Making Mannie: One Woman’s Weight-Loss Journey
At nearly 400 pounds, Mannie Stewart – an entrepreneur, wife, and mother of three –tried every diet, but nothing worked. As she helped her young daughter launch her modeling career, she became more self-conscious and afraid of embarrassing her children.
“It was making me angry,” she said. “I couldn’t make it through the park when we went to Disney. Most of my weight was in my belly and I would get horrendous backaches and leg pain. I couldn’t cook a whole meal for my family without sitting to rest. My husband and I were fighting because I was so angry and miserable.”
Stewart’s husband finally told her to either do something about the weight or learn to accept her body as it was. Knowing her children were always watching her, she opted to act.
But taking the leap wasn’t easy. Stewart scheduled her weight-loss surgery three times before she was able to go through with it.
“I had never had surgery before and was petrified of dying on the table,” she said.
Eddie Gomez, MD, FASMBS, FACS, a bariatric surgeon at Jackson South Medical Center and Jackson West Medical Center, helped her overcome her fear.
“When I met with him, it felt like I knew him my whole life,” Stewart said. “It was like talking to a friend who gives you the hard truth because they truly care, and said at this weight, I could die at any moment of a heart attack.”
In February 2019, Stewart underwent gastric sleeve surgery, but still had a long road ahead in her weight-loss journey.
“First, you must go through the procedure, and afterward, you can’t go back to how you were living. You must make serious lifestyle and diet changes, and do the work to lose weight and get healthy,” Dr. Gomez said.
In her first-year post-surgery, Stewart lost about 90 pounds. She was eating right, walking regularly, and happy to see progress, but she wanted more. She then slowly began running every morning.
“It’s become one of the things I’m most proud of because it’s something I could never have done at 400 pounds. I never would have imagined I’d be running 5ks and marathons,” Stewart said. “And it’s the one thing that people say they find most inspiring when I post pictures and videos on social media. Running as a big girl seems like an impossibility, but seeing me do it gives them hope.”
Stewart is now prioritizing her health. She sees a therapist weekly, runs several miles most days, and shares her journey on Instagram to inspire and motivate others – and show them the hard work it takes to make a change and go after the life you want.
“Mannie has the commitment and drive to make it happen, and she doesn’t give up,” Dr. Gomez said. “Some patients come in saying they are ready to make a change, but then after surgery, they aren’t committed, aren’t able to overcome the obstacles, or go back to old habits over time.”
Stewart has lost more than 215 pounds so far. She’s not quite to her goal weight yet, but is still working toward it, and is grateful for all the changes the surgery has made in her life.
“Over the past few years since the surgery, I have become the person I dreamed I could become – a person I didn’t even know could exist,” she said. “First getting the surgery and then starting therapy were the best decisions of my life.”