HER STORY Overweight since her teens, Katherine Jackson lost 35 pounds in her late teens but "put it all back on and them some when I had my son at 19."
She says it was a combination of a sweet tooth and portion size that was her downfall. "I could eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting and not even think about it," the married mother of four remembers.
She knew she had to do something, but the death of her best friend from complications related to bariatric surgery caused her to shy away from the help she felt she needed.
"It took me five years to realize I can't live life like this," Jackson says of finally deciding to have bariatric bypass surgery in 2012. "My kids love the new me," Jackson says. "And, my youngest, who is 8 and a little overweight, has been inspired by me. We walk the track when it is warm as a family outing."
She adds: "I knew I had to do something about my health because I had to be around for them and watch them grow and experience life."
DIET After a lifetime of junk food, sweets and out-of-control portions, Jackson had to learn a new way of eating.
"At first, you can only eat pureed food until your stomach heals," she says. "And you have to learn which foods your stomach will tolerate."
Jackson says the only thing she can't tolerate is rice. "Can you imagine a Puerto Rican who can't eat rice?" she says with a laugh.
Now, she starts the day with a breakfast of hard-boiled eggs for the protein. Lunch usually is a salad and dinner is a protein shake.
"It is all about making the right choices when I'm hungry," Jackson says.
EXERCISE She walks two to three miles at least a few times a week, does Zumba twice a week and rides her stationary bike for a half-hour three times a week.
ADVICE "I wish I'd been more proactive about my weight when I was younger," Jackson says. "I wish it hadn't gotten to this point. But, I'd do the surgery again in a heartbeat. My life is so much better now."
40, Central Islip
267 Weight before June 2012
153 Weight after March 2014