LEWISTON, Maine — Susan Dutil, 39, feels good wearing a bathing suit, taking long walks on the beach, horseback riding and zip lining.
In the past two years, Dutil, 39, has lost 100 pounds.
At a height of 5 feet, 1 inch, she has gone from 216 to 116 pounds. Losing the weight “gave me years back,” she said with an infectious smile. “I have so much energy now.”
After years of trying to lose weight by dieting and exercising, Dutil underwent bariatric surgery at Central Maine Bariatric Surgery.
Patients lose weight after the operation, which makes the stomach smaller and alters digestion so less food is eaten. Long-term, the surgery can only be successful when patients follow guidelines.
Today, her meals are small; her dinner is only 8 ounces of food. She doesn’t drink soda or carbonated beverages, caffeine or alcohol. She’s not supposed to drink water and eat at the same time. She’ll drink water, then eat a half-hour later.
Her surgeon, Dr. Jamie Loggins, gives Dutil high marks. Two years after her bypass, “she has done amazing and is living life to its fullest,” he said. Because of hormonal and metabolic changes from the surgery, people no longer want to eat the way they did, Loggins said.
Dutil, who lives in Winslow and is an assisted living administrator in Gardiner, said she grew up at a healthy weight. She was a student athlete who played field hockey and competed in swimming. She was the prom queen.
“But I started at a young age with very bad eating habits,” she said. “After 18, you can’t eat what you did during field hockey season. My mom told me that, but I loved macaroni and cheese. I didn’t listen.”
During her 20s and 30s, she was in an unhappy marriage.
“I would eat for comfort. Food was my friend, she said.”
When she reached her mid-30s, Dutil said she was sick all the time from severe acid reflux, sleep apnea and depression. She was at high risk for diabetes. Her grandmother and mother were both morbidly obese, Dutil said, and both died from cancer in their 60s.
After her mother’s death, “my dad started cleaning out Mom’s closets and gave me Mom’s clothes.” When she saw a picture of herself in her mother’s clothes, “I thought, ‘Susan what have you done to yourself?’”
Her doctor recommended she talk to Loggins. Dutil went to a conference room at CMMC to learn about the procedure. “It was like what you see on TV, ‘The Biggest Loser,’” she said. She wondered what she was doing there, criticizing herself for being lazy and thought she should “’just sign up for an aerobics class.’ Like I hadn’t tried a million times.”
While there can be health risks from the surgery, Dutil said she’s had no problems, but said she’s had to adopt a new lifestyle.
“You have to be determined. You have to create new habits that are healthy, she said.”
She relies on CMMC’s nutritionist, who has worked with her. Everything she eats “is Ashley-approved.”
Since the surgery, her taste buds have changed. She used to love chicken Alfredo. “Now I can taste the fat and butter. I don’t want a second bite. It’s so heavy.”
She doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese or hot dogs. She consumes protein shakes low in fat and sugar, chicken and fish, yogurt, almonds, vegetables and little in carbohydrates. A baked potato is a treat.
She can go get an ice cream, “but I get a baby cone. That’s all I want.”
At restaurants, she carries a CMMC card that tells the waitstaff her stomach’s been reduced and allows her to order from the children’s menu.
“I’m a cheap date,” she mused.
She gave up foods she used to love for a better life, she said.
Before her surgery, a trip to Boston meant eating at a favorite restaurant. Now it’s about taking her niece to museums.
On vacations with her second husband, Rick, they zip line, ride horses, hike, bicycle and ride the rides at Disney. When you’re carrying around an extra 100 pounds, all you want to do is sit with a drink, she said. Dutil is once again a swimmer, participating in marathon swims.
Without help from the Central Maine Bariatric Surgery team, she said she would have ended up dying early like her mother and grandmother. She plans to celebrate her 70th birthday, or maybe her 100th.
Near her wrist is a tattoo of a mermaid, which signifies her ability to swim and be active. “She is celebrating my life,” Dutil said of the mermaid. “I’m worth saving.”