(WJBK) - The struggle to lose weight is real, and can be physically and emotionally painful. No one knows that better than Jackie Paige.
She was a bright fixture on FOX 2 News Morning for many years. What viewers didn't realize, though, was that the traffic reporter with the sly sense of humor and contagious laughter was saddened by the sight of her own body, and in a constant struggle with her weight.
Finally, at the age of 50, Jackie is at peace with her body.
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"I've never felt this good in my entire life," she says. But getting here hasn't been easy. Critics were everywhere.
"I was conscious any time we went out to a restaurant to eat, and I knew that people may have recognized me and were seeing, watching what I was eating," she says. And it wasn't all in her head.
"I got emails from people that said that they were (watching), and I actually got a couple of really nice ones that said, 'I was watching you; you don't eat anything! I'm surprised that you struggle with your weight.' And then I got, 'You must eat so much food. You're such a pig.'"
There were so many diets, but the end result was always the same. And wrestling with her weight in front of the camera was, at times, too much to bear.
"It got pretty bad. I didn't know if life was worth living. You know, you feel like you're going to lose your job; you might lose your husband - although he never said one word to me about it. People judge you.
"I left FOX 2 because of it. It was really bad. I have to admit; I was very depressed. I wanted to crawl into a hole and sometimes I actually thought about ending my life."
Jackie walked away from the glare of the TV lights and hoped by escaping the harsh criticism she'd conquer her weight. But her struggle only got worse.
"I got on the plane and I sat down and I couldn't buckle my seatbelt. It was too small, and I had to have an extender," she says. "I was so embarrassed. I was sitting with my husband, who's the man of my dreams, and I said, 'It doesn't fit.'
"He had to get the flight attendant; I was sitting in the window seat. She turned around, she came back - she already knew. And, I said, that's it. I'm done."
Surgery seemed like the only solution.
In March of 2017 she got the gastric sleeve procedure, which removed 80 percent of her stomach.
"Your stomach looks kind of like a balloon, and they cut the biggest part of the balloon off and they take it out. It's permanent," she explains.
Now, a year and a half later, Jackie is a different person mentally and physically. She can only eat tiny portions of food and sticks to mostly lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, but perhaps even more significant is the fact that her house is again filled with laughter which, at times, was noticeably absent.
"There were days that were very dark, really hard to kind of get up, get going, face the public. Face yourself," says her husband, David. "(Watching that as her husband was) very difficult, very difficult. But it didn't change the connection she and I had. If anything it made it stronger."
Jackie is working hard at working out. She's at the gym several times a week and is running on her own.
Her new life, post-surgery, requires discipline, strength and a lot of motivation. This was by no means an easy way to lose the weight. Recovering from the procedure was painful, and changing her entire lifestyle was overwhelming.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," she says. "So if you can lose weight with diet and exercise on your own and you can keep it off - that's great."
These days, you'll hear her familiar voice on WWJ Newsradio 950 where Jackie is the midday news anchor.
It's been about a year and half since her surgery, and she's down more than 110 pounds. She and FOX 2 health reporter Deena Centofanti decided together that instead of using words like "skinny" or "thin", the goal is to be "healthy" and "happy." And Jackie's there.
"I put on an outfit; it was an 8 Petite. It was a jumper," she said. "I bought it last summer hoping that I would fit into it, and my husband zipped it up and it fit! And he took a picture and I thought, 'Wow, you know, I look pretty good!'"
Jackie is going to join us Friday morning on The Nine to continue the conversation about her weight loss. She wants to talk openly about it to others who may also be struggling with weight loss. So, if you have a question for her, you can post it on our Facebook page and she may answer it Friday morning.
If you'd like more information on weight loss surgery, click here.