Bariatric Patient Stories
Update: Catherine just returned from the Panama Canal, one of her lifelong travel destination goals! After achieving 150 pounds* of weight loss, she enjoyed a 10-day cruise! In one word, Catherine says her experience in Panama was "amazing!"
Catherine McCormick is looking forward to retirement. With plans to spend more time at her beach house, travel the United States, see more sights abroad, and even cruise the Panama Canal, Catherine knew she needed to be healthy so she could enjoy herself. Referred to the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center by her pulmonologist, Catherine was on her way to a healthy weight having lost 18 pounds – but she’s come a long way in the time she’s spent with Dr. Kelley Lang, medical director of the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center and the area’s most experienced certified bariatric physician.
“I was heavy and not happy with being unable to do the things I enjoy,” recalls Catherine. “I knew to make the most of the plans I had for retirement, I needed to lose weight. Dr. Lang and the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center have helped me stay motivated to accomplish my goals. Every visit begins and ends with a hug, and there is a ton of positive reinforcement in between. Dr. Lang is warm, caring, and extremely knowledgeable. She made me feel like I was worth it.”
Since starting her weight loss journey, Catherine has lost 132 pounds* by working with the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center staff on lifestyle modification – eating healthy and exercising regularly. They helped plan her diet, monitor her nutrition and develop exercise that fit her life. This multidisciplinary approach features a Registered Dietitian who specializes in bariatrics, an exercise therapist and a behavioral therapist – all working with Dr. Lang to create a multifaceted plan for weight loss.
“I didn’t want to have surgery or take any medications specifically to lose weight. I’m losing weight by changing my diet, exercising, hard work and sheer determination.”
As a Florida native, Catherine was raised in the sun and sand of Florida’s panhandle. She’s passionate about fishing and outdoor activities that are easier for her to do now that she’s lost weight.
“There’s so much I’m looking forward to, including a lot more time with my toes in the sand, traveling to new destinations and quality time with my family. Without the help of Dr. Lang and the staff of the Bariatric Center, I’m not sure I would have been able to conquer my retirement ‘bucket list.’ Now, I know I’ll be able to enjoy every moment.”
The weight of Americans is increasing in almost every category – whether you’re male, female, adolescent or adult. The reasons for this dramatic weight gain are as varied and complex as the individuals who are carrying the extra pounds. Genetics, eating habits, lifestyle, geography, income, belief systems, emotional health and coping skills are just some of the factors affecting how and why people gain weight.
Mistie Westbrook was a healthy young woman who never struggled with her weight growing up, but things changed before she reached the age of 20.
“When I was 19, I experienced a traumatic life event that left me feeling very isolated and depressed,” said Mistie. “As a result, I gained over 100 pounds.”
Over the next several years, Mistie continued to grapple with her weight. After the birth of her daughter, she learned she had Fibromyalgia, which resulted in significant pain and fatigue.
“The medications that I was taking to combat my Fibromyalgia were causing me to continue to gain weight. I was eating more and more and never feeling satisfied. I finally hit 296 pounds,” recalled Mistie. “I was sick of sitting on the sidelines at my daughter’s events and wanted to become more active in order to enjoy spending time with her. I finally realized I had to get some help.”
After hearing about weight loss surgery from a coworker, Mistie talked to her primary care physician and was referred to the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center. Working with her team of physicians, Mistie created a long-term plan for her weight loss goals. She was approved for Gastric Sleevectomy surgery with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) general surgeon, Jeffrey Crooms, MD, and to receive pre-operative care from Kelley Lang, MD, TMH’s certified bariatric physician.
“Before the surgery I was trying to lose weight on my own and nothing was working,” says Mistie. “Thanks to Dr. Crooms and Dr. Lang, I’m now seeing results as I work towards my weight loss goals.”
Since her surgery, Mistie has been working closely with Dr. Lang and the Bariatric Center’s dietitian and therapist to maintain her progress and make healthier choices to continue her weight loss.
“Dr. Lang and the staff at the Bariatric Center were the first people to look at me like I was a person instead of a lost cause. They have a very unique personal touch that made me feel comfortable. They help me stay in check, answer my questions about nutrition and suggest alternatives that fit my life and schedule.”
Mistie now sticks to a much healthier and active schedule, walking during each of her breaks at work and on her lunch hour. She takes the stairs at every opportunity, participates in other athletic activities on the weekends and lifts weights at night while she watches TV.
“I am more active now, but I’m also managing my diet. I’m not starving anymore. I’m not cranky anymore. I’ve gotten into a healthy eating routine that fits with my active lifestyle – it’s 100% easier than before.”
After overcoming so much, Mistie is proudly chronicling her success on social media, posting updates on her weight loss, and documenting her journey to help others.
“I’m dedicated to helping others, be it about weight loss or the other issues I’ve faced in my life. I’m happy to share my story and the resources that have helped me, like the TMH Bariatric Center, so people know there are other people out there who have dealt with and overcome similar situations. You don’t have to deal with it alone, there is help!”
Judy Bowers, Ph.D.
A professor of Choral Music Education at Florida State University, Judy Bowers, Ph.D. has more than a passion for music, she’s made it her life’s work. At FSU, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in choral music and music education while also working with a variety of musical groups and ensembles in our community. Judy is also a well known presenter and attendee at international conferences, sharing her love and knowledge of music across the globe.
But Judy’s exceedingly busy lifestyle – jam-packed with travel and teaching – was in jeopardy. Suffering from sleep apnea, she couldn’t leave home without her Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. Dragging it through the airport became a constant irritation for her. Sleep apnea, or pauses in breathing while sleeping, is a very serious condition that can be caused by obesity.
“I was actually starting to think that I might have to retire. The physical and mental stress of traveling and managing my sleep apnea were dramatically affecting my life.”
Throughout her life, Judy had worked to lose weight, and although she would lose pounds, she would always gain them back. In an effort to stay active in a career that she loved, Judy decided to try a new weight loss strategy – OPTIFAST.
“I didn’t want to have surgery or use drugs,” she said. “Dr. Lang and the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center offered me the ability to use OPTIFAST and tailor it to my life.”
The Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center is one of the only clinics in town offering OPTIFAST, a medically supervised program that combines meal replacements, lifestyle education and the services of a multi-disciplinary team to help patients achieve successful weight management. Dr. Kelley Lang, the area’s most experienced certified obesity physician, leads the program.
Judy worked with the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center team to incorporate OPTIFAST and lifestyle modifications into her hectic schedule. The team helped her map out an individualized meal plan, taking into account her frequent travel schedule, and made it more manageable for Judy.
“My weight loss plan was so carefully organized that I never felt hungry. I always felt in control and like I could really do it, like I could really lose the weight. It gave me the tools to take my life into my hands and keep doing what I love.”
Through this collaborative approach, Judy has been able to keep traveling. She has lost over 39% of her body weight* on a prolonged OPTIFAST program along with close medical care and customized treatment. As a bonus, her weight loss has completely resolved her sleep apnea!
“This is a gift and I hope my story helps others seek this kind of help. The Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center staff is wonderful; they work so well together to help patients. Weight gain is gradual, so people can forget how good it feels to be healthy – it’s life changing.”
After more than 15 years of struggling with her weight and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Misty Weldy had given up on doctors.
“Honestly, I’d lost faith in the medical profession,” said Misty. “I was seeing doctor after doctor, diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and struggling to keep my weight at 220 pounds.”
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) brings with it a myriad of health issues, including an excess of insulin, which often leads to weight gain. “For 5 years I avoided the doctor because it felt like nothing was helping. Instead, I focused on trying to eat healthy, but I still couldn’t get my weight under the 220 pound mark.”
After moving to Tallahassee in 2007, and having two happy and healthy children, Misty noticed a significant drop in her energy levels. She felt unusually tired, even exhausted, most of the time.
“I realized that being constantly tired wasn’t normal. After a trip to my family doctor, a blood test revealed that I had very low vitamin D levels. I knew I needed to address my fatigue, but I wanted to find a doctor that I felt would truly listen to me and work with me to help me feel better.”
After some research, Misty discovered some encouraging reviews about the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center and Dr. Kelley Lang, the area’s most experienced certified obesity physician. While skeptical of doctors in general, Misty scheduled an appointment at the Bariatric Center with Dr. Lang and Katie Snyder, the Bariatric Registered Dietitian.
“From day one, Dr. Lang never made me feel like I was simply ‘fat because I ate too much.’ She listened to me, she cared about me and she created a treatment plan based on my PCOS.”
Working with Misty as an active participant in her care, Dr. Lang augmented Misty’s medicines and started her on vitamins to address her deficiencies. As a certified bariatric physician, Dr. Lang and the Bariatric team were also able to craft a treatment plan that was specific to Misty, taking into account her medical history and creating a plan of lifestyle modification that was manageable.
“They really know what they’re doing. They created a diet for me that I can actually follow. Katie took my PCOS into account, as well as my likes and dislikes, and made the diet work for me. The Bariatric Center also helped me make other changes to improve my health, like quitting smoking.”
Over the six months that Misty has been working with the Bariatric Center team, she’s lost over 50 pounds, nearly 20% of her original body weight*. Studies show that losing just 5-10% of your body weight can create significant health benefits, including a reducing the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and multiple types of cancer.
“It’s really been a complete 180 degree change. I used to hate my body and hate going to the doctor. Now, I’m full of energy, happy and excited to keep working with Dr. Lang and the Bariatric Center. It’s been a huge relief to finally find a doctor that helped me. Now I have a life that I love.”
Thanks to the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center, patient Chuvala Brown has successfully lost 45 pounds* and is proud of the results.
“I am full of energy and excited about life,” said Brown. “I started out saying that I was going to die fat and happy, now it’s get fit or die trying. The accountability and family culture at Tallahassee Memorial is really what helped me accomplish my goal and makes them different than other weight loss programs.”
Dr. Kelley Lang, MD at the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center has a multidisciplinary team to address obesity as a chronic relapsing disease and consider all possible causes for weight gain.
“My team includes a registered dietician and a behavioral therapist. Unlike other weight loss programs, we analyze other factors including genetics, medical and lifestyle choices, which could affect our patient’s success and we then cater our services to that person,” said Kelley Lang, MD.
Edmond Gardner had battled with weight issues for many years. In August 2013, after fainting on several occasions, Gardner met with his doctor to address his concern and it became apparent his eating habits were part of the problem. At that time his physician warned him that he needed to start making healthier choices.
The next time he fainted, Gardner broke his collar bone. While in the emergency room, doctors confirmed his collar bone would eventually heal but his heart needed further attention. They warned him that if he didn’t begin to make life changes, he would either have a stroke or need open heart surgery for a blockage in his heart.
“My doctor advised that I participate in cardiac rehab at Tallahassee Memorial,” said patient Edmond Gardner. “They said I needed to focus on my diet and exercise or I will eventually have a stroke.” Finally, he was ready to make a change and take a stand for his life.
Gardner worked with the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center to get his life back on track. Working with the Bariatric Center team, he eventually lost a total of 100 pounds*. He replaced typical meals with protein shakes and did so for 12 weeks straight, in addition to working out for two hours a day, six days a week, at Premier Health & Fitness Center and his local gym.
“Cheating was not an option; I had made up my mind that I was going to do this,” said Gardner. “I mixed my exercise routine with the majority being cardio and about 30 minutes of weight training.”
According to Gardner, a key piece of advice shared from the Bariatric Center was that it is okay if you slip, but that you must have the control to get back on track with your next meal.
“I couldn’t have done this without Dr. Kelley Lang and the Tallahassee Memorial Bariatric Center,” said Gardner. “They made it simple for me and showed me exactly what works. I used to be on four blood pressure pills, and now I’m only taking one half.”
* Individual results may vary