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Gastric bypass surgery improves woman's health, ends yo-yo dieting

Mary Pistak is dedicated to following her post-surgery program, including exercises that she enjoys.

By the time she turned 50, Mary Pistak had become expert at the yo-yo. Not the toy, but the ability to lose significant weight – 80 to 100 pounds or more at a time – only to have it return again. Like the ups and downs of a yo-yo. 

With a body mass index (BMI) over 50, Mary’s weight put severe stress on her back and joints, leading to knee replacements in 2010 and 2011. She also developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“I’m a nurse. I knew this wasn’t healthy,” Mary said. “Medications helped me lose weight, but I always gained it back. I felt hopeless.”

For years, Mary considered weight-loss surgery an “easy out” or “cheating.” But when her primary care physician suggested she consider surgery, Mary felt empowered to explore the option.

Mary came to the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care, which supports the immediate- and long-term needs of people who are overweight or obese and seeking either medical or surgical treatment options. Specialists in bariatrics (weight loss) and bariatric surgery, diabetes, heart and liver disease, respiratory and digestive complications, arthritis, nutrition, psychology and exercise work together based on the needs of each patient.

“Mary is representative of many people with a multitude of illnesses associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and quality-of-life issues, such as back and joint pain,” said Bipan Chand, MD, medical director, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care. “Our program focuses on three goals: reduce overall weight, resolve important medical issues, and create a pathway to live longer with a better quality of life.”

Dr. Chand discussed the pros and cons of different surgeries with Mary and her husband, Eric, ultimately recommending gastric bypass. “We asked Dr. Chand directly about his complication rate,” Mary said. “He answered every question throughout this entire process. We think he’s an amazing doctor and an amazing person. The whole experience has been wonderful.”

Before she could tolerate surgery, Mary needed to become healthier by losing weight. By following the bariatric team’s specific diet and exercise instructions, Mary lost 60 pounds prior to her surgery in October 2012. Since then she has lost an additional 70 pounds and intends to lose more to feel even better.

Last summer Mary couldn’t walk a block without back pain. Now she is healthier and more active than she has been in a very long time. She is taking fewer heart medications and is training for a 37-mile bike ride in September.

Achieving and maintaining weight loss requires lifelong medical monitoring and permanent changes in the individual’s thinking and diet. It’s often necessary to take vitamin supplements and avoid certain foods. Loyola’s bariatric team provides education and counseling to every patient.

“Mary’s commitment to her post-surgery plan and her strong family support are helping her reach her goals,” Dr. Chand said. “Yet for many people, medical management is best. The sooner we can determine the best approach for an individual and start a personalized treatment plan, the better the outcomes will likely be for any patient.”

“My children knew that I was cutting my life short by being so overweight, and they helped me realize that I was affecting the lives of people who loved me,” Mary explained.

“I couldn’t have done this without my family cheering me on. Now I’m taking my life back.”

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