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My Gastric Bypass Patient Success Story 

Dina Perry - Program Director,
Pittsburgh Bariatrics at UPMC St. Margaret

Climbing over 1,000 feet to the top of Knocknarea in Ireland was something that I could not have physically done two years ago.

At 228 pounds, I was having difficulty keeping my breath during a brisk walk. Now, almost 90 pounds lighter, standing at the top and taking in the beautiful hills and valleys as far as I can see, I am exhilarated by the view, but even more so to have made the climb so easily.

A Life-Changing Decision

In 2011, I underwent gastric bypass surgery at UPMC St. Margaret. If it had not been for a culmination of events throughout 2010, I would not have even considered having bariatric surgery.

First, I was about to turn 40. I realized that as the number on the scale went higher, so did my risk for being put on medication. My family history was filled with women who had died too young from diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes.

I had difficulty walking up steps and exercising, and suffered from pain in my knees and ankles.

Then I became the program director for Pittsburgh Bariatrics at UPMC St. Margaret.

I did not grow up with a weight problem. But after having my son in 1995, it became clear over time that the “baby weight” was not only staying on, I was gaining even more weight, becoming unhealthy to the point that I was borderline hypertensive and pre-diabetic.

Over the next decade, my weight went up and down. I tried many diets and was successful only when I stuck to tracking what I ate and routinely exercising. I lost 25 pounds, then gained 35 pounds, and repeated this pattern. This not only took a toll on my body, it also affected my emotions.

I swore each new year that it would be the one for me to keep the weight off. Every New Year’s Eve a resolution would be made, but soon it was broken. Each birthday was the one I promised myself that I would become healthy. But in reality, I kept buying larger-sized clothes until I was wearing a size 20.

I have to admit that when I took the job as bariatric program director, I was skeptical about bariatric surgery. It was something I had never considered. But through my work at a Certified Bariatric Center of Excellence, I quickly became impressed with the results our patients were seeing — not only on the weight scale, but the apparent life-changing results with fewer medications.

Further, the support from the multidisciplinary team of surgeons, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and nurses made this a no-brainer for me. I learned that surgery could be an important tool for success.

But what if I couldn’t do it?

What if I had the surgery and could not keep the weight off?

How would it look for the program director to be unsuccessful after surgery?

A Life-Changing Solution

As soon as I made the decision, I became committed to the idea that the surgery was just a piece of the puzzle. I started an exercise program, joined a gym, worked with a trainer, and tried as many activities inside and outside the gym as I could to try and find the things that I liked. I learned that I loved to bicycle and kayak.

I learned from the dietitians how to read labels, how to make good protein-packed choices, how to track what I ate, and how to get enough fluid to stay hydrated. I learned what vitamins and supplements I needed, and took them religiously.

Meeting with the psychologist before surgery put things into perspective about why my eating habits were so poor. Opening emotional wounds opened my eyes to why I went to food, instead of dealing with issues in a healthier way.

My husband and son were a great support system, exercising and eating healthier with me.

Winning Her Battle

The surgery went well and without complications. I followed my surgeon’s orders and attended support groups at UPMC St. Margaret.

Two years later, I have outlasted several exercise trainers and have successfully lost and kept off 88 pounds and more than 75 inches! Now a size 8, I keep moving, have normal blood pressure, and am no longer pre-diabetic. This year I ran Pittsburgh’s Great Race.

Is every day a challenge? Of course it is. But each new day presents an opportunity to make good decisions. A couple of bites of dessert are enough. And if I don’t get to the gym, I don’t beat myself up. I recognize my triggers for stress eating and deal with them differently.

On January 1, 2013, it occurred to me that I did not once think about a resolution to lose weight — I now focus on keeping it off. Becoming healthy was much like climbing Knocknarea — one step at a time for fabulous rewards!

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