As couples prepare to celebrate St Valentine's Day tomorrow with a romantic meal or some Belgian chocolates, Health Reporter Emma Brady discovers how obesity surgery brought one Black Country couple closer together...
It's a cliche, but nevertheless true, that Michelle Bowater is half the woman she used to be.
The 33-year-old sales manager, of Bilston, Wolverhampton, used to weigh 23st 12lb (151.8kg) and wore size 32 clothes.
After trying every diet, fad, and 'miracle' concoction to lose weight, Mrs Bowater decided to have a gastric band fitted around her stomach in August 2004. Since then she has shed more than 10st (63.6kg) and is now a shapely size 16.
Her dramatic transformation also inspired her husband John, aged 35, to undergo the same procedure last October and to date he has lost more than 4st and now tips the scales at 19st (120.9kg).
Mrs Bowater began exploring her options after a holiday with friends in Majorca in June 2004, where she discovered she could not fit into the airline's seats or the chairs at restaurants.
She said: "We both knew we had to lose weight and eat less but at the same time we just couldn't stop ourselves.
"It was an addiction, the same as alcoholism, smoking or drugs, the only difference is we still have to face our vices every day, 24 hours a day.
"I can't even say I was craving good food, I just had to eat all the time - so I did. I used to come out of McDonald's then go straight into KFC next door."
On August 3, 2004 - less than two months after their holiday - she went to Dolan Park Hospital, in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, for her operation. A liquid-filled band is fitted around the upper part of the stomach, dividing it into two portions one smaller and one larger. Food enters the smaller section and is digested as normal, but the patient feels "full" much more quickly.
The band can be adjusted by further injections to increase the band's tightness, and as a result patients can only digest smaller servings.
However Mrs Bowater did not realise the impact the #7,400 procedure would have on her life - and her marriage.
"When John saw how my outlook on life and my relationship with food changed after the surgery, it was a real make or break time," she said.
"He saw me pursuing this new life and thought if he didn't change he wouldn't be part of it, which was nonsense, but that's how he felt."
In October Mr Bowater, who runs an upholstery cleaning firm, had the same operation.
"This didn't just save our lives, which it did, but it saved our marriage and the whole experience has brought us much closer together, physically and emotionally," said Mrs Bowater.
"We can eat pretty much anything. So if I want fish and chips I have it. OK, it's a small piece of fish and about six chips but it feels like I've eaten Christmas dinner."
The couple are now looking to renew their vows in December to celebrate their marriage, and their new slimmer figures.
Mrs Bowater said: "It's a standing joke in our family that John never proposed to me, he just gave me a ring. But when he came round from his surgery, the first thing he did was propose properly, which was so romantic.
"So we're going to renew our vows and have a big party in December, and yes I will be getting a new wedding dress."
Meanwhile, more couples are shunning the red roses and chocolates to undergo cosmetic or obesity surgery together, according to a new survey.
Nose jobs, botox injections, liposuction and eyebag removal are becoming more popular than a romantic meal or weekend away, according to The Hospital Group, based in Birmingham, which has reported a 65 per cent rise in c ouples having surgery together.
Spokesman Andrew Cooper said: "We have noticed a significant increase in the number of couples coming in to our clinics wanting to have either the same surgery or different procedures at the same time.
"There are a number of reasons for this new trend, the most prominent being that the experience of undergoing surgery is one they want to share, and if both partners are considering surgery, it makes sense for them to go through the process together. A lot of men are also being influenced by their wives following their transformations."