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‘His and Her’ Weight Loss Surgeries Spawn Healthy Lifestyle Changes -Arizona couple loses pounds, inches, old habits after Mayo Clinic surgeries
Not many people who struggle with weight issues are proud to show off their “before” photos – especially when the “before” clearly communicated a need for change. A major life change.
But change, fueled by a healthy dose of motivation, is just what the doctor ordered for a Safford, Ariz., couple whose world, professionally and privately, revolves around food. Now their collective passion for the cuisine that once ruled their lives, resulting in weight gain, exhaustion and depression, has taken a significant healthy twist. Now, no matter how many homemade pies are calling their names from the counters in their own restaurants, they have mastered the art – of moderation.
On the Treadmill of Stress and Unhealthy Eating
Mary Lou and Dean Krieg, self-avowed Type A entrepreneurs, recognized that good health was key to not only longevity, but to effectively running the five hotels and two restaurants they own in two separate states.
“I learned the hard way when I owned a garbage company that I couldn’t work all day and travel all night by eating Ding Dongs,” confessed Dean. The more than 600 mile-per-day travel was tough for the man who wore size 48 pants at the time and admittedly wasn’t consuming yogurt for breakfast. “Finally I sold the business and vowed to commit to health,” he said.
As for five-foot, pint-sized Mary Lou, “At my heaviest, I weighed in at 259 pounds and wore size 26 clothes. I saw being that heavy as a weakness, even in my business, and I’m good at what I do. But I lost my self esteem.”
With their motivation firmly intact, Mary Lou and Dean sought help at Mayo Clinic. When Mary Lou’s internal medicine doctor, Dr. Jill Borovansky, in Arizona, warned her, “You are going no where, fast. You need to get involved in weight management classes,” she took it seriously.
The Decision. The Surgery. The Aftermath.
In 2008, at age 65, Mary Lou announced to her doctors: “I am ready.”
She was referring to undergoing bariatric surgery and all the commitment required not only for surgery itself, but for a lifetime of healthy eating, weight management and exercise. Dean was not far behind in his zeal for losing weight. He, too, vowed to go through the program, with his goal being bariatric surgery as well – and the commitment to health for the rest of his life. “Why wouldn’t I? My blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol were all in the danger zones. I had cardiac issues. I had 10 stents in my heart. I knew my time on this earth was limited,” he noted.
And so began the odyssey of Dean and Mary Lou Krieg and their “his and her surgeries,” approximately one year apart. Mary Lou was first, in November 2008. Dean, at age 67, followed in January 2009. Both are honest in saying it’s not a piece of cake – literally and figuratively. But after the first few days of their respective surgeries, both felt well enough to go home to begin their “second lives.”
A New Attitude – with Food and Exercise
The two are now often referred to as the “poster patients” for success. Mary Lou enthusiastically went through all the preparation and classes at Mayo in Arizona and passed all the tests, both medical and psychological. Dean was advised by the doctors, “You watch your wife go through this. It will help with your decision.” Notes Dean, “I was the beneficiary of all that Mary Lou learned. She inspired me, and I knew I could do it.” Mary Lou agrees. “We are good for each other,” she said. “He is proud of me, and I am so proud of him. We are a team now, more than ever.”
Now Dean and Mary Lou are one-person personal motivation speakers for each other. “One of us will say we should skip our walk that day because it’s too hot or something,” said Mary Lou. “Well, that’s when the other one steps up to say, ‘Come on. Let’s do this!’”
And what about those naysayers who intone, “You’re going to put all the weight back on. You will stretch your stomach and you will be right back where you started.” Not so for Mary Lou and Dean. “It’s not the surgery,” Dean attests. “The surgery is just the beginning – the catalyst. It’s the choices you make after the surgery.” Adds Mary Lou, “If you make the right choices and change your relationship with food and exercise, the weight is not going to come back.”
They are living the talk. Mary Lou uses one of their restaurant kitchens as a test kitchen for all things delicious, yet healthy. Flour is made from bran cereal. Protein shakes stave off hunger. Nuts whirled in the blender replace butter or oil. She even has a brownie recipe made with fruit. But as Dean notes, “We’ve changed our lifestyle, but really we haven’t changed our lifestyle.” They still enjoy their favorite foods. They occasionally eat what tempts them – but in moderation. A bite, a taste, half of a burger, or less. And, over time, it proves to be enough.
Dean’s best advice: “Walk away from the table, leaving some food there.”
Hard to believe, but Mary Lou and Dean also make time, no matter what, for morning and afternoon exercises – walking, weights, strength training, cardio, lunges. (Doing the treadmill in front of his favorite TV shows really helps, Dean explains.) All this while keeping five hotels and two restaurants running. Four of the hotels are located in Safford, and one in Michigan.
For all of their togetherness, both in undergoing the surgeries and advocating for healthy eating and exercise for the long-term, “You still have to do this for yourself,” advises Dean. “We need the support of Mayo and the support of each other, but in the end, it’s a personal commitment.”
When they returned for follow-up appointments at Mayo in February 2011, Mary Lou was wowing her admirers, wearing size 4 jeans. Dean weighed in at 190 and now wears size 34 pants – impressive when spread over his six-foot frame.
“There is life after bariatric surgery,” confirms Mary Lou.