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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
July/August 2010

in the spotlight

Linda S. Thornton

TCI supervisor escapes personal prison through surgery, exercise

  Before and after photos of Linda S. Thornton

Linda S. Thornton weighed more than 370 pounds before undergoing gastric bypass surgery 2 1/2 years ago. She has since lost more than 200 pounds and was named a Texas Round-Up Fit Texan winner.

Photos courtesy of Linda S. Thronton

Linda S. Thornton spent the better part of 50 years locked inside a prison of her own making. Thornton’s personal prison was a body wracked by sleep apnea, diabetes and arthritis brought on or aggravated by obesity. Just two and a half years ago, the customer service supervisor for Texas Correctional Industries in Huntsville weighed more than 370 pounds and could barely lift herself from a chair. By then she had undergone 13 major surgeries because of weight-related health issues.

“I could not get up very easily after sitting down, and I could not walk very far without being out of breath,” she said. “I had imprisoned myself and I wanted out. I was tired of living like I was living.”

In November 2007, Thornton underwent gastric bypass surgery at a Houston hospital and within six months lost nearly one-third of her body weight. Today, through diet and exercise, she is just a few pounds shy of her ideal weight of 150 pounds. In May, she was recognized as a Fit Texan winner by Gov. Rick Perry at Texas Round-Up ceremonies in Austin.

“That was such an honor to be named,” said Thornton while holding the medal she received from the governor for adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle since her surgery. “When they called, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I can’t believe this.’ I felt like they had just named me Miss America.”

As an only child growing up in Trinity, Thornton was overweight most of her life even though her parents were not.

“I was a fat little baby,” she said. “Back then, everyone thought fat little babies were cute, so they gave me a lot to eat and drink. My grandmother’s theory was, ‘Eat it today, we’ll diet tomorrow.’”

Thornton did slim down while in high school, but despite countless diets, she gained more weight while raising her three children. Soon her health was headed downhill.

“I was such a big eater, I’d consume 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day,” she said. “They told me that if I did not lose weight, I might not live to see my grandchildren grow up.”

Thornton contacted a Houston physician she had seen on television and, six months prior to the surgery, was put on a medically-supervised, high-protein liquid diet through which she shed 50 pounds. By the end of January 2008, she was down another 50 pounds.

Because her weight and medical history put her at high-risk for the bypass procedure, Thornton’s doctor asked if a film crew from his television show could document her progress before, during and after the operation. Her story first ran on The Learning Channel in 2008 and was recently rebroadcast on the Discovery Health Channel. She will also be featured in Leading Care for Women, a magazine published by Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Thornton’s return to what she calls “normal” was so dramatic that even longtime acquaintances sometimes don’t recognize her.

“I’m the same person I was back then, I’m just a smaller, happier person,” she said. “I feel so much better. I feel like I’m alive. Back then, I felt like I was in a cage looking out.”

Thornton joined a gym soon after her surgery and now works out at least four times a week. She eats a high-protein diet and no longer suffers from any of the ailments that once dogged her. She loves to dance, shop, cook healthy dishes and work around the farm with her husband, who has literally stood by her through thick and thin for more than 40 years.

“He’s my number one fan,” she said. “And my co-workers and family have all been extremely supportive.”

Staying active, Thornton works with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to promote TexExercise, a physical fitness program for older adults, and also participates in the President’s Challenge online fitness program.

“I have lots of energy now,” said the 15-year TDCJ veteran. “I’m running all the time. You can’t wear me down.”



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