Weight can be a sensitive subject. But for the estimated 40 percent of American adults the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are classified as obese, that sensitivity is often magnified by societal pressures to be thin.
But there’s no safe “quick fix.” Losing significant weight takes time, patience and sometimes the help of a medical professional specializing in bariatrics, the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity.
Novant Health UVA Health System offers comprehensive bariatric services for surgical and nonsurgical weight loss assistance. These services can be lifechanging — and lifesaving — for patients, including Steve Daniels of Manassas, who underwent gastric bypass surgery in March 2020.
Daniels, a 50-year-old water quality and field technician at Fairfax Water and father of two, had an active, healthy childhood, but began gaining weight in his adult life.
“As I focused on school, jobs, relationships and raising a family, I noticed my weight increasing but thought it was fine since I was still active,” said Daniels. “But as years passed, unfortunately, my health took a backseat and plummeted.”
Daniels visited his doctor more frequently. He was uncomfortable and in pain. He had both high blood pressure and high cholesterol and was in the early stages of pre-diabetes.
“My doctor was worried about me — and so was I,” said Daniels. “My father died at age 57 from heart disease and diabetes complications. I realized if I didn’t make a change, I’d have the same fate. I couldn’t do that to my girls.”
At the suggestion of his primary care doctor at Novant Health UVA Health System Bull Run Family Medicine, Michael Perez, MD, Daniels met with Nicholas Dugan, MD, a fellowship-trained laparoscopic surgeon who specializes in bariatric, reflux, and hiatal hernia surgery at Novant Health UVA Health System. With Dugan’s guidance, Daniels began his surgical weight loss journey.
Surgical Weight Loss
“When combined with healthy lifestyle changes, surgical weight loss has been proven to be more effective than diet and exercise alone for keeping off excess weight long-term,” explained Dugan. “When patients come to us seeking surgery, we navigate them through every step of the process from evaluation to the surgery itself and follow-ups.”
Surgical weight loss has stringent requirements. Patients must have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 35 with a comorbidity — a condition that can be worsened by obesity — or a BMI of more than 40 without comorbidity.
Other prerequisites for surgery can include:
- Clearance from a psychiatrist, dietician and cardiologist
- Endoscopies to assess the stomach for hernias
- Insurance-mandated, supervised weight-loss programs ranging from 3-12 months
Daniels had gastric bypass surgery, which creates a small pouch out of the stomach and bypasses a portion of the small intestine. This causes the patient to feel full quicker because of reduced stomach capacity.
Recovery from surgical procedures can be mentally and physically challenging. For Daniels, the most difficult part was adjusting to his new relationship with food.
“It was tough,” he said. “I had to relearn how to eat and drink, paying close attention to my speed and timing.”
However, he stayed determined, listened to his body and accepted support.
“I joined support groups, recipe clubs and a fitness app community,” said Daniels. “I felt my best when I walked after eating, so I made walking a huge part of my daily routine. When I was feeling low, I reached out to my best friends for encouragement. All of these still help me every day.”
Daniels also emphasized the importance of trusting and following his medical team’s plan throughout the process and his appreciation for their guidance. Today, nearly nine months after his surgery, he’s down 120 pounds.
“I have a brand-new life,” he said. “I’m no longer at risk for diabetes or heart disease; my blood pressure and cholesterol are in a good range. I have achieved my weight loss goals and I am now working to improve my health lifestyle by setting weekly activity goals — I recently walked 33 miles in one day, a feat I never thought I’d achieve!”
For those who have questions about bariatric services or are considering surgery, Novant Health UVA Health System hosts free seminars where providers explain the procedures, answer questions and address patient concerns and anxieties.
“The nonsurgical side of our work includes nutrition counseling, identifying eating disorders and connecting patients with bariatricians, who act as primary care physicians that specialize in obesity,” added Dugan.
For more information about bariatric services and seminars at Novant Health UVA Health System or to schedule an appointment with Nicholas Dugan, MD, or Alexandra Zubowicz, MD, FACS, FASMBS, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/weightloss or call 703-369-8398.