For Amanda Serrano of Lucerne, the bariatric weight loss surgery process was a challenge that paid off. “It changed my whole way of thinking!” she said. “It worked for me!”
“My life is different now,” she explained. When I get up in the morning, I feel good about myself. I am not tired all the time, and I am not afraid to look in the mirror. I go places a lot more often. I feel happier now, not ashamed of myself,” she said.
“I have six kids, and since the surgery, I can do a better job of keeping up with them. I like going to their sporting events now. It is much easier to walk up the bleachers, and I am not embarrassed by my appearance. I have more confidence now, and more energy.
“These might seem like little things, but going to talk to my kids' teachers, going to the grocery store, taking the kids to the park, are all so much easier now. I don't feel tired and sluggish all the time. I can play with the kids outside and actually run around with them,” she said, smiling.
Serrano chose to have the lap band surgery, in which a saline-filled band is placed around the top of the stomach. Because it was performed laparoscopically, she was able to go home the same day. She explained that the lap band can be adjusted over time, if needed, and it can even be removed if desired. Side effects are uncommon. “I haven't had any side effects,” she said. “Not one!”
“Bariatric surgery is not magic,” she cautioned. “It takes a lot of work to be successful, both before and after the surgery. Before the surgery I attended a support group, where a nutritionist taught us what foods are good to help start losing weight, and how to keep a food journal. The food journal is very helpful because it shows me exactly what I am putting into my body, and how much.
“Since the surgery, I still eat a healthy diet, count calories, keep the food journal, attend the support group, and exercise. I walk one and a half to two miles a day on my treadmill. I go for walks around the neighborhood; I couldn't do that before. I also do some floor exercises. In the past, I used to drink a lot of soda, but I don't drink soda or any type of sugary drinks anymore. I lost 15 pounds in three weeks before the surgery, and a lot more since. I had lost weight in the past, then regained it, but this time it has stayed off! I am happy to say I am still losing; I have about 20 pounds to go,” she said.
Serrano's advice to anyone considering bariatric surgery: “Don't be scared! The lap-band is a very simple procedure, and the result is life-changing! It took me about 6 months to decide to do it, but it was definitely the right choice!”
Fit and attractive, looking at Magdolna Horvath it is hard to believe she once weighed over 300 pounds. “Before bariatric surgery, I wore a size 16 pants. Now I wear a size 6! I wore XL or larger tops, and now I wear a medium top. I even lost 1/2 size on my feet,” she said, smiling.
While Horvath considers her bariatric surgery a miracle, she says it still takes a lot of discipline to keep off the weight she lost. “The lap bend surgery helps me stay slim,” she said, “but I follow the doctor's instructions very carefully. I found it easy to lose weight,” she said; “keeping it off is the hard part. You really have to stick to it.”
Struggles with back pain and her doctor's advice helped Horvath lose 80 pounds on her own before the surgery, but she still had back problems aggravated by her weight. “My doctor said it would be better if I lost more weight, and he suggested the bariatric surgery,” she said.
“I lost over 80 pounds after the surgery. I cannot even lift that much now!
“I paid for the surgery myself, as my insurance did not cover it. It was worth every penny! I had been on diets all my life – since childhood. This is the first time a diet actually worked for me!”
Besides eating a healthy diet, Horvath exercises faithfully. “I ride my exercise bike for an hour and a half each day, and I take a water aerobics class four times a week. I wasn't sure I would like going to the aerobics class, but I have made a lot of good friends there. I enjoy getting out and being around people,” she said.
“Before the surgery, Dr. Hanna's office did lots of tests, and talked to me about what I could and could not expect. It is not magic, you have to work hard, but the surgery does help. If I eat too much, I get uncomfortable. My stomach lets me know when I have had enough.”
Horvath notes that the surgery does not work for everyone. “Some people cannot keep the weight off. I wasn't going to be one of those people, so I work hard to stay trim. It is rewarding to look at myself in the mirror and to realize I can do this! I am doing it!”
Matthew Smith was “in pretty good shape” until 15 years ago, when he started to drive a truck for a living. “I used to assemble home gyms for the Huffy Bike Company, and then train people to use them. It was a strenuous job. However, I seriously hurt my wrist, and could not continue that type of work, so they sent me to truck driving school. Now I drive a fuel tanker that delivers gasoline and diesel to gas stations. I enjoy driving, but I do a lot of sitting, which makes it easy to gain weight and hard to lose it.
“I did not realize how heavy I had become until my son took a video of the family at Christmas time, and I was shocked to see this huge person on the couch – it was me! That was a turning point. I had always resisted getting medical help. I thought I could do it myself. I had lost weight before; at one point I got down to almost where I am now, but I always gained it back, plus more. A lot more.
“I don't have a lot of fat – I am pretty solid – so that makes it hard to lose. I get discouraged sometimes, especially when my weight levels off for a while, but I have lost 95 pounds in the past year, and I am proud of that. I have gone from 360 pounds to 265. I have about 60 pounds left to reach my goal, and I will get there, even if it takes another year.
“I really like Dr. Hanna. He is from Syria, an interesting man. He has treated people in war zones. He did a lap band surgery on me, and it made a huge difference in my ability to keep weight off. I have so much more stamina now! I can walk over a block without being out-of-breath for the first time in years. I can ride my bike now, and I can bend over to pick things up. I can get down on the ground to work on my Jeep, and get back up easily. I can do more things with the kids. I can walk the dogs. Anything that takes physical exertion is easier. I am sleeping better now, and my back pain is subsiding. Surprisingly, I even have better balance!”
In his free time, Smith restores antique bicycles, and hangs out with his girlfriend and their active, combined families. He is proud of his Electra bicycle, which he describes as “a Japanese re-creation of a Schwinn Phantom. It is not an antique yet, but it is so well built and comfortable, I just like riding it.”
His advice to others who may be considering bariatric surgery: “Don't wait too long, like I almost did. The longer you stay heavy, the harder it is on your body. I did not realize what a boost it would give me to lose that weight and keep it off. I wish I had done it 10 years ago!”