December 4th, 2022

You Used to be Fat! My Journey Back to Health

You Used to Be Fat: My Journey Back to Health

By Martha Zoller


I was in my local convenience store the other day and the lady behind the counter said, “You used to be fat and now you look beautiful.” Some people would be offended by that but her first language was not English, and she was struggling to find the right word. I took it as a compliment. The truth is I care as much as the next woman my age about looking good, but health is more important to me now. For years, I had been saying, “All my numbers are fine except for my weight.” And then they weren’t. Yikes!


Roll back to November 2020. I was very overweight, and I had been sick with what I thought was a sinus infection for about 2 weeks. I was testing negative for Covid, and my PCP thought since cases were high, she tried to keep me out of the hospital by treating me at home. On the Friday, before Thanksgiving, I felt something in my chest but dismissed it. The next day, my physician husband, came in and said, “How long have you been breathing like that?” In minutes, we were on the way to the ER and by the time we got there, I couldn’t walk up the ramp to the door on my own.


I remember the look on the nurses’ face when they saw me and took me immediately back and started to assess me. The ER Doc said he didn’t think it was Covid, but he would have to test me and said, “Oh, by the way, are you opposed to going on a ventilator?” I told him to let my husband make those decisions, I was focusing on breathing. I was terrified.


They got me stabilized and did surgery 2 days later. I had a para pneumonic effusion which is a very rare issue caused by strep that is already in your system going on the attack in places it shouldn’t—like my right lung. I knew I was going to be okay when the surgeon on his rounds with residents described me as a “relatively healthy 61-year-old…” I spent 10 days in the hospital and 6 weeks recovering at home. My husband was a trooper giving me IV antibiotics three times a day and making sure I was taken care of.


At some point, he said, “Your weight didn’t cause this problem, but it made it harder for you to recover.” I learned then that in those first 48 hours in the hospital, he had called the kids in because he didn’t know if I was going to make it and they all came. Weirdly, it was like knowing how people would react when you died, but you lived to see it.


Soon after that, I had my first series of bloodwork that showed I had some borderline sugar issues and I had to decide what my future was going to be. I had already been digging into the Covid death numbers and they were shocking. The vast majority of people who died from Covid had other co-morbidities. The most common were obesity, diabetes, and advanced age. I made the decision to change. I’m 63 now and I have a family I love, grandchildren and a job that fulfills me. My husband and I are in a place where we have time for each other and the resources to do things we enjoy. I am blessed and I have a faith in God that sustains me. While I am not afraid of death—there are worse things than death—I wanted to be as healthy as I could be while God wants me on this Earth.


So, I made some changes. I started drinking lots of water, gave up soft drinks and most sugar and made some changes in how I eat. My feeling is that calories are calories. There are no right and wrong ones, just how many. So, I can eat anything I want but I limit my portions and I eat dinner early and small except on date night with my husband on Fridays. I have always been active, but I was not an organized exerciser—I just moved throughout the day. The weight stared coming off.

Since that time in the hospital, I’ve lost 55 lbs. My sugar is in line and now, my bloodwork numbers fall in the normal range. I can walk anywhere. I’m still not an athlete, but I move and can push myself. I feel better than I have in 25 years. I plan to make it another 25 years, at least.


My daughter says I’ve cracked my metabolic code. I don’t know if she’s right, but I do know that life is better. It’s never too late to do the best thing for your health. I thank God for having a great family, doctors that knew what to do and friends who provided a steady stream of food, reading material and conversation through my recovery.