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I had bariatric surgery and lost 120 pounds. It allowed me to run my first half-marathon at age 45.

Jane Ridley   

I had bariatric surgery and lost 120 pounds. It allowed me to run my first half-marathon at age 45.
  • Anthony Quintano, a Type II diabetic, was morbidly obese at 350 pounds.
  • The 45-year-old finally lost 120 pounds after his doctor said he might not live another decade.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Anthony Quintano. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I felt elated when I crossed the finishing line of this year's Brooklyn half-marathon.

Before I lost 120 pounds, I could barely run a mile, let alone the length of a proper race. But there I was — full of confidence and pride.

I'd always been heavy-set, but by the time I reached my early 30s in 2010, my weight was a big issue.

I got incrementally bigger. My job was sedentary because it involved me sitting in front of a computer all day. Then, I would come home from work and sit on the couch for the rest of the night.

My only exercise was moving food from the plate to my mouth. I'd eat breakfast bagels with bacon and egg on cheese, binge on two pizza pies, or go to three fast-food places like KFC and McDonald's for a meal at each one.

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes

I'd drink liquid sugar — huge soda bottles and cans. On road trips, I'd stop at the gas station to stock up on bags of candy that I could munch on the drive.

It was a vicious cycle. I felt uncomfortable in my skin. And the bigger I got, the worse it got. It led to severe depression; I'd beat myself up mentally — but continue to binge.

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2018. The doctor said that I needed to change my habits or possibly be dead before my 50s. But I shrugged it off. "You are going to leave me alone if you keep doing this," my wife would say, in floods of tears.

My attitude was, "I don't care if I die as long as I die happy eating what I want to eat." At times, I felt invincible. But, over time, I became worried. Every birthday got more and more depressing. I said I didn't want to celebrate because I was scared it would be my last birthday.

My dad died at the age of 55. He was never as big as I got, but he developed diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. He was on dialysis and had a kidney transplant. He didn't recover well and ended up having emergency surgery for an aneurysm. He didn't survive.

Dad's death haunted me. But it took a stranger to change my behavior for good. In November 2022, I met them in a restaurant in Maine while I was traveling for work.

I sat down at the bar and ordered two entrées. The couple next to me were attractive and in great shape. I started talking to them. The conversation turned toward our health. "You probably wouldn't guess this, but I used to weigh 500 pounds," the guy said.

My heaviest weight was 350 pounds

He told me that he'd had gastric sleeve surgery and never looked back. I'd always dismissed the idea. I assumed I'd never be able to eat the food I wanted on a permanent basis. I also thought it would somehow get screwed up and damage me.

But the man encouraged me to reconsider. "You're not taking care of this yourself," I thought. You are your own worst enemy, and I need to shut him down." I realized the only way I could do that was to have the surgery. I was 350 pounds.

So, I met with a surgeon and followed the instructions. If I gained weight instead of losing it naturally, the operation would be canceled. I finally had the motivation to switch to a healthy diet.

Meanwhile, I'd developed a blood clot in my leg. They gave me blood thinners for a couple of months. "Anthony, you've got to get off the couch and start walking," my doctor said. "There's no need to run — just walk."

I'd put on my headphones and walk outside my apartment for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. I ended up losing 50 pounds. They pulled me off my diabetic medication even before the surgery.

The operation that changed my life — on April 10, 2023 — lasted 45 minutes. I was back on my feet two days afterward. I started walking laps around my hospital room. And when I got home, I walked around the kitchen island.

I walked 6 miles just 6 months after my surgery

Then, once I was ready, I walked outside again. I would go out early in the morning. It was peaceful and therapeutic.

The doctors always told me that the surgery was a tool to get to a place where I could be active. Soon, I worked my way up to walking three miles. Then, after six months, I was doing six miles. I started to feel like my body wanted to run. I'd suddenly find energy in the middle of my walks when I decided to run a little.

Before I knew it, I was running my entire workout. I went from an 5XL T-shirt to a large one. I lost 10 inches from my waist and I weigh 230 pounds.

Last fall, I signed up for a 5K race near my home in New Jersey. I didn't think I could run the whole thing, but I did. "This is amazing," I thought. I surprised myself with my time. I've got to keep this thing going." I began to write about my journey on Instagram.

I started killing my workouts and learning more about running a race. On New Year's Eve, I did the four-mile Midnight Run through Central Park in New York, which inspired me to complete more races. I got into the Brooklyn half-marathon.

I'm running the New York City Marathon in the fall

I ran the first eight miles well, but then I started combining walking and running because my leg started hurting. But I didn't care about my time. I only cared about crossing the finish line.

When I did, it felt like a dream. My wife greeted me. We could hardly fathom that, a little over a year ago, I could barely get off the couch. I've even been accepted into the New York City Marathon in November.

I used to think, "I can't do this." Now, I have no fear.

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