Weight Loss Surgery

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.

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Can Weight Loss Surgery Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes Treatment Weight Loss SurgeryThe typical treatment methodology for Type 2 diabetes includes medications, diet changes, and exercise, but two recent studies have found that weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, may in fact be much more effective in curing Type 2 diabetes. Not only that, but those with Type 2 diabetes who underwent weight loss surgery also saw decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol.

Findings from the two new studies were published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine and have helped shed light on a trend doctors have been noticing for years, that bariatric surgery often rids its patients of Type 2 diabetes as well.

“Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in human history,” and in the U.S. alone, the number of diabetes cases has tripled over the last 30 years. There are currently over 20 million Americans living with diabetes.

The first study compared two different types of bariatric surgery with the typical medical treatment regimen for Type 2 diabetes. After two years of following the participants, those in the surgical weight loss group had complete Type 2 diabetes remission rates of 75%-95%, whereas those in the standard medical treatment group saw no remissions from diabetes. The second study compared two surgical procedures with a more intense medical treatment regimen.Findings showed ~40% remission rates in the surgical group, whereas the rates were much lower, 12%, for the medical treatment group.

In addition to the findings from these studies, research at Emory has shown that bariatric surgery can also aid in the improvement of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sleep apnea, depression, and joint pain among other conditions. The sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass procedures were two of the surgeries evaluated in the studies up above, both of which are offered at the Emory. For more information on the study and these procedures, see the links the below.

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Why does Weight Loss Surgery Demand Continue to Grow?

More and more people in Georgia are considering weight loss surgery as an option for returning to a healthy body weight. Because those who are overweight are at a higher risk for the development of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, for many people, weight loss surgery means both regaining activity and mobility via a healthier body weight and the possibility of a longer, healthier life in general.

Dr. Edward Lin

Dr. Edward Lin

Because the demand for information on surgical weight loss options is growing, Dr. Edward Lin of the Emory Bariatric Center has been taking big action to help educate the community. Today, he held an online chat on the topic of surgical weight loss options (check out the transcript) to help answer questions on the pros and cons of weight loss surgery and dig deeper into the differences between each type of weight loss surgery.

Dr. Lin’s efforts were also recognized by Fox5 News of Atlanta recently, in a story documenting Emory patient, Jim Blackburn’s experience in undergoing a gastric bypass with Dr. Lin as his surgeon.

At 47, and 420 pounds, Jim Blackburn was ready to lose weight in a serious way. “I think I added up 24 different diets that I had been on. I had severe sleep apnea. I had a fatty liver condition, and I was on a lot of medications,” Jim told Fox5. He was worried he wouldn’t make it long enough to watch his children grow up. “My knee joints, ankle joints, hips, I hurt. At 47 years old, that was, that was frightening.”

After Jim decided to undergo surgery, he found Dr. Lin, who looked at Jim’s family history of obesity, his failed weight loss attempts, and identified Jim as a good candidate for gastric bypass.

But according to Dr. Lin, gastric bypass, a permanent procedure, is not for everyone. Pros of the gastric bypass procedure include: dramatic, rapid weight loss and reversal of health problems (including 85% reversal of Type 2 Diabetes cases). However, gastric bypass is a major surgery and is only reversible in a medical emergency. It also comes with a few short term risks, including bleeding and infection. But, because gastric bypass is permanent, it forces patients to adopt new lifestyle and eating habits, typically resulting in better long-term weight loss results.

In contrast, a lap band procedure comes with fewer risks and is a less invasive surgery. The band that is placed around the entrance of the stomach during the procedure can also later be loosened, tightened, or removed, making it less permanent than a gastric bypass. Because of its flexibility, patients who undergo this procedure require “a lot more willpower and mind control,” said Dr. Lin.

Two years after his gastric bypass procedure, Jim Blackburn is now 200 pounds lighter and feeling great. And as findings from a recent study support, family members of weight loss surgery patients, such as Jim’s wife who has since his surgery lost 80 pounds, also benefit from being around relatives who have undergone surgery.

For more information on each of the procedures discussed above and others, check out the Emory Bariatric Center website.

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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.


Emory University Hospital Midtown Receives Level 1 Reaccreditation for Bariatric Surgery

Congratulations to Emory University Hospital Midtown for being granted “Full Approval” Level 1 Reaccreditation by The American College of Surgeons Bariatric Surgery Center Network (ACS BSCN)

Accreditation from The ACS BSCN is given to facilities in the United States that have undergone an independent, voluntary, and rigorous peer evaluation in accordance with nationally recognized bariatric surgical standards. Bariatric surgery accreditation symbolizes institutional commitment and accountability for safe, high-quality surgical care, proven by performance and the measurement of outcomes.

ACS BSCN would like to “again, commend the staff at (Emory University Hospital Midtown) for providing high-quality care to your patients undergoing bariatric surgery.”


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!

The Costs of Being Overweight

We know that being overweight or obese can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional health. But, did you know that being overweight can also carry a financial price tag?

The Department of Health Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Policy recently released a research report entitled “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States.” The report, which tallied the annual, incremental costs of overweight and obesity from the individual perspective,  found that the annual overall costs of being obese are  $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man. This includes medical costs, lost wages, higher work-related costs, and higher costs associated with the purchase of personal goods. For overweight women and men, the incremental annual costs are $524 and $432 respectively.

The report found that the main cost driver for those who are overweight are direct medical costs -  health care costs for an overweight person are $346 higher per year than the health care costs for a normal-weight person. However, lost wages is the main cost driver for obese women.

Today, two out of three Americans are obese or overweight.  If the current trajectory continues, one in two adults will be obese by 2030.

Viewed in this light, participating in a weight loss program can have significant health and financial benefits. When considering the costs of a weight loss program – such as bariatric surgery or a medically-supervised diet – factor in the impact of these programs in reducing your weight as well as the direct costs of being overweight.