Patient stories

Slow & Steady Wins the Weight Loss Race

Along your weight loss path, how many times have you wished for a quick fix? While there’s no magic bullet, there are simple, steady steps you can take to meet your weight loss goal.

Joe Before & After Weight LossArvinpal Singh, MD, Medical Director of the Emory Bariatric Center, along with Joe, an Emory Bariatric Center patient on his own non-surgical weight loss journey, hosted an online chat discussing strategies for long term weight loss success. Dr. Singh and Joe answered questions on what it takes to get on the path to lasting weight loss and offered inspiration to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Joe and Dr. Singh fielded lots of great questions, ranging from inquiries on nonsurgical vs. surgical weight loss to those on fat fighting foods. Having already lost 115 pounds by making smart diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, Joe shared some of his best tips for successful weight loss.

You can find a few of the weight loss chat questions and answers below. For more, check out the full weight loss chat transcript!

Question:  “Is it better to exercise for a full 30 minute interval daily or to exercise a total of 30 minutes throughout the day?” – Deborah

Dr. Singh, Emory Bariatric Center

Answer (Dr. Singh): Excellent question! BOTH are equal, 10 minute increments 3 times a day has been shown to be just as effective as 30 minutes once a day. As a rule, every step you take counts. For example, park further away, take stairs and stay active in your daily. Also, try spending some time during your lunch break walking, etc.

 

Joe, Weight Loss PatientAnswer (Joe): To add to that, the key is making sure you’re upping your activity overall and upping the number of calories you’re burning. If doing that in two 15 minute intervals works better for you, that’s great, or 30 minutes at once is good too. Even small changes make a big impact and it’s important to be aware of little steps you can take to get extra activity in. I’ll try to walk to the water fountain that’s furthest away, as an example.

Question: “I’m 55 years old, diabetic, with blood pressure off the chart. How do I lose 90 lbs fast?” – Lynn

Dr. Singh, Emory Bariatric CenterAnswer (Dr. Singh): Hi Lynn, Losing the weight quickly is not necessarily as important as losing the weight in a healthy way. Without seeing you in person, I can’t speak your personal medical situation, but in general, eating the right amounts of the proper foods and making healthy lifestyle changes are the first steps. I can certainly go into more detail after looking into your personal medical history and discussing your case in detail with you.

Diseases of our western society (including heart disease, diabetes & cancers) are not a necessarily an inevitable part of the aging process. Many of these conditions are reversible and preventable with excellent nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

Joe, Weight Loss PatientAnswer (Joe): Losing a certain number of pounds isn’t as important as it is to regain your overall health. I realized many health benefits before reaching my target weight. As an example, when I began exercising regularly, I actually gained weight, but that was a good thing, as it meant I was developing new muscle tissue, improving my overall health, and getting smaller in the meantime.
 
 
Dr. Singh, Emory Bariatric CenterResponse (Dr. Singh): That’s a great point Joe, many studies show that even as little as 5-10 percent of weight loss dramatically improves a person’s overall health.
 
 
 
 


Have you seen success with your weight loss efforts? Share your best tips with us and our readers in the comments below!

Related Resources:

My Journey To Successful Weight Loss

Joe Before & After Weight LossFor the millions of Americans who diet, stop dieting and then promise to diet again, the constant struggle to lose weight and keep it off can be exhausting, not to mention discouraging. Fortunately, there are success stories that you can learn from to help make this time the one that leads to a successful weight loss and a healthier, happier lifestyle. Joe is one of the most successful patient stories to come out of the Emory Bariatric Center.

You can learn more about Joe’s weight loss journey in this online chat transcript. He joined  Dr. Singh, Medical Director of the Emory Bariatric Center, for an online chat where they shared weight loss tips and best practices and answered your questions live!

When I was in high school, I was a competitive swimmer. Once I got into college, I became a long distance runner, and I even ran a few marathons. I weighed 141 pounds, and was proud of the fact that my waist size and my inseam were the same (30 inches). Once I got into graduate school, I didn’t exercise as much, but I stayed in good shape. I think I weighed about 150 when I finished graduate school.

Unfortunately, when I got out into the world of work, my job involved a lot of travel and a lot of fast food meals on the go. Unfortunately, I quit exercising, and let my eating habits continue to get worse. Not long after we moved to Atlanta, my weight had ballooned to 420 pounds. My waist had grown to 66 inches!

Realizing things had gotten dangerously bad with my health, I tried all sorts of things. I tried swimming to lose weight, which worked well for a while, but without changing my diet, my weight loss slowed down and plateaued. I tried increasing the intensity of my swimming, but all that accomplished was hurting my shoulder, which ended my swimming for a long time. I tried the Atkins diet, which led to some weight loss, but the gout and kidney stones I got while on the diet let me know that a high protein, low carb diet is not a healthy long term approach. I tried walking twice a day — our dogs really liked that — but pain in my leg forced me to cut back on my walking.

The pain in my leg kept getting worse, which lead to visits to multiple doctors. I finally ended up at an orthopedist, who explained that degenerative arthritis in my hip and lower spine can cause pains in my thigh and lower leg. It turns out that the damage was caused by forcing my bones to support too much weight for far too long. He told me that there were three things I could do to help get better: lose weight, lose weight and then lose some more weight.

It occurred to me that I had been going about losing weight the wrong way all along. I realized that I had spent more than thirty years working as an IT consultant because I was really good at helping other people solve problems using computer technology. We didn’t expect people in finance, accounting and telecommunications to know their own area of expertise and also know how to use computers to solve their problems. My living depended on other people being willing to hire my special expertise in solving problems. Why not rely on people who are experts at helping people lose weight?

My wife had been telling me about the Emory medical weight loss program for years, which is the Emory Bariatric Center’s customized non-surgical weight loss and weight management program, called Your Weigh. I finally decided to check the program out, reading about it on the web, taking the online seminar about the program and decided to go for it. I spoke with my employer about re-arranging my work schedule to attend the Friday sessions, and began the program in October of 2012. When I started the program, I weighed 377.6 pounds, was developing Type 2 diabetes, had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Since being in the program, I’ve lost more than110 pounds so far with 80 more pounds to my goal weight, my A1C has gone from 6.4 to 5.4 and my total cholesterol has dropped from 258 to 176. More important than the weight I’ve lost so far — not to mention the related health improvements — I’ve gained friends, support, and the knowledge and tools to help me stay healthy for the rest of my life.

Related Resources:

Emory Bariatric Center Patient Prepares for his First Peachtree Road Race

Just a couple of years after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, Jim Blackburn prepares for his first Peachtree Road Race. Since the operation, Blackburn has dropped over 200 pounds and no longer needs a C-PAP to help with snoring.  Jim stated, before receiving care at Emory University Hospital, his knees and ankles hurt terribly from carrying his weight. Along with high blood pressure and sleep apnea he began to experience the early on-set of diabetes.

Since surgery, “My life has changed 180 degrees. It’s totally turned around,” said Blackburn.

Check out Blackburn’s interview with Fox 5 Atlanta.

Are you running the Peachtree Road Race along with Jim? Then check out 10 tips that will ensure you get to the finish safely.

Related Resources

Life Since My Weight Loss Surgery – Part Three

By Dustin Hartman

Through diet alone I lost half of my excess weight…and then I stopped. My insurance required I see a psychiatrist before the surgery (which now I am very thankful for) and the one thing Dr. Santavicca told me that I will never forget is that I wouldn’t be able to achieve my goals through diet alone. I would need to exercise.

Dustin Hartman & His Wife, Elizabeth (she also has had Gastric Bypass Surgery by Dr. Lin)

I remember thinking at the time “Yeah right, I don’t exercise, if I did I wouldn’t need the surgery,” so I didn’t exercise. Pre-surgery, I would join gyms but I would usually stop going after a month because it was hard work. When I hit a plateau, I remembered what Dr. Santavicca said and reluctantly started exercising. I was surprised by how much easier it was to exercise now that I had lost so much weight. Although exercising was still hard, I wasn’t as miserable as I was before surgery. In the beginning, I started slowly – just walking down the driveway and back a few times a week. I walked further and further each day and turned the walking into jogging. When I discovered cycling, I fell in love. Now I cycle at least six hours a week and recently completed a 100-mile ride.

Through Emory Bariatric’s monthly support group meeting as well through my personal interactions with other post-op patients, I have realized that the success of the surgery is 100% based on the commitment of the patient. The surgery itself is just a good kick-start to get you going in the right direction. Everyone who has weight loss surgery will lose weight during the first months because of the smaller stomach. After that, you get to the point where the weight loss becomes less dependent on the surgery and much more dependent on your behaviors.

I know that without the surgery, I would have never been able to lose the weight that I have, but keeping the weight off is going to be a daily choice for the rest of my life. I am able to keep on track through the support of my wife (who just had the surgery herself a few months ago) and with the knowledge that the Emory Bariatric’s program has provided and continues to do so in the monthly support group meetings. Having the surgery has meant a new level of discipline in my life regarding nutrition and exercise, but it has improved my life in so many ways that I wished I would have had the surgery years ago.

 

My Weight Loss Surgery Experience – Part Two

Dustin Hartman (post surgery)

By Dustin Hartman

I started the weight loss surgery process by attending the Emory Bariatric Seminar to learn more about my options. At the seminar, the leader told us to look around at the other people attending the seminar. He said that the majority of my peers would not follow through with weight loss surgery. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, but he was right – the majority of the people who attended the seminar didn’t complete the process. Between my insurance requirements, Emory’s requirements and my own personal life, the process of getting insurance approval and becoming mentally and physically prepared for surgery took a year.

The surgery itself was incredibly easy; I was in and out of the hospital in three days and back to work in three weeks.

Life after surgery is completely different, yet still the same as my life before surgery. I had thought that once I had the surgery, food wouldn’t be such a big part of my life anymore. I was wrong! Now it’s a bigger part of my life. I plan every meal ahead of time.

Before I go out to dinner, I look at the nutritional information and decide what I am going to eat.  I have to chew my food for what at first seemed like an eternity and I carry a measuring cup with me so that I can always measure out my one cup so that I know I won’t overeat. I set my iPhone timer for 30 minutes before and after meals so that I remember not to drink and I religiously log every calorie I eat. I can no longer go to a drive-through and order something or just get whatever I want at the grocery store. Now I have to know exactly what I’m eating and how it will affect me. Because I pay such close attention to nutritional information, I know how bad my eating habits were before I had surgery. I make better decisions based not solely on taste but also nutrition.  One of the dietitians at Emory suggests asking yourself “Will this help me reach my goals?” before eating something. That has really helped me determine which foods I choose to fuel my body.

Previous post: Life Before My Weight Loss Surgery

Next post: Life Since My Weight Loss Surgery


Life Before My Weight Loss Surgery – Part 1

Dustin Hartman (before surgery)

By Dustin Hartman

My name is Dustin Hartman and I’m 28 years old. Dr. Edward Lin performed my gastric bypass surgery on December 1, 2009. Since my surgery, I have become (literally) half the man I used to be – I’m down 150 pounds from my top weight of 300.  Before gastric bypass surgery, I had several co-morbidities. Food was a comfort mechanism and brought real joy to my life, but at the expense of being physically unable to live the life I wanted. Now after the surgery and weight loss, I have no weight-related medical conditions and am so full of energy and life. My physical and emotional well-being has increased dramatically as I find happiness in activities other than eating.

My family history is fairly common; my entire family on both sides for several generations is morbidly obese. Growing up, I was proud that I was always the biggest kid in my class. I have several physical disabilities due to birth defects and as a result, I walk with a severe limp. Being the biggest kid during school was actually an advantage for me because the kids were afraid to pick on my disabilities since I was bigger than all of them. I weighed 225 pounds in the 9th grade. For me, my weight was never an issue – it was how I identified myself, and in some ways I was proud of being “the big kid.”

The way I felt about my weight slowly changed as I grew older. I became more aware of my physical limitations due to obesity: roller coasters were tight, people asked me why I was out of breath all the time, and I didn’t have any energy. When I was in my early twenties, I began having medical complications. I developed sleep apnea, which meant I had to wear a dreaded CPAP mask every night. Because weight loss surgery is such a serious decision, I tried more conventional weight loss methods, first. I did Weight Watchers, Atkins, low calorie diets, weight loss medication and even starvation diets. All of these diets worked while I was on them, but inevitably I would quit the diet and gain the weight back…usually more than what I started with.  After several years of yo-yo dieting, I decided I needed surgical intervention in order to manage my weight.

 

Next post: My weight loss surgery experience.

 

Controlling Stress While Maintaining Your Weight

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Coping with stress and huge life changes can be extremely challenging as our lives can quickly spin out of control in this zany world we live in. We are  pulled in so many directions, expecting more and more  of ourselves (as we feel others expect an ever-increasing amount out of us). Businesses are running lean and mean and focusing on newer, more efficient ways to do handle transactions which can leave you feeling as if you handle the workload of multiple people at the end of the day!

This is precisely why taking a moment out for yourself is more important than ever, particularly for those of us who used to use food as a way of coping with stress before bariatric surgery. And the great news is that we have more resources than we’ve ever had  to unwind and get in touch with ourselves when things get hairy. My experience has been that I actually live a higher quality life when I make some “me” time on a regular basis, not just when I’m feeling overextended. Of course, one might say that this is easier said than done. With a very long commute into the work place each day, I’ve tried to get creative with my time to maximize my “me” time opportunities.

One of the best things I ever did for myself was get a membership to an online audiobook distributor. Having this has allowed me the opportunity to listen to a myriad of audiobooks on my MP3 player during my two- to three-hour commute each day. A great distributor will give you a free, trial membership so you can see if you like their product, and they usually have tens of thousands of audiobooks, lectures and all sorts of things to listen to. I also have used that time commuting to brush up on other languages I wanted to learn, and to catch up on some of the fabulous podcasts that are out there, most of which are free! May I recommend the Nutrition Diva from the Quick and Dirty network of podcasters? She’s got a wealth of information tucked under her health belt!

Another way I’ve captured a little time for myself is to actually take my lunch to work, find an office or conference room that isn’t being used when it’s time for me to take a break, and I jump in, shut the door, turn off the lights, set the timer on my phone and drift off into about a twenty-five minute meditation. Some people prefer to meditate without guidance, some with guidance, some with music alone and some people (like me) enjoy listening to binaural beats during meditation. If you’re interested, but there are loads of great meditation resources out there. Just grab your headphones and MP3 player on the way out the door before you start your day and you’re set! I often find that this midday reset feels terrific and there’s usually still time to nosh on something yummy I’ve brought from home for lunch (and it’s a terrific money saver, too)!

Lastly, on Friday nights, my finance and I always enjoy “Italian Date Night” which consists of delicious Italian food together at home. It’s become a tradition for us (yes, you can still eat delicious, Italian food after bariatric surgery!). Afterwards we try to make it a habit of dancing in the living room to fun music. If you can picture this in your head, then I’ll go ahead and apologize now.  Seriously, today there are so many fun “games” on the market for anyone interested in shedding some serious calories and simultaneously reliving stress, it’s amazing! One of our favorites is something we recently purchased for the Xbox 360 called “Dance Central.” Any kind of working out indoors is beneficial during what can be the most biting of winter months.

Maintaining a low level of stress in my life and not falling into the old habits I used to have in using food to cope with the stress has been an ongoing challenge for me. But having tools to deal with it which was jump-started with the surgery, has been key for me. It’s my hope that you find the same for your life!

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 7

Prior to weight loss surgery, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sit down to a meal and suddenly have finished it without even remembering most of the bites I’d taken or any of the sensory enjoyments that should have accompanied the actual eating of the meal. It was often as if I were just shoveling the food in as fast as I could without any regard to the actual taste, texture and appreciation for what I was taking in to nourish my body.

But I needed something from that food, something that nothing else could give me. There was a void to fill. And that’s why I think I swallowed it down – quickly and without much thought or regard for the potential flavor this sustenance could be delivering. It wasn’t really about the way the food tasted. It was about something else. It was about filling that void. Since my journey with weight loss began, I have asked myself some hard questions, dug deep and worked at identifying what that void was all about. From time to time the “void monster” still rears its ugly head but when it does, I know to stop what I’m doing and take a self assessment of what’s going on inside me that might push me towards wanting to eat mindlessly. It’s in that key moment that I chose to eat consciously.

Of the many things I’ve learned from having bariatric surgery, one of them is to chew, chew, chew my food. And out of that practice comes the delightful by-product of really tasting and enjoying everything I put in my mouth. Without hesitation I would say that conscious eating (eating with awareness) has been essential to my weight loss success. It’s why we don’t eat meals in front of the television in our home and we don’t snack on the couch. I’ve found that food that is consumed “consciously” is enjoyed more, eaten in less quantity and usually happens to be a better food choice to begin with.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t already practice conscious eating to give it a shot, even those who aren’t on the road towards weight loss surgery. It’s really the Zen of eating, so to speak, and dining in this way can be very fulfilling. Would you like to know one of my favorite things about it: It requires very little to eat consciously! There aren’t really any special things you need; there’s no need to rush out and buy the latest piece of miraculous-results-producing-fad-equipment. All you need is to be aware and present from start to finish during your meals and at snack times. Yes, this can take some mental training, changing up your routine a bit, and a little getting used to but that’s it! So from now on let’s enjoy each bite, really taste the delicious food and fully savor the marvelous experience of eating!

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 6

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

It seems that no matter how many testimonials I heard from other patients prior to surgery and no matter how many books I read about other people’s experiences, the many miracles I experienced after bariatric surgery blew my mind over and over again! I would get on the scale and some days I would lose two to three pounds from one day to the next. That was insane (and that was mainly in the first month, mind you). My size twenty-eight pants were suddenly falling right off my hips and I just couldn’t wear them anymore. I certainly wasn’t complaining, and a monthly trip to the discount big box store to purchase a couple of new pairs of pants with elastic waist bands became my new reward for another month of weight forever gone.

One of the most mind-blowing things I remember is going to one of these discount stores to look at a few pairs of pants. I thought to myself, “Well, I’ve lost a few more pounds. I’ll grab a size twenty-four from the rack and see how they fit.” I was completely dumbfounded when I zipped them up only to find that they swallowed me. They were super baggy all over! Could it be that a twenty-two would be my size? Nope, those were too big, too! You can imagine my amazement when I found that a size twenty is what I settled on, and I still remember thinking those were a little loose. I don’t think I could wrap my head around the fact that I might have almost made my way out of the size twenties all together.

About ten months after surgery (I was down 129 pounds and 32 pounds away from my goal weight) I went on a Labor Day trip to the beach with some friends. We were all playing cards, having a great time, and one of my friend’s brothers picked me up and started carrying me around the room, acting like a caveman! They were all laughing and cheering him on, but I was in a complete panic. In my head I was thinking: “Marc’s not strong enough to be doing this! He’s going to realize he’s picking up my enormous, fat behind and he’ll drop me any minute!” But he didn’t. See, I couldn’t even realize that I was just a few pounds heavier than all the other gals that were there, and 167 pounds was an easy load for him to lift. But my mind was still thinking it was in an almost 300 pound body.

One of the strangest miracles I encountered which I never, ever expected (and ladies, I thought we’d all be safe here but we aren’t, believe me!) was when I lost a shoe size through weight loss! Yes-you heard it here. It didn’t happen right away but when it did happen, it seemed as if it happened overnight. I used to wear a size 9, sometimes a 9½. And I love shoes-love them! We’ve all heard the adage, “We can gain all the weight in the world, but our shoes will always fit!” I always believed that, and I assumed the opposite was true as well. Well, I’m here to tell you that it might not always be so. I remember the days of feeling deep sadness after an afternoon of plus-size clothes shopping when I felt nothing fit properly. I knew I could always stop by any number of fabulous shoe warehouses where a plethora of gorgeous shoe options were just waiting for me. The only thing I didn’t love about my feet was that they were kind of large; even at only 5’4½” I had these rather large size feet. Well, I’m here to tell you that even your feet can carry the bulge as I was so shocked to learn  when I realized that I was going to have to get all new shoes because my previous size 9’s & 9½’s were slipping from my feet!

This journey of weight loss has brought more miracles into my life than I could ever count and I am so grateful for bariatric surgery each and every day.

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 5

Tanya McGill enjoying dinner with friends in Barcelona, Spain.

Tanya McGill enjoying dinner with friends in Barcelona, Spain.

Getting back into the swing of things following bariatric surgery was fairly easy given that I was well prepared. The nutritional classes I’d attended at Emory Healthcare prior to surgery, as well as the vast amount of information I’d collected from all the support group meetings I’d gone to really helped take out as many unknowns as possible. I’d even seen a psychologist regularly who specialized in helping weight loss surgery patients prepare for what to expect after surgery.

I thought I had done the entire course of the weight loss surgery’s version of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what life would be like emotionally after surgery. This wasn’t anyone’s fault; this was because life is weird and people are strange and there was absolutely no way to predict how each and every person was going to respond to me after I began losing weight, and I couldn’t know how I was going to handle the huge variance in responses. Finding my center and staying grounded was one of the most challenging things I faced as a post-op gastric bypass patient.

Because hormones are stored in fat cells, as the fat cells begin to rapidly shrink those hormones are released in very quick bursts. This can lead to mood swings or depression in some people. Others may not notice any change in mood whatsoever. Some people in our support group spoke of mourning the loss of their best friend: food! Before my surgery, food was a great companion, a loyal consoler to whom I could always turn during times of stress and pain as well as during times of great happiness and celebration. I could always count on food to be there for me.  After my procedure, that was no longer the case. I had to cultivate new tools in order to move smoothly into my new life as a person whose tiny new pouch could only accommodate enough to maintain nutrition – certainly not emotional eating.

As I alluded to earlier, dealing with others around you can be a little tricky, as well. Those who know you have had surgery may feel the need to scrutinize every individual thing you put on your plate or in your mouth (even if they never went through a weight loss surgery nutritional class in their life). They could be concerned, they may wish to help or support you, or they may just be downright nosey. This might be a good time to whisper a personal mantra to yourself, something like, “I am surrounded by many good people who want only the best for me.” Well, at least something close to that worked for me so I wouldn’t go crazy every time I had to explain to people that yes, I actually could have cheese grits for breakfast if I wanted to and still lose weight!

One of the most poignant moments I remember concerning the topic of my impending  bypass surgery took place in my favorite fondue restaurant. I and dear friend of mine (whom I had known since I was thirteen) were there along with our another close friend and her husband. The four of us were chatting when the theme of the conversation moved to my surgery which was just a few weeks away. The friend I’d known since I was thirteen suddenly became very concerned, not about the surgery itself and how I might fare during the procedure or anything of that nature. She was quite concerned about my losing weight and therefore losing the real “me” in the process. I remember so vividly her saying that she loved me just the way I was and that she didn’t want me to change who I was in this process. I had to assure her that I was, indeed, going to change, but only in the best of ways. I knew in my heart that this surgery was the right thing for me to do. And I still feel that way more than six years later.

Next up: A handful of the countless miracles I have experienced on this journey.