Editor's note: Karen Manns is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "Sassy Six" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.
(CNN) -- At my heaviest, I weighed 268 pounds.
After trying every diet that you can name and not losing any weight (or losing a bit, then gaining back double the amount), I realized I needed something to jump start my efforts.
So in January 2011, I had laparoscopic gastric banding surgery, more commonly known as the lap-band surgery.
During this procedure, doctors place a small, adjustable band around your stomach to make it smaller. The smaller stomach pouch controls your hunger, helping you to eat less throughout the day. The surgery is reversible, meaning you can get the band taken out when you reach your goal weight.
Before I had the surgery, I went to an information session. Everyone at the session said that getting the gastric band would be just a start. They said that patients must exercise and eat healthy meals in order for the weight to come off and stay off.
I listened to what they were saying, but I figured it would be different with me. I thought that this surgery alone was my golden ticket.
Turns out they were right. In making the decision to get the gastric band, I was also making the decision to eat healthier and exercise on a regular basis.
Eating healthy didn't happen overnight. My doctor gave me a list of foods that I could and could not eat. The list of foods that I could not eat was a challenge. If you ate the wrong thing, or ate too fast, it would come back up.
With the gastric band you can't eat pasta, rice or bread. That wasn't too hard for me to get used to. My biggest problem was candy and potato chips. I struggled for months, before I finally got the hang of eating healthy.
Today, a typical day's meals consist of:
-- A spinach, banana, strawberries, pineapple, raspberries and vitamin smoothie, and light yogurt for breakfast
-- Grilled chicken or grilled fish and veggies for lunch
-- Peanuts as an afternoon snack
-- Grilled chicken or fish and veggies for dinner
With my diet firmly in place, I made up my mind that I was going to put my all into exercising. So I got a trainer and began to work out with him.
He made me get up and out of the house. I had to meet him at the gym, and he was not taking no for an answer. He started me off with lifting very light weights, working my arms one day, then my chest the next. He started me walking to build my way up to running.
In as little as two weeks, I started to see that I was losing weight.
Seeing that made it much easier to stick with my trainer. Eventually I lost enough weight and gained enough confidence to apply to join the CNN Fit Nation team.
Now I normally work out twice a day. In the early morning, three to four times a week, I meet my trainer to do weights and cardio. In the evenings I swim, run or bike.
I only rest one day a week. Some days I work out harder than other days, but I can truly say I've fallen in love with exercise.
Many people think weight-loss surgery is a cop-out -- that getting the surgery automatically means you'll lose weight. But in reality the gastric band is only a tool. If you don't eat right, you won't lose the weight. If you don't exercise, you won't lose the weight.
So why get the surgery? Knowing I have the band around my stomach pushes me to do what I need to do. Nothing else worked.
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