‘Thinner, Healthier, Happier’ After Weight-Loss Surgery

September 10, 2020

Christine Tangredi has a photo of herself from 2017 taped to her refrigerator. It is a reminder of a phase of her life that she never wants to relive.

In the photo, she is 125 pounds heavier. Christine, who lives in Parlin, New Jersey, had bariatric surgery in November 2017 at Bayshore Medical Center, and has had remarkable success losing weight and correcting her sleep apnea since. One reason she’s been able to make such a 180-degree pivot is pent-up motivation compounded by the daily challenges, big and small, that used to plague Christine’s life.

“It’s dropping the soap in the shower and struggling to pick it up because your belly’s in the way. It’s going on an airplane and the seatbelt doesn’t fit, so you have to ask for extender. It’s going to an amusement park and being told you won’t fit on a ride,” Christine recalls of her life before surgery.

She tried multiple diets, but none were sustainable. “Every time you mess up a little bit, you gain more weight,” Christine explains. “It was like a revolving door.”

The Decision to Move Ahead with Surgery

Finally, in 2015, Christine decided it was time to seek help to regain control of her weight. She attended a seminar on bariatric surgery at a nearby hospital and heard success stories of people who had finally shed unwanted weight with the help of a gastric band or sleeve gastrectomy. She talked with a nurse and decided she liked the idea of the band, which is synched around the stomach to create a smaller top section, which restricts food intake.

The day before she was set to have her band surgery, Christine fell and broke her ankle in three places. The injury put her surgery on hold indefinitely. Once she healed, Christine relocated to Parlin and started a new job. Not wanting to take too much time off as a new employee, she put off rescheduling the surgery.

Almost two years after she had originally planned to get a gastric band, Christine met with bariatric surgeon Richard Greco, D.O., at Bayshore. In the time since she had broken her ankle, she had heard of some people not tolerating the gastric band due to reflux or slippage. To Christine, her injury seemed to be a fateful experience that led to her the sleeve gastrectomy.

With this method, a surgeon reduces stomach capacity by removing a large portion of it. “The stomach literally goes from looking like a huge boot to a banana,” Dr. Greco says.

Once healed, a stomach that has undergone sleeve gastrectomy holds about 4–6 ounces and lacks the part of the stomach that produces the hunger hormone—so the desire to eat is reduced.

Relearning to Eat

Within the first week of sleeve gastrectomy surgery, Dr. Greco says patients can expect to lose 10–20 pounds. Christine lost 36 pounds in the first month after her surgery—equating to 13 percent of her body weight. To achieve that, she had to relearn how to eat, a process she credits her nutritionist and nurses with helping her through.

“If it wasn’t for the dietitian and the books they put together, I don’t know if I could have done it,” Christine recalls. “Everything that I could possibly have wanted to know, I could shoot [my nutritionist] an email, and she’d send me back the answer or she’d call and talk to me.”

Christine’s new nutrition plan calls for a focus on protein-rich foods, fruits and vegetables. When she orders a salad for lunch, leftovers from it may last her three days now. At work, her employer has added some in-office snack options that fit into her nutritional plan. Because she has colitis, she also has to avoid foods that may upset her stomach, including certain vegetables. She is very regimented about taking vitamin supplements, as well, because her smaller stomach makes it harder to ingest many nutrients.

By the end of the first year, Christine’s weight was down 108 pounds, and her BMI was down more than 19 points, putting her just 12 pounds shy of the goal weight she and Dr. Greco chose. Not only did Christine’s physicality change, but her mental state had shifted, too.

“I’m thinner, I’m healthier, I’m happier,” Christine says. Now she looks forward to shopping for dresses and helping others in their bariatric surgery journey. “I am always happy and smiling. I have much more confidence—maybe even a little sass.”

Her advice to others considering bariatric surgery, or who have already had it, is to follow the rules. If you feel yourself struggling, she advises, call your nutritionist right away.

Christine is grateful for Dr. Greco’s compassion and recommends him to others. “He has the best bedside manner,” she adds. “After my procedure, I hugged him and thanked him for helping me get back to me. He said, ‘Don’t thank me. I only gave you the tool. You did all the hard work!’”

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