By Liana Jacob
MEET the stunning mum-of-four whose myriad of health-related issues spurred her to undergo weight loss surgery having lost over four-and-a-half-stone in over a year and now being told she looks the same age as her teenage daughters.
CEO, Monica Alvarez-Mitchell (42), from New York, USA, who has four children ranging from 11 to 19, was born with exostosis, a benign outgrowth of cartilaginous tissue on her right knee and ankle bones. While it wasn’t a health risk, it would lead to arthritic issues and was told that her weight would make the pain worse.
Following the birth of her first child when she was 22 years old, she started to develop sciatica, irritable sciatic nerve which runs from the hips to feet. This caused pains in her lower back, and gained 3st 8Ibs, then became pregnant just six months after she gave birth to her first child.
Six years later she had two more children and proceeded to gain more weight over the next few years with a peak weight of 16st 6Ibs and UK size 26. When she turned 40 and already having many health issues, she struggled to enjoy her night out. She made the brave decision to have the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, where a large part of the stomach is removed to reduce its size and the person’s appetite.
She is now happy with her 11st 9Ibs and UK size 10 to 12 body and is now flattered with comments that she looks younger.
“I had the occasional insecurities when I was at work events and on some projects as I work with models and celebrities,” Monica said.
“But it was to be expected. I was a big girl. I was not traditionally skinny and beautiful. I did have a unique style of my own and felt good about how I worked with what I had.
“I was actually born with exostosis, which lead to arthritic issues long term. I was then told that weight issues would exacerbate the issues.
“I also started to get sciatica after my first child and have had it since. I had lower back pains, t-band issues and soreness, which was a more constant thing post baby.
“When I was thirty-five years old, my health started to deteriorate; I became diabetic, I started having thyroid issues and the year after that, I had high triglycerides.
“By that time, I’d gotten heavier with work stress, so my leg and back couldn’t bear my weight. I had to wear an air cast at times, because but my body couldn’t handle my weight on my right leg.
“My doctor told me that if I don’t start to get my weight under control and become healthier, I could have a heart attack since I have a family history.”
Monica began having panic attacks and she began to fear for her children if she were to die.
“For that whole year, I started having panic attacks and worsening chest pains. I was so worried that I would leave my kids motherless,” she said.
“On my fortieth birthday, I was at a nightclub with sixty of my friends and family. I could hardly dance or stand, and I was holding a railing the whole night.
“That night, I said to myself this can’t be living. Worried about a heart attack, hardly standing and stressed about making my will for my kids, I decided that day that I would change my life.”
Monica then booked an appointment to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, as well as completely re-vamping her diet and exercise routine; consuming high protein, low carbohydrate meals and avoids eating for two to three hours before she lies down.
She now does yoga and hikes as often as she can.
“It has given me a new lease on life. All the health issues: erratic pulse, thyroid, diabetes and blood pressure are gone,” she said.
“My leg can handle my weight. I have less sciatica episodes and my doctor said I added ten to fifteen years to my life. From a strictly health perspective, this was the best decision I have ever made.
“Personally, I look younger. I feel much better about myself. I didn’t realise just how much the weight held me back. Today, I pay more attention to myself.
“I care about my health and body. I am so much more balanced in my life about my priorities. Health is now a critical for me.
“What can I say, like many normal-sized women, I love shopping and traveling now more than ever. Life is made for normal-sized people. From normal clothing sizes to airplane seat sizes, so today, life is an amazing adventure to be savoured.”
As well as her health benefits, she says she is now treated better by people around her compared to before and gets many comments about how much younger she looks.
“While I am simply grateful for my health, what’s amazing is that I think others see me very different now. People, whether strangers or people I’ve previously met, tend to be much nicer to me these days. It’s unbelievable how subconsciously biased others are against fat people,” Monica said.
Life has in some ways stayed the same for Monica but in others ways, things have changed for the better.
“I get many comments about looking years younger and not my age. Everyone who knew me before say I look amazing and that my transformation is unbelievable,” she said.
“I’m blessed to have a loving hubby from before to now. He has loved me at all my sizes, thankfully. The biggest change is that we are much more active together and now take hiking adventures a lot more now.
“I couldn’t travel comfortably and be as active before, so, our adventure travel prior was a bit less fun. Our most recent adventures included a trip to Machu Pichu in Peru. Then a hiking trip in Tucson, Arizona. Both trips have been epic and full of activity.
“Start by choosing health. Simply make a choice to make your health a priority. Whether you decide to do a diet or exercise or surgery, choose to do something.
“Also try to avoid extremes. Extremes are bad. Consistency, on the other hand, is the key to success, as well as balance. While you work hard to achieve your health goals, remember that enjoying life is important too.”
For more information visit: https://www.instagram.com/nikalove_lives/