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Transformation Stories: Michael and Deborah

Dec 08, 2020

It's a fact. Couples who work to lose weight together are more likely to be successful—some studies suggest the success rate for couples is nearly three times higher.

Michael and Deborah Tew, Nicholson Clinic Patient Fitness Ambassadors, are just one story of many Nicholson Clinic patient couples who have made the decision to undergo weight loss surgery together. Now, just over a year later — and down over 250 pounds together — they're not only motivating each other, but they've invested their energy into motivating others to stay active and lose weight.

This is their story.

For both Michael and Deborah, weight has been a lifelong struggle. As a teenager, Michael and his mother joined a weight loss group at their church. "I've always been aware that I had a weight problem," he said. "The kids at school made me especially aware, but I've never truly figured out how to get control of it. So my weight has always had control over me."

Although he had tried to lose weight in the past, Michael never really believed success was possible. "Looking back at my life, I've never done anything to help control my weight that proved to myself that I could actually do anything different," Michael said. "That I could actually be successful at it. That I could actually achieve what I had always dreamed of achieving."

Michael and Deborah were both surrounded by family members who were overweight or obese. They had a front-row seat to the toll obesity could have on a person's health and started to experience those effects themselves. "I could see how some family members struggled later in life, mainly due to weight issues that were never resolved," said Michael. "I could see myself starting to have the same issues but much earlier than they did. That scared me. So, I went looking for "radical." What could I do to radically change my health?

Deborah watched as obesity-related health concerns claimed both her parents' lives. She knew she was headed down the same path, but lacked the tools to successfully lose weight and keep it off. "Before surgery, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was destined to follow in the footsteps of my parents and most of my family who have all struggled with being overweight and diabetic," she said. "I lost my mother when she was only 56 to a massive stroke and my father passed away in early 2020 at the age of 67 due to congestive heart failure and other complications. I was pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure and had lost all motivation. I would try a diet plan and might lose 20 pounds or so, but would always gain it back and usually then some. I was miserable and felt hopeless."
before weight loss surgery
Together, Michael and Deborah began considering the "what ifs" of weight loss surgery. "I knew people who had weight loss surgery, some had been successful in keeping the weight off, some had not. I didn't want to have surgery, just to gain it all back. I felt like if I had surgery, surely I wouldn't be successful,” said Michael.

But after processing his fears with Deborah and his doctors, Michael knew that bariatric surgery was an opportunity he couldn't afford to miss. "What if the weight loss tool that I needed was within reach, but I never reached for it? What a tragic loss that would be."

Michael and Deborah both admit that they had enabled each other's bad eating habits. "We would always justify eating a treat because we wanted to celebrate something or we felt like we'd been doing good or some other excuse we made up," he said. "There were a lot of behaviors that had been modeled to us over so many years that we had to overcome."

They were both beginning to suffer the physical, mental and emotional toll of obesity. "Before surgery I would get so tired when walking for an extended period of time and my back or knees would usually ache the next day," said Deborah.

Fed up, it was time to take the next step. "Life was really hard and I knew that it didn't have to stay that way," Michael said. So together, they made the decision to do something about it and began the process with the Nicholson Clinic.
before weight loss surgery
"Deborah and I started talking about bariatric surgery and we came to the conclusion that we were scared of all the 'what ifs' that came with surgery, but we were more scared of what if we didn't do anything at all."

Michael and Deborah were scheduled for surgery with Dr. Long on the same day. "We arrived at Baylor Plano knowing that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing," Michael said. "That didn't take away all the fears, but allowed us to feel confident with our decision."

Now, 15 months post-op and each losing more than 100 pounds so far, Michael and Deborah are well on their way to their individual goal weight. While they recognize the journey hasn't been a walk in the park, and wasn’t meant to be, they are grateful for the tool that has helped them make real, sustainable changes and see results.

"Since surgery I can honestly say I feel amazing and am healthier than I have ever been in my whole life," Deborah said. "When I started seeing significant weight loss, I not only physically started feeling better, but I mentally began to change and started seeing exercise as an investment in my health rather than a chore. Now I am no longer pre-diabetic and am no longer on blood pressure medication. I've lost nearly 100 lbs and while I still have more to lose I no longer feel like a healthy weight is unattainable. For this first time in my life I feel like I have the tools and support I need to lose the weight and live the rest of my life in a healthy way."
after weight loss surgery
Increasing their physical activity has been key for both Michael and Deborah. But it hasn't been easy. Finding motivation to stay active has been a process. One day, Michael's cousin invited him to a Facebook fitness group where individuals of all fitness levels encourage and motivate each other to keep making progress. And to sweeten the deal, every member of the group makes a small contribution to a pot that is distributed to group members at the end of the month.

"At first it seemed a little cumbersome and scammy," said Michael. But, "it worked. It was my niche. I loved the community of having all the fitness-minded people cheering each other on every day, plus winning the money was enticing and exciting!"

It was an experience they wanted to share with others and in July 2020, Michael and Deborah launched a "Monthly Fitness Journey Challenge" group on Facebook. Starting with just 37 members, the group has grown to more than 100 members from more than 15 states, and even one member in Europe! The group is open to anyone and Michael and Deborah encourage other Nicholson Clinic patients to join.

Here's how it works:

  • Pays $10 to be part of the private Facebook group. (All of that money is distributed at the end of the month.)

  • Do a 20+ minute workout of your choice daily.

  • Post a sweaty selfie and a screenshot from a fitness tracker app showing your workout.

  • That post counts as an entry toward winning the pot of money collected each month.

"For me, this group forces me to be intentional, it keeps me focused on what I’m doing and makes me keep a plan together," said Michael. "That works for me. It's important to find what works for you...Find something that makes you excited. If you're excited about it, you'll be more consistent and consistency will help you achieve your goals."
weight loss challenge

Going forward, Michael has set another goal for himself, something he never dreamed of doing. He has signed up to run the BMW Dallas Half Marathon. "I've thought about it for several months, wondering if it'd be possible," he said. "Exhilarated and scared all at the same time. I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I know I have the tools in my toolbelt to help me get there."

We look forward to cheering him on and seeing him achieve this goal!

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