By the time Alecia Patranella’s weight reached almost 300 pounds, everyday activities left her winded and in pain.
A visit to the dentist meant extra anxiety because it required climbing a flight of stairs. Her knees and back hurt. She felt depressed.
Her husband, Jason, also struggled with his own obesity and felt constantly exhausted. Just tying his shoes left him out of breath as his weight reached 245 pounds.
The couple, both 44, say they tried many diets and spent thousands of dollars on personal trainers and fitness classes, but nothing worked in the long term.
The breaking point came in 2022 when they went to an Astros baseball game in Houston, Texas — one of their favorite places to be. Alecia Patranella headed to the bathroom and found she had a hard time getting into the stall.
“It was humiliating and it really broke me,” she tells TODAY.com.
“When I walked out of there, I just knew I could not keep doing what I was doing. Something had to change.”
She started researching weight-loss surgery on the way home to Huntsville, Texas, and soon told her husband her mind was made up. He surprised her by signing up for the surgery himself.
“I knew we needed something. We needed a swift kick in the behind, I guess you could say,” Jason Patranella tells TODAY.com.
A year after they both underwent a sleeve gastrectomy performed by a bariatric surgeon at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center in Texas, the couple has lost 190 pounds together.
In November, Alecia Patranella celebrated that she weighs less than her husband for the first time in 17 years.
Here’s what they want others to know about their weight-loss journey, why surgery is not “an easy way out” and how their mindset about food has completely changed:
When the Patranellas got married in 2005, she went undiagnosed with an underactive thyroid and PCOS for about a year, leading her to gain about 50 pounds. She also dealt with depression and infertility before she became pregnant with the couple’s son, now 11.
The pregnancy was difficult and she had gestational diabetes, so Jason Patranella says he became a sympathy eater, indulging in foods she couldn’t eat and he normally didn’t like, such as cakes or pies.
“While she was pregnant, I probably ate a whole pecan pie every week,” he recalls.
It set off a years-long roller coaster of weight gain and unsuccessful weight loss for the couple. They made unhealthy food choices, eating fast food, drinking sugary soda and rarely cooking at home.
Alecia Patranella says she was an emotional eater, bingeing on chips or cookies when she’d get down on herself. By the time she found it difficult to fit into the bathroom stall at that baseball game, she weighed 294 pounds on a 5-foot-7-inch frame.
“It was very, very, very dark times,” she says.
Jason Patranella, who is an inch taller, had a lower BMI at 245 pounds, but had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and prediabetes. His triglycerides and cholesterol were extremely high.
“The same as Alicia, I would get down on myself, we would feed off each other and just eat everything,” he says.
Alecia Patranella underwent her weight-loss surgery in September 2022. Since patients can’t lift a certain amount of weight after the procedure, Jason Patranella waited to get his surgery two months later so one of them could always lift their daughter, who was 3 at the time.
During a sleeve gastrectomy, surgeons remove about 80% of the stomach, reducing the amount of food people can eat, decreasing hunger and increasing fullness, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
A year later, she has lost almost 120 pounds and he’s lost about 70. They now both weigh about 175 pounds, though Alecia Patranella is excited that she now weighs slightly less than her husband for the first time since they got married.
Jason Patranella no longer has to take medications to lower his blood pressure and cholesterol.
“I never thought that I would feel this good again. I literally feel like I was in my 20s again where I had all the energy in the world,” he says.
“It completely changed our mindset on food,” she adds.
Their smaller stomachs forced them to prioritize food that fuels and nourishes their bodies. They focus on eating a high protein, low carb diet, and stay active by walking or running 3 miles most days of the week. They still go out to eat, but now get healthier options, like grilled chicken or salads, and split meals.
Alecia Patranella would like to lose 20 more pounds, but she’s invested in a scale that shows body fat so that she continues to see progress in her body composition even if her weight loss stalls. She’s been documenting her journey on Instagram.
The husband and wife say going through weight-loss surgery together made all the difference.
“I never could have done it without her. She has been my inspiration and driving force,” Jason Patranella says.
“It’s been a blessing because we’re both going through the same thing,” Alecia Patranella adds.
“We’re excited that we did this together and we’re doing it as a family because we’re hoping this sets our kids up for a healthy relationship with food and fitness and exercise.”
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