blood infection, spending two months in the hospital. Monroe took care of the girl’s three brothers during the family’s ordeal and relieved her daughter at the hospital weekly. Through it all, she said, her family made sure she got to her fitness center as often as possible.

In December, Monroe, a former ski instructor, rented a pair of skis and bought a ticket for an area bunny hill, which she regretted after three runs: It was clear she could have handled a bigger run, which she did the following weekend. Now she has new skis and a pass for next season. Monroe wants to lose another 30 pounds or so. But she recently got back on a bike, and she flexes her biceps to impress her eight grandchildren.

“I’ve never been in as good physical condition as I am now,” she said.

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