"It was the best thing I've ever done for myself"
At 269 pounds, Tammy Torres just didn't feel well.
"I had acid reflux and sleep apnea," she relates. "I took Nexium® and wore a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to sleep since I stopped breathing 60 times a night."
What's more, the Methuen resident says, she could barely walk. "I had bone spurs and plantar fasciitis, so my feet and calves killed me," she says. "And I'm a waitress and was working like that!"
At the end of a shift, she was spent. "It was difficult... I couldn't play with my grandchildren, go anywhere or do anything. It was hard to just get out of bed in the morning."
Her doctor asked her if she'd consider bariatric surgery.
"That started the ball rolling," Torres says. He recommended that she check out the Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery at Lowell General.
She did. And on May 11, 2009, the then-51-year-old underwent gastric bypass surgery.
"It was the best thing I've ever done for myself," she says today. "It's opened up a whole new world for me."
Torres not only lost 130 pounds, but her health problems completely resolved.
"I have no sleep apnea and no acid reflux," she says. "I also was on the verge of being diabetic – my mother was – and that risk has gone away.
"But the best result is that now I get up in the morning and want to get on with my day," she continues. "I'm thankful I can go to work. And my husband, kids and grand kids are proud of me."
Now, Torres not only works on her feet all day, but also walks regularly for exercise to maintain her weight loss.
"My husband and I will do seven miles – two miles to the park, three miles around and two miles home," she says. "And we walk 15 miles along the Charles River."
She's also enjoying active outings with her grandchildren, ages 13, 7 and 3 months.
"We went to Six Flags three times so far this year," Torres says.
The self-described sugar addict also has changed the way she eats.
"I haven't had a real candy bar in four years," she says. "I'll occasionally have sugar-free chocolate to help with cravings. And I found a sugar-free bakery so if I go to a birthday party or other celebration, I'll bring a piece of cake for myself."
In addition, her son – a chef at the well-known Blue Ginger restaurant – is teaching her to make meals that are both flavorful and healthy.
After losing nearly half her body weight, Torres says people look at her differently.
"I make more money in tips at my job," she says. "I might be a little quicker on my feet, but I'm the same person inside. But people wouldn't look me in the eye before, and now they do."
And a former co-worker didn't even recognize her.
"Someone I used to work with six years ago asked me if I remembered me!" she says. "I look like a completely different person; she was shocked! I've also said hello to people and they didn't know who I was!"
Torres admits that losing the weight hasn't always been easy.
"Some people have said that I took the easy way out by having surgery," she says, "but it was the hardest thing I ever did. It really requires a lifetime commitment to not put the weight back on, and some days I really struggle.
"But my grandchildren keep me motivated," she adds. "I want to be here when they grow up."