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Weight Loss Success Stories

Weight Loss Surgery Patient Story

Gastric Sleeve Surgery Helped Jose Lose 200 Pounds

Gastric Sleeve Surgery for Weight Loss

Jose Lopez finds himself smiling a lot more these days. Thanks to the weight-loss experts at UC San Diego Health’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, the 29-year-old was able to lower his total body weight by more than 50 percent — going from 378 pounds to 176 pounds — in just 12 months.

Jose underwent gastric sleeve surgery, a 1.5-hour procedure that reduces the stomach to roughly the dimension and shape of a banana, about 20 percent of the stomach’s original size. This promotes weight loss by limiting how much food can be eaten.

Jose’s weight-loss team included surgeons Santiago Horgan, MD, and Garth Jacobsen, MD, bariatric patient coordinator Natalie Cook, registered dietitian Jill Fisher, MS, RD, nurse practitioner Mary Kirk, and internist Eduardo Grunvald, MD.

Jose started to lose control of his weight toward the end of high school. He bounced from one fad diet to the next for over a decade, trying everything from cutting out carbs to juice fasting. As a result of the extra weight, his blood pressure rose to an unhealthy level. He also developed sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which you have one or more pauses in your breathing while you sleep.

Jose had not considered bariatric surgery until a fellow coworker encouraged him to contact the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. After a thorough assessment with the BMI team that included an endoscopy, X-rays and esophageal manometry, he was approved for the gastric sleeve.

Before he could undergo surgery, Jose had to go on a liquids-only diet for 30 days to decrease the risk of complications and reduce the fat in his liver. Jose recalls that month as the hardest thing he has ever had to do. “After the first week of broth, Jell-O and protein shakes, I was ready to call it quits,” he said. Fortunately, Jose had a great support team at home to cheer him on. “They wouldn’t even eat in front of me. They knew how hard it was. They did everything they could to help me get through it.”

Jose also had great supporters at UC San Diego Health. “I met with Jill Fisher every week during my liquid diet. She helped motivate me and keep me on track,” he said. When the day of surgery arrived, Jose was 27 pounds lighter. “Post-op recovery was a piece of cake. I was back to work in a week.” Immediately following the procedure, he was able to stop taking his blood pressure medicine. Soon after, his sleep apnea went away.

“I know now what it feels like to feel full — it’s a feeling I never had before!” His smaller appetite has naturally led him to eating healthier, less filling foods. “I’m a big foodie! So rather than filling up on bread, I’ll choose lean meats, vegetables or fruits — foods that I can eat more of.”

Positive attention from friends, family, coworkers and even strangers has given Jose a confidence he never had before. He depicts himself before surgery as a quiet, somewhat shy person who disliked being the center of attention. He has been surprised to discover that he had an outgoing side all along. “I’m even in a relationship!” he beams. “Things are going really well for me. This procedure has changed my life in every way; it was a huge blessing. I’m so glad I didn’t wait any longer to have it done.”

While the journey is not yet over — he is currently waiting to meet with a plastic surgeon to remove excess skin left over from surgery — Jose is enjoying every minute in his new body. He exercises regularly and continues to drink protein shakes. He has become an advocate for his friends and family who struggle with weight. “I’ve recommended this surgery to two other friends who already went and had it done!”

Nonsurgical Weight Loss: Letters from Patients

​"Everybody that goes into this program or any program is looking for a magic bullet, but I’ve realized there’s no such thing in weight loss. You need to make lifestyle changes and to do that you need help, time and education. They teach you how to eat in ways so you don’t feel hungry.

Read: "For Couple, Dramatic Weight Loss Is A Healthy Gain"

- Mary Platter-Rieger

"When I finally realized that my diabetes was controlling me, I decided to enroll in UC San Diego Health’s medically supervised weight-loss program. Now I am in the maintenance phase of the program and feel better, can exercise more, take less medication and I know that I am in control of my diabetes now. It’s empowering!"

- Mary Kay C.

"After four months on the program, I felt like a deflating balloon. My blood pressure meds were cut in half and then cut again two weeks later. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to stop them altogether. I haven’t lost as much weight as I had expected, but I can’t complain. I’m sure I would lose faster if I was able to exercise more. My arthritis prevents me from working out as much as I should, but since I started working out I feel much better. It feels good to be able to jump, kick and twist!"

- Anonymous

"The UC San Diego Health Weight Management Program is, without a doubt, my best hope of bringing my weight down and getting it under control for good. The medical care is superior and Dr. Grunvald is an excellent doctor. They have a devoted and caring nurse, a knowledgeable health educator, and a pleasant and efficient administrative staff. I have tried many methods and programs and this is the best. I have lost almost 25 pounds and it has been relatively painless. I believe my health is being monitored closely by my program doctor. I am feeling better than I have in a decade!"


- Anonymous

"After hip replacement surgery, I stopped exercising and gained over 40 pounds. I looked and felt bad, so I joined the program to help me get down to a weight that I could exercise at. I did, and now I ride my bike over 50 miles every week and I’ve lost 40 pounds."

- Vic E.

"I started the program in January after I got scared and backed out of having gastric sleeve surgery. I was at the end of my rope, having exhausted all options when I discovered this medically supervised weight management program. This program will definitely work if you follow it closely. I lost over 35 pounds in the first phase (13 weeks) and I’m committed to losing the rest, and more importantly, keeping it off this time.

By going to weekly support group classes with access to a great medical team, I’ve been able to stay focused and keep losing the weight. I’ve been able to stop two of my heart medications and my health has improved greatly. I’ve regained my focus on eating healthfully and walking on a daily basis. I’m holding myself accountable for what goes in my mouth and I have control that I’ve never been able to sustain before."

- Donna

"I have greatly benefitted from the UC San Diego Health Weight Management Program. I have a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, and took medications for several years. Since I have been on the program, I no longer need the medications and have overcome many weight-related health problems. The Weight Management Program staff is knowledgeable and informative. They have continued to be very helpful and supportive during my weight-loss journey."

- Anonymous

"I started the UC San Diego Health Weight Management Program as an alternative to surgery that my primary care physician mentioned. In a similar program, I had previously lost a lot of weight but what has made the UC San Diego Health program different is the maintenance phase, which is dedicated to helping you learn how to maintain your weight loss through lifestyle adjustments. This is what has stopped me continuing my usual yo-yo weight-loss pattern.

At the beginning of the program, I was on five prescription drugs including one that was injectable. I still take two pills a day but each is only one-fourth of the original dose. The other two drugs and my injections are now vague memories – and so are the co-pays I was paying for them! Of course, the money I’ve saved on co-pays has been put into fabulous new clothes!"

- Anonymous

"I came to the UC San Diego Health Weight Management Program almost by accident. While having a physical at Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, I was informed that I had suffered a heart attack while recovering from a bout of pancreatitis.

Having gained over 50 pounds, I knew some drastic changes would have to take place in order for me to live a long and healthy life. After completing Phase I of the program (13 weeks), I have lost close to 40 pounds and I feel better, physically and emotionally. I’ve also learned that by making some important changes to my food choices and portion sizes that you do not have to stop enjoying the experience of eating in order to lose weight and maintain it.

I can’t say enough about my experience and the staff of the Weight Management Program. They have worked out a system and if you follow it with a proper exercise regimen, you will experience a life with greater energy, emotional balance and the added benefit of feeling and looking great!

I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to the UC San Diego Health staff for helping me save my life!"

- Bill S.

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