Weight-loss Surgery: Never too Late for a Change

August 9, 2019

Diane Pirone, 72, struggled with her weight for most of her life, losing the extra pounds—including 120 pounds twice—by dieting, then gaining them back again over the next few years.

“I’ve always battled obesity, and I’ve been on all sorts of diets,” Diane says. “You name the diet, and I think I’ve been on it.”

But this cycle changed about 20 years ago when she kept gaining and gaining weight, eventually reaching over 400 pounds. She attributes this to increased stress in her life. “I’m a stress eater. I divorced in 1998. My mother got sick and came to live with me. I had a stressful job,” she says. “There was a lot of stress, and the thing that made me happy was food.”

Diane’s health was suffering. She was experiencing shortness of breath and mobility problems, and had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. “I knew I had to get a hold of this because my health was really starting to deteriorate.”

Time for change

In 2016, Diane decided it was time to consider surgery and set up a consultation with Jonathan Reich, M.D., a board-certified surgeon specializing in bariatric surgery at Southern Ocean Medical Center.

She found Dr. Reich encouraging and supportive, and he thought she was a good candidate for weight loss surgery.

“Diane met the criteria we have for performing these procedures,” says Dr. Reich. With a BMI over 40, she qualified; on top of that, she had medical complications related to her weight.

“When you have extra weight, the body starts to experience stress, strain, and medical problems,” says Dr. Reich. Bariatric surgery results in fast weight loss, which helps the body function better quickly. “In just one month after surgery, patients are often able to stop taking medications they’ve been taking for years.”

Although Diane was a bit concerned about her age—she was 70 at the time of surgery—Dr. Reich was not.

“We don’t have a hard age on when we stop doing these procedures,” says Dr. Reich, adding that their oldest patient to date was in her 80s. “Diane didn’t have quality of life. She had multiple severe medical problems that could be the difference between having five years of extra life or 20.”

Dr. Reich recommended a sleeve gastrectomy for Diane. This procedure reduces the size of the stomach while also restricting the hormone that causes hunger. He says this reduction in appetite is key to success with this type of bariatric surgery.

New habits, new life

Diane had the surgery in April 2017 and since then has lost more than 200 pounds. She adopted a low-carb, high-protein diet, and more than two years after surgery, Diane still tracks her food and counts calories, keeping to around 1,200 calories a day. Once she realized that certain foods like pizza triggered bad habits for her, she decided to avoid them completely.

Diane is thankful for the expertise of the team at Southern Ocean. “I selected them because I knew they had a team and they were a bariatric center of excellence. The doctors, the nurses, the dietitians—I just followed everything they told me to do, and I was successful.”

Diane’s life since surgery has totally changed. She no longer has type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea, she breathes more easily, and her mobility has improved so much that she no longer uses a walker or even a cane. She’s made new friends and goes to the pool, and she started dating last year.

“Before I just hibernated in my home. I didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to go out,” says Diane. “Now I have a circle of friends and this really nice guy that I’m dating. Life is pretty good.”

Learn about the tools, treatment and support we offer to help you lose weight and live a healthier life.

Dr. Reich practices in Manahawkin and Toms River. To make an appointment, call 800-560-9990.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.