Persistence, weight loss surgery fuels weight loss transformation

LaJeana Hall practices pilates with classmates.jpgLaJeana Hall never looked into her future and saw “fitness instructor” as a skill she would attain.

“I was so heavy before, it wasn’t something that I thought I’d ever try,” said Hall, the owner of a tax and accounting business.

But that was 75 pounds ago.

After years of weight struggles, Hall in July 2014 decided to proceed with bariatric surgery at Tucson Medical Center with surgeon Jeffrey Monash.

Not surgery alone

As part of their care, patients learn all about nutrition, they are introduced to fitness activities and they participate in support groups to help them stay on track with their goals.
LaJeana had never tried Pilates before, but it was offered with the program so she decided to try it.

“I really enjoyed it,” she recalled. “It’s not as hard as people think, you can do it with just a yoga mat and it actually worked. I saw results fairly quickly.”

She could feel her muscles lengthening and tightening and she saw some trouble spots get more streamlined.

She liked it so much, in fact, that she started encouraging others to try it. One thing led to another and she decided to become a certified instructor. She completed the program in July to teach basic and plus-sized Pilates and hopes to start teaching soon at her church.

Persistence

Hall is quick to note that her progress took persistence. “I exercise more, including walking and weight training. I eat better and I try to not eat as much sugar. I don’t sit around eating junk food out of boredom – I try to stay busy.”

Hall said she’s glad she made the change. “I sleep better. I feel better. I’m half the person I used to be and it’s important to me that I can work out and not have to stop because I’m out of breath.”
She hopes her progress will inspire others. “I think it helps show people that they can do it too. If you stick to the program that they set for you, you’ll be able to reach your goals too.”

 

 

No more blood pressure pills, less pain after weight loss surgery

KelleeKellee Smith didn’t have a history of struggling with weight. She still has the size 2 gown she wore in a Miss Maryland pageant when she was 110 pounds.

But the weight started creeping on after a drunk driver in a large pickup truck slammed into her small car five years ago, shattering her shoulder, detaching her knee cap, severing the tendons in her leg and leaving her with a traumatic brain injury. It took two surgeries and about 18 months of rehabilitative therapy to start rebuilding her life.

She gained weight, in part from the reduced activity, in part as a side effect from the medications she was taking and in part as a result of turning to food as a comfort from the pain and physical limitations.

When her blood pressure medication would no longer control her blood pressure, though, she knew she had to make a change.

“I just wanted to be healthier. I didn’t want to worry about having a cardiac event or having to take more and more medication,” said Smith, a 45-year-old teacher.

Smith had gastric sleeve surgery in summer 2017.

One of the important tools for Smith was a food journal. Surprised to see how much soda she had been drinking, she switched to flavored seltzer water and eventually just switched to water.

Other changes: She adds a low-carb protein shake to iced coffee, giving her the creaminess of a frappucino without the extra sugar and calories. She turns sandwiches into lettuce wraps to eliminate the bread. She’s made spaghetti out of zucchini strings.

“I’m just a lot more conscious about labels and what I’m eating now,” she said. “I can still have the treats that I want, but I just look for ways to make them a healthier alternative.”

Smith said her surgeon told her not to be surprised if it was hard to make some of the transitions in the beginning, and at one point might wonder why she had decided to do it in the first place.

“I have not once asked why I did this,” Smith said. “I had tried diets and even diet medications. I had gone to gyms. I even had a personal trainer. Nothing was helping me lose the weight and I had really just resigned myself that this was how life was going to be for the rest of my life.”

Instead, six months in, Smith has lost 55 pounds in a safe, steady way. Initially at a size 18/20 pants, she bought herself a pair of size 12 jeans over the Christmas holidays. She’s doing strengthening classes at the gym. Between that conditioning and carrying less weight, she’s experiencing less pain and her balance is steadier than it had been in years.

Importantly, in October, she stopped taking blood pressure medication altogether because she no longer has hypertension.

And she’s strongly considering entering a pageant in fall 2018 to share her accomplishments.

“Weight loss surgery isn’t an easy way out or a cure all, but it is a tool,” Smith said. “Every day, it’s a new commitment. Every day, I choose if I’m going to live an active life and make healthy choices.”

Bariatric support group helps patient stay on track with a healthy weight

MaryannMaryann Webb was once “fired” from a support group for not losing enough weight.

Never mind that she’d shed 100 pounds from her starting weight of 357 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery. It wasn’t fast enough or significant enough to meet the expectations of the other members of her group. So she quit.

She and a friend left another support group so depressed they went out and got a hot fudge sundae.

Then in January 2017 she found the support group at Tucson Medical Center for those who had weight-loss surgery.

The 74-year-old retired personnel trainer never misses one.

“It’s like getting a booster shot every month,” she said. She likes the positivity of the group and the non-judgmental environment.

Webb had a long struggle with weight. Part of it is genetics – a whole passel of her family is just a little shorter and a little heavier than average. And she comes from a long line of family members who comfort and nurture one another with food. If you went to grandma’s for Saturday supper, you knew you were going home with a dozen of her sugar cookies.

When she moved from the family farm and the physical demands associated with it, and took a desk job, she found herself gaining weight pretty quickly.

“I’d tried them all. The cabbage soup diet. The hormone shots. This was a long time ago, but I even tried that approach where they shock you when they show you a photo of food to try to make you repulsed by it. Nothing worked.”

It got worse when she was hit with a triple whammy: A divorce, a change in jobs and a newly empty nest after her daughter went away to college.

By the time she had surgery – this was back in 1999 – she was 55 and having trouble with her kidney function and she had diabetes. She took off 100 pounds pretty quickly and then years later lost more when she went through an unrelated medical condition.

The weight loss support group is offered monthly and provides an opportunity for patients who have had weight-loss surgery to connect with others who are in different stages of their weight-loss journey. Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive environment for patients to build relationships and get education focused on health and well-being for their lifelong journey.

Last year, she underwent surgery to fix a constriction and a hernia on the original bypass. When her surgeon asked her what she wanted from the surgery, she said she just wanted to eat lettuce again.

Unlike the larger incision from the first surgery, technology allowed a laparoscopic procedure this time around, with much less pain and a faster recovery. She stuck to her surgeon’s diet suggestions like gospel, sure it would help her heal faster. And sure enough, she’s eating lettuce again.

She’s also walking three days a week, doing aerobics three days a week and organizing monthly social events with a group of retired friends (including a tour of Tucson’s ethnic restaurants with strict orders to try something they’d never had before.)

“I feel better than I have in years,” Webb said. “It isn’t like the surgeon gets to wave a magic scalpel and suddenly the weight comes off like magic. It’s a tool. But it’s a tool that makes it easier. Plus, now I know myself better. I understand what I have to do to take care of myself. I know I never want to be that sick again. And I’ve learned over the years that it’s OK to be proud of yourself a little bit.”

And that’s also why her self-care toolbox includes the monthly support group held on the TMC campus for those who have had bariatric surgery at TMC.

Webb said she appreciates sharing her tips with others and learning from experiences others share – not to mention it’s often a tasty experience to boot.

A recent class had a series of taste tests for protein bars (she’s rather partial to Power Crunch salted caramel.) In another class, members shared their recipes for protein shakes and made samples. The class learned about vitamins and supplements in another.

“I can actually say that I’ve been to a lot of support groups over the years,” Webb said. “And this is really a support group.”

For more information about weight loss surgery at TMC attend a FREE weight loss surgery seminar.

Comprehensive Weight-Loss Program now available at TMC

TMC Weight Loss Program 3Super foods – juice cleansing – metabolism kick starters – core workouts. Weight-loss is very challenging and the dizzying number of diets, fads and exercises can make it even harder. Tucson Medical Center’s Comprehensive Weight-Loss Program offers safe and effective plans that are personalized to meet each patient’s needs.

These days, busy lifestyles are common– stretching schedules for career, family, activities and so much more. With only so many hours in a day, it’s hard to make time for health and easy to put on pounds fast. More than 70 percent of American adults are overweight and we understand that everyone faces unique challenges to achieving a weight loss goal.

TMC Wellness Director Mary Atkinson explains how the TMC Weight-Loss Program is different. “We look at the whole person,” she said. “Registered dietitians and certified exercise-professionals will work with you to create a personalized plan you can live with, so you can lose weight and keep it off.”

Weight-Loss Counseling Program The 12-week program includes three, one-hour initial appointments and eight follow-ups that last about 30 minutes. Periodic assessments help determine what is working best and allow you and your team to make adjustments to keep

  • Nutrition, fitness and general wellness assessments
  • Reliable advice that you can use
  • Tracking of weight and estimated body composition
  • Development of personalized nutrition and fitness plans
  • Strategies to promote long-term weight-loss success

Weight-Loss Surgery from the TMC Bariatric Center

The TMC Bariatric Center, a comprehensive center accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program, guides you every step of the way on your weight-loss journey:

  • Pre-surgery counseling and evaluations
  • Post-op care that includes nutritional counseling
  • Psychological support
  • Instruction on incorporating exercises into your lifestyle
  • Discussion groups – build relationships with others who have had bariatric surgery at TMC
  • Some services may be covered by insurance.

TMC Weight Loss Program 4Weight Management Support Group

No matter what method you have used to lose weight, sticking to your new good habits and keeping the weight off can be a challenge. Don’t try to tackle it alone. Join our monthly support group, led by a certified health coach, to learn new tips and stay motivated.

Program Pricing

  • Flat fee for the entire program: $400
  • Weekly rate: $60 for one-hour sessions, $30 for 30-minute sessions (total of $480 for entire program)
  • Weight management support group = $5 per meeting (meets monthly at The Core at La Encantada)

For more details, please contact TMC Wellness, (520) 324-4163 or wellness@tmcaz.com.

TMC: Best Surgical Weight Loss according to AZ Daily Star readers

ContentImageHandlerThe new year means resolutions! And if you’re among the estimated 43 percent of Americans who resolve to lose weight, know that TMC was named Best Surgical Weight Loss by Arizona Daily Star readers. TMC also received Readers’ Choice awards for Best Hospital, Best Birthing Center and Best Emergency Department.

TMC has been accredited as a Bariatric Center of Excellence since 2011 and offers Gastric Band, Gastric Bypass and Gastric Sleeve surgery just to name a few. From your initial consultation to lifelong follow up, TMC staff is here to help you succeed with your weight loss goals and make you feel as comfortable as possible along the way. As you start your journey, we ensure that we have equipment and furniture that can comfortably accommodate you. TMC offers a pre-op education class that is open to patients and their families. Our hope is that explaining everything that you and your family will experience during your surgery will help reduce anxiety and help you have a positive, safe experience.

Many procedures can be performed robotically, which means they are minimally invasive – they can be performed through tiny incisions, and get you on your feet quicker.

After surgery, you are welcome to attend monthly support group meetings. There are plenty of other patient activities to keep you inspired and motivated to keep losing including walks, runs and races, a clothing exchange, grocery tour, holiday celebration and lecture series held at The Core, TMC’s health and wellness retail center at La Encantada. Special Plus-Size Pilates™ and Beginner’s Zumba classes are also offered specifically for our patients.

Additionally, TMC’s Bariatric Center has been given a grant from the TMC Foundation to purchase items that will assist with recovery and lifelong success such as water bottles, miniature plates and flatware, appropriate sized chairs and “how-to” guides following bariatric surgery that address the emotional aspects of the journey.

Dr. Christine Lovato joined the program in August as the only female bariatric surgeon in Southern Arizona. She joins Dr. Jeff Monash, who has been practicing in Tucson since 2007. From March 2012 to September 2015, 1086 bariatric surgeries were performed at TMC’s Bariatric Center.

For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please call (520) 324-3766.

Rosemary Duschene: Bariatric surgery and hard work lead to a new life

RosemaryRosemary Duschene had grown weary of her diabetes – and along with it, her daily regimen of multiple pills, multiple shots and multiple complications.

“I happened to catch a commercial that said bariatric surgery improves the diabetic condition,” she said.  “I had been a diabetic for 25 years, and it was just becoming totally unbearable.”

With support from her physicians and loved ones, she underwent the surgery just over a year ago, and now reports her diabetic regimen is down to just one pill per day – with the hope that even that one last pill could become unnecessary.

“Within one year’s time I lost 65-70 pounds,” Duschene recalled, noting the lifestyle change was “really not so difficult!  TMC made certain everything was perfect before I became a candidate for surgery.”

After the bariatric surgery to assist her weight loss, she was quickly back on her feet and active. “I wasn’t used to sitting around, and now I had all this added energy and less weight to carry around, so it was easy to get up and move.”

She had a dog to walk, so that was a great motivator – but the biggest energy stimulus has to be Duschene’s 2-year-old grandson, always ready for a trip to the park.

“I let him run, and he chases me, and I chase him…I want so much to be a part of his life.  It’s hard to keep up with a 2-year-old, but it isn’t so bad any more!  I don’t get so tired. It’s just really great to feel so good.”

Rigorous study confirms what TMC bariatric surgeons preach about surgery benefits for diabetics

A recent study done at the University of Minnesota and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests bariatric surgery is a more effective way to reduce and even reverse diabetes than medication and lifestyle changes.  The findings, which came from one of the most rigorous studies of its kind, could lead to changes in who qualifies for the surgery.

Dr. Scott Welle TMC Bariatric Surgeon

Dr. Scott Welle
TMC Bariatric Surgeon

TMC Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Scott Welle said the research corresponds with exactly what he and other bariatric surgeons have said all along – that weight loss surgery is an effective tool for getting diabetes under control and even having it go into remission.  “It’s a lot more common for people to come into my office saying they want to get off their diabetes medicine rather than wanting to lose the weight.  Losing the weight is just the bonus.”  Type 2 diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans.  Most of these patients are overweight or obese, and are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke, among other things.  Diabetes that is not controlled properly can damage the kidneys, eyes and blood vessels.

The yearlong study indicated that gastric bypass, the most common bariatric surgery in which the stomach is stapled to create a small pouch and attached to a lower part of the intestines, can effectively treat diabetes in patients who are considered mild to moderately obese.  “We’re finding this especially true for patients with a lower BMI, who are about 50 to 70 pounds overweight.  Our overall success rate is more effective with this patient population typically because they haven’t been diabetic as long as patients who are morbidly obese,” said Dr. Welle. 

To qualify for weight loss surgery outside of a research institution, a patient must have a BMI of at least 35, and a comorbid condition like diabetes, hypertension, or sleep apnea.  That magic number, 35, Dr. Welle explained, was recommended from the National Institutes of Health in the early 1990’s.  Newer research, which looks at treating people with a lower BMI, may lead to updated recommendations if the surgery is proven to be safe and effective.

“We’re starting to see these patients when they just barely qualify for surgery based on their BMI.  They’re coming in when they’re 80 to 100 pounds overweight, for example, wanting to get off their diabetes medication rather than waiting until they’re 300 pounds overweight,” he said.

Even then, Dr. Welle said, he and his team are not quick to operate.  “It’s not like diabetic patients come into our office, and we schedule a surgery date.”  The amount of time from the consultation to the actual surgery day can range from two to eight months.  There is a pre-authorization and pre-screening process.  Patients are given a psychological evaluation, and undergo nutritional counseling.  The pre-op workup is intense.  Plus, by the time a patient even hits his door, they’ve typically put considerable thought into their decision.  “Nine times out of ten, someone who presents for bariatric surgery has been thinking about it for at least five years on average,” he said. 

clip_image002Since 2011, TMC has been a Bariatric Center of Excellence, an accreditation from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP).  All bariatric surgeries performed at TMC are minimally invasive, and some are even done using the da Vinci surgical robot.  Dr. Welle said the surgery requires a one-to-two-day hospital stay,  and oftentimes patients are off their diabetes medication by the time they are discharged.  “Yes, it happens that quickly with metabolic procedures like gastric bypass.  A majority of my patients leave the hospital off their diabetes medication.”  Most patients resume their normal lifestyle in one to two weeks.

The study did mention an alarming complication rate.  About a third of the 60 adults who underwent gastric bypass developed serious problems within a year of the operation, although some cases were not directly linked to the surgery.  For more serious complications, including infections, intestinal blockages and bleeding, the rate was six percent. 

“If you look at the study, the number of people who had a complication in the surgery group was 22 out of 60.  If you look at the non-surgical group, 15 of those 60 people also had a complication.  It’s important to realize that no deaths were reported.  So when we say bariatric surgery is safe and effective, it truly is.  When you see high complication rates like this in a study, you need to really delve in and look at how strict they’re classifying their complications,” Dr. Welle said.  Patients in the surgery group ended up using an average of three fewer medications than patients in the non-surgical group.  “That’s medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  It’s not just diabetes, rather the gamut of the metabolic syndrome that can be treated effectively with bariatric surgery,” Dr. Welle explained.

For more information about TMC’s Bariatric program, please click here.

TMC Athletes: Employee Loses Nearly Half Her Body Weight: “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

For Barbara Philipp, obesity was nearly a lifelong struggle.

Various weight loss support programs didn’t work, and the weight piled on even faster during the grief-filled time after her mother died.

Topping out at 385 pounds on a 5’10” frame, the 54-year-old medical transcriptionist at Tucson Medical Center faced many painful moments: needing an extra seat belt when flying, having strangers evaluate what was in her shopping cart, dealing with stares.

The final straw, though, was when she realized she could barely walk from her car in the parking lot to the front door of her apartment without needing oxygen.

Philipp’s story, however, is one of victory, continuing a series that features TMC athletes in a nod to the Olympics season and demonstrates the multitude of ways to embrace an active lifestyle.

Two years ago, Philipp decided she’d had it. After consulting with her doctor, it was determined she would be a good candidate for bariatric surgery, which limits the amount people can eat and reduces the absorption of nutrients.

It wasn’t a simple decision. It also required a major diet overhaul. Carbonation is frowned upon, so soft drinks are a no-no for the woman who used to be able to drink a case of soda in a day. She can no longer tolerate greasy food, yeast bread, peanut butter and pizza, but instead focused on fruits, vegetables and proteins. She has to eat slowly and chew well to aid digestion. She surprised herself by learning to like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

But boy, did the weight come off. She was losing 18 pounds a month for the first 5 months. And she’s still losing about three pounds a month. Now at 199 pounds, she’s well on her way to her target goal of 175.

“Talk about a confidence boost,” she said. And the more confidence she gained, the more active she became.

To get in shape for her surgery, she had started walking with a friend around the block. “I got hooked. I could not get enough of it,” she said. “It was amazing how far I could go once I got some of the weight off me.” Every other day, she now walks 4.5 miles.

In March, she took a class to learn how to run. “I was sore and achy at first. Even my eyelashes would hurt,” she said. She started running for one minute and walking for three, working up to running 4 minutes and walking for one. “Pretty soon, you realize you’re running more than you’re walking. And when they talk about runners getting an endorphin rush, I can now say that’s a fact.”

She said she might be slow – running a 13-minute mile – but she’s doing it, and she’s up to 5 miles every other day. She even did the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k in early June.

She’s off blood pressure medication. She’s no longer borderline diabetic. She’s become more outgoing with strangers.

“This is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I did it for me, and not for anybody else,” she said. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines of life anymore. I needed to be a participant.”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461