Get inspiration and support from people just like you. Weight management patients share the struggles they’ve faced, and the stories of their success with OhioHealth.
Working Toward a Healthier Life, Together
Spouses share many life experiences, but Jill and Neal Nolan are sharing a life-changing experience. Between the two, they’ve lost nearly 300 pounds while supporting each other on their path to living healthier.
Their journey started when first Jill and then Neal turned to the OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management program for help in 2013. Each attended a Surgical Weight Management seminar and met with OhioHealth physician Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS. These free seminars explain the program and answer questions about how it works.
Many of those questions are ones Jill answers every day at work — she’s a nurse navigator for the OhioHealth Weight Management program. But in April of 2013 she’d had enough of being overweight herself.
“I had been overweight all my life,” Jill says. After an unsuccessful gastric banding procedure in 2009 she gained back the weight she lost. Then, at 330 pounds, she sought laparoscopic gastric sleeve treatment with Dr. Sonnanstine. She had the procedure in December 2013, about eight months after she began participating in OhioHealth’s program.
Following in Jill's Footsteps
Weight hadn’t been an issue for Neal — until he hit age 40. “Basically, all through my life I’ve been able to lose and gain weight at will,” he says. But after 40 his weight increased to 380 pounds, which made his diabetes worse.
Neal wanted to follow in Jill’s footsteps. “I saw that she lost weight, and I just got fed up with my weight,” he says. He joined the OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management program in August and had laparoscopic Roux-en-Y bypass surgery in February 2014, about six months later.
The couple acknowledge that bariatric surgery is a major decision one must make on his or her own. “It’s a very emotional process to go through,” Jill says.
“It’s not just the surgery,” says Neal, a prison corrections official. “You have to be ready to make big lifestyle changes.”
For both Jill and Neal, that meant being much more conscious about what and how they eat. Protein plays a significant role in their diets and they drink a lot of water. They eat small meals throughout the day and eat more slowly. When dining out, they share an entrée.
Exercise also became part of their lifestyles, with Neal using weight training and a treadmill to stay fit. Jill exercises regularly at home and at the gym with a personal trainer, and she also takes classes at the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center.
A Change for the Better
Surgery and lifestyle changes have noticeably improved the couple’s health. Jill dropped 140 pounds and now needs only two daily blood pressure pills instead of six. “My labs are great. My cholesterol is great. All my numbers are great, really great,” she says.
Neal lost 150 pounds and no longer requires diabetes medication. He takes a lower dose of blood pressure medication and feels better overall. “My knee pain went away and I notice I don’t get sick as much as I used to, like catching colds,” he says.
The Nolan’s new life has had a significant impact on their adult daughter as well. She has adopted healthier eating habits and become more active, including working out with Jill. As a result, she’s lost 85 pounds.
Finding a Weight Management Program That Worked
“I had no idea it would feel this good. It has changed my life completely and for the better."
That’s how Sheila S. feels about the weight loss that gave her a healthier life. But it wasn’t always that way — Sheila struggled with being overweight most of her life. She tried nearly every weight loss and exercise program available but nothing helped. Each attempt to lose weight resulted in gaining more pounds. Then came a medical diagnosis and news she would be lucky to live to age 50.
Sheila knew she needed help and consulted with her physician, who recommended OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management as the best way to lose her weight. From that moment forward, Sheila was determined not to let anything get in her way.
Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery
She began working with the OhioHealth team to prepare for Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. Right away, she knew she would have a better experience compared to her other weight loss attempts.
"The whole team at OhioHealth made me feel like I was important,” she says. "They made me feel like I wasn’t invisible, that I mattered, that what I said and what I did was important."
For several months before her surgery, the staff at OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management worked with Sheila to prepare her not only for the procedure but also for her life afterward. Establishing important lifestyle changes beforehand, such as a healthy eating and exercise, made her experience after surgery much easier.
"The entire team helps you see where you go wrong with your lifestyle choices, and they teach you how to make better ones," she says. “They really, honestly cared about me. It was like having your family there."
Now, at nearly half her pre-surgery weight, Sheila’s perspective on life has changed, and she has endless energy. She has even started a weight-loss program at her church, counseling seven young women.
"I want to inspire other people," she says. "The team at OhioHealth inspired me, and that's exactly what I want to do for others."
A Surgical Weight Management Journey
Van Michael was an active youth with the body of an athlete. He played high school and semi-professional football, and as a younger adult he worked at physical jobs that kept him vigorous and fit.
Then he began working at a desk job, and his weight reflected the change. “All the physical activity went down, and that’s when I started to gain like crazy,” says Van, who lives in Milford, Ohio. He grew from about 240 pounds in the mid-1980s to 561 pounds by 2013.
After trying and failing to lose weight on his own, Van had gastric banding surgery in 2006 to reduce his stomach’s size. He chose a clinic in Cincinnati, but he ultimately had complications with the banding and wasn’t able to lose the weight he wanted. That was bad news for his health — Van has type 2 diabetes, which is worsened by excess weight. At the time he needed one or two insulin shots each day, and his diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy made it difficult to walk. His heartbeat was irregular and also he required blood thinner medication.
Giving Surgery a Second Chance
The final straw came with business trips to India and China in 2012 and 2013, which were extremely difficult because of Van’s weight and health problems. He knew he needed bariatric surgery to regain his health, and he wanted to make sure it worked this time. He remembered that his son had seen Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, at the OhioHealth Weight Management program for repair of an unsuccessful Roux-en-Y bypass that was performed elsewhere. “He had a really good opinion of Dr. Sonnanstine,” Van says.
Van contacted OhioHealth and started his weight loss journey by attending a Surgical Weight Management Seminar. He also worked to lose 50 pounds before his Roux-en-Y surgery in October, 2013, as directed by Dr. Sonnanstine. Van got help from program dietitian Kristi Ann Highly, who explained the importance of protein, hidden fats and healthy food choices like Greek yogurt. “What my wife and I thought we knew about nutrition, we didn’t know,” Van says. “Kristi turned us on to protein drinks and explained which foods are good and which are bad, as far as keeping my engine moving.”
Van’s next hurdle was to get active again. He started using hand weights while watching television and progressively gained strength in his upper body. And after he started losing pounds walking became easier.
With his surgery and improved lifestyle, Van ended up losing more than 330 pounds. These days he’s back to an active life, with lots of walking, riding an exercise bike and working out in his home weight room. He spends evenings remodeling an investment property, and loves giving rides on his adult tricycle to his five grandkids.
Van’s journey to a healthier weight has had its bumps, including times when his weight loss stalled. But he has persevered, confident he won’t return to his old lifestyle. He no longer requires insulin, and his physician may discontinue his daily diabetes pill.
“I feel like a new person,” he says. “I feel like I’m back in high school.”
A Life-Changing Relationship
Back when Kristina B. weighed nearly 300 pounds, she felt she was OK with who she was. “But I wasn’t happy with who I was,” Kristina says.
Changing Unhealthy Habits through Better Nutrition
Then she learned about OhioHealth Medical Weight Management from her primary care physician, and it was the beginning of a life-changing relationship. Kristina looked into the program, checked her bank balance and decided, “This is an investment in myself.”
At that time she had been divorced for about a year — an event that leads many people to put on extra pounds. Kristina turned that risk into an opportunity. Under supervision in the OhioHealth program, she began a low calorie diet that starts with medically nutritious shakes and gradually transitions to solid food. The program also includes counseling to help change unhealthy habits, and when Kristina found herself slipping into old eating patterns she got the help she needed to persevere.
“They were really supportive,” she says of the counselors and others at OhioHealth. "It was never, 'Shame on you.' Instead, it was, 'Hey, let's try this next time.' They truly do care about every participant."
Now, nearly 100 pounds lighter, Kristina feels that the healthcare team at OhioHealth Weight Management did everything right to help her reach a healthy weight.
"It's truly unique the way they treat you as an individual," she says. "As a fat person, you're used to being treated a certain way. But at OhioHealth they are different, they are supportive. It's not something you're used to receiving when you're an overweight person."
As a trimmer, healthier person, Kristina can now say she’s not just OK with who she is. She’s happy with who she is.
Breaking the Family Cycle of Obesity
For Jason Laipply, his life-altering moment came on Father’s Day 2014. At about 330 pounds, Jason was nearly the same weight as his father. He watched the older man struggle to get up from a chair and vowed to change his own path.
“I was pretty much a carbon copy of my dad and his dad,” Jason says. “I watched my dad take about four minutes to get out of a regular old kitchen chair, and I knew I had to do something about my obesity.”
Jason knew he’d face serious health issues if he didn’t lose weight, and he’d also have trouble with simple life pleasures like playing with grandkids. He took his first step toward a healthier life in August of 2014, by attending an OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management seminar.
Embracing the Weight Management Process
At the seminar, Thomas Sonnanstine, MD, FACS, FASMBS, explained the surgical options and other details of the process. He also talked about the importance of preparing for the surgery, and Jason realized the commitment he needed to make. “Mentally, I was trying to take a shortcut,” he says.
Instead of a shortcut, Jason took advantage of the program’s nutrition counseling to lose 60 pounds before his laparoscopic gastric sleeve procedure the day after Christmas 2014.
Jason’s care at OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management didn’t end with surgery. He also received emotional, nutritional and fitness support — expert guidance to help maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle. According to Jason, surgery itself is not a silver bullet and success depends on embracing the entire process.
“You have to get to a point in your own life where you are going to do this for yourself. You’re not doing it because your wife is telling you to do it, or your family is telling you to do it. It’s going to be the most important thing in your life for a period of time, and it really has to take center stage.” Jason says.
A Healthy Transformation
Thanks to his surgery and improved lifestyle, Jason no longer needs the cholesterol and anti-reflux medications he was taking. Also gone are the sore joints and frequent illnesses he suffered.
Jason’s family has been supportive throughout his transformation — with his wife reaping her own healthful benefits. She lost 50 pounds in 10 months with just the changes they made in their lifestyles.
“We are definitely more active,” Jason says. The couple walks every morning before going to work, splits an entrée when dining out and tracks what they eat using a free phone app.
A self-described numbers guy, Jason is hooked on wearing a Fitbit to track his daily steps and activity through his employer’s walking program. He is training to run a half-marathon and plays basketball weekly with interns from work.
Before Jason lost 155 pounds, he avoided amusement parks. “I wasn’t sure if I could fit on all the rides,” he says. But now he’s looking forward to a fun-filled day at Cedar Point.
Making the Commitment to Weight Management
People often ask Dennis how he lost weight — it’s a good question, since he dropped more than 200 pounds.
Dennis acknowledges that getting started was a hard decision, but once he committed to the OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management program the path was clear. “I listened to everything they told me to do and did everything they asked,” he says. “It worked perfectly for me.”
Dennis’ weight loss journey started when his family physician referred him to OhioHealth for surgical weight management. "I was fed up with being so big, and I was ready to do something," Dennis says. "My health and my life were so limited."
From the start he felt he had found the right program at OhioHealth. “They are constantly there to support me, and they always return my calls,” he says.
Bariatric Surgery and Beyond
Bariatric surgery is just the beginning of weight loss, and Dennis pushed himself to exercise and eat healthy foods after his gastric bypass. Today he has an active lifestyle that includes things he was unlikely to do before, such as going to Kings Island amusement park. In fact, he rarely sits down long enough to watch television.
"I walk. I play with my grandson. I golf again. I'm always doing something," he says.
Dennis has referred several people to the OhioHealth Surgical Weight Management program — it was the right place for him and he believes others will have the same success.