Patient Stories

Achieving Major Weight Loss with Gastric Sleeve Surgery and Healthy Lifestyle

Sep. 1, 2021

For Megan, gastric sleeve weight loss surgery was the first step to a journey of discipline and lifestyle changes. Through it all, she achieved amazing results, including 270lbs lost. 

One could say that Megan Candee embraces a “can do” attitude toward life. Describing herself as a natural extrovert and Type A personality, she was an active kid and a talented athlete during high school. However, she dreaded the annual physicals for her sports activities. “I just had so much fear about getting on the scales and what that number represented,” Megan says.

Always staying on the “fit side,” she was tall at 5’ 10”, but faced ongoing challenges with her weight, attributed to a lower rate of metabolism. While her mother and sister were shorter and thinner by nature, Megan followed the footsteps of her father with her height and larger body frame.

Her college years were a positive, normal experience; however, she began to develop additional poor eating and lifestyle habits. She admits that she was making poor food choices during meals and drinking alcohol at times. “I allowed the selfishness of enjoying college life consume me and I gained more weight,” she states, causing her to feel further embarrassment about her weight.

After graduating from college, she entered the corporate world. “I began to take notice that you can be labeled in society. People assume that because you are overweight, you’re lazy. And I was one of the hardest working people at my company.”

During her late 20s, Megan took notice of other changes around her. She started to feel winded during activities that people her age do every day without effort. “My sister was starting a family, and I realized that I, too, wanted those things for myself,” she adds.

It was not until she saw a friend’s social media posts that her thoughts began to turn a corner. “My friend had bariatric surgery, and I started seeing her pictures online and the physical differences. “The one thing that I could not get over about the photos was how genuinely happy she looked,” says Megan.

“My nephew, Brooks, was born in August 2018. His birth is really what triggered me to say I have to take ownership of my weight,” she says. She wanted to be a good aunt and positive influence for Brooks.

Megan looked in the mirror and finally stated outright, “I’m not happy with how I look or feel. And I have not put myself and my health first. No one controls my happiness but me, and I need to take control.”

She talked with her friend and learned that she had been a patient at the UC Health Weight Loss Center. Her friend praised the surgical weight loss program and was also honest about the challenges that every patient faces during the process. She told Megan it is hard work – but worth the effort.

Megan attended a UC Health information seminar in October 2018 to learn about their surgical weight loss program.

Losing Weight with Gastric Sleeve Surgery

At the seminar, Jonathan R. Thompson, MD, bariatric surgeon, medical director of the UC Health Weight Loss Center and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, spoke about obesity, weight loss and surgical procedure options. Megan admired how he stated things very simply, making them easy to understand. “When I heard him speak, I was so impressed with his knowledge and his poise,” says Megan. “He was so conversational. I asked him a few questions after the seminar, and I knew that UC Health was the right fit for me. I remember sitting there and saying, ‘Game on!’”

She also realized at that moment that obesity is truly a disease. “I’m going to have to live with it for my entire life,” she adds. “I know my weight may go up and down some, but for once in my life, I feel confident that I have the resources to keep me on track.”

After six months of pre-surgery visits with the clinical staff, a special diet to prepare her body for surgery and behavioral and lifestyle modification education sessions, Dr. Thompson performed Megan’s gastric sleeve surgery on July 23, 2019.

“A key reason for Megan’s success is her mindset and understanding that it is a lifelong chronic disease and requires changes before surgery and after. Surgery is a small part of a long process. The main goal is to give patients all the tools necessary (including surgery) to implement and maintain healthy habits.”

Once again, Megan’s “can-do” attitude kicked in. She followed the program process and the pounds started to come off. “For me, I took the stereotype of surgery away and looked at it as a reset button with a tool kit that I’m going to have for life. It’s also been interesting because a lot of my success has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says.  

Megan is extremely grateful for the love and support of her family. Her mother, father and sister have supported her from the beginning. “I would not be the person I am today if not for my parents – I love them through and through. My dad told me when I decided to have the surgery that he was so confident because I was confident. My sister has been one of my biggest advocates. She’s held my hand and wiped my tears on the hardest days. She has been a huge influence during my journey.”

Diet and Nutrition: After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

The importance of following the Weight Loss Center’s team of professionals is paramount, according to Megan. She credits the education and behavior modification therapy with the center’s dietitians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and behavioral health specialists for enabling her to keep it going.

“The journey, the mentality, the education – I would not have succeeded if it were not for the UC Health Weight Loss Center. Being able to feel fully educated and taking ownership, I finally feel confident and know I’m going to manage it.”

She warns that no journey is flawless. “Don’t get me wrong, we are human and we are not perfect. There have been days that I’ve fallen off the wagon, but I know the next day when I start again, I’m in control of what happens. I’m in charge – when I work out and what I put into my body.”

Working with Ivan Bennett, physician assistant at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, during her journey, Megan loved the clever analogies that he shared with her to support her success. “My favorite one is the gasoline-in-the-car analogy. Every day, when it’s time for my three-hour snack, I’ll tell myself – ‘OK, how much gas do I need to put in the car today?’ It’s a daily reminder to keep you on course. And if one bad decision throws you off, there are a plethora of professionals at the Weight Loss Center who are ready to jump in and get you back on track.”

“Megan really embraced the tools and strategies she learned while in our program,” Ivan states. “She listened to the Weight Loss Center team about nutrition, exercise and keeping a food record, then made these changes a habit.”

Exercise After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Megan is straightforward about her exercise time, stating that it’s ‘her time’ and she’s blatantly selfish about that. During her sessions with Lisa West-Smith, PhD, director of behavioral health services for the UC Health Weight Loss Center and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the UC College of Medicine, she learned that it is OK to take that approach in order to be successful long term.

“She told me that even going through my weight loss journey, I still have my regular life, continuing to do my job while going through this lifelong process. Even if I’m taking a break from the gym and just taking my dogs for a walk, I am still being active.” With those words, Megan realized that this was not a temporary fix. “It’s about mental health and exercise. And you must integrate it into your lifestyle and make it your every day.”

“Megan is such an inspirational person,” says Dr. West-Smith. “She has worked hard for her well-deserved success in her weight loss journey and in life overall. Megan is a great example of how it is possible – no matter how busy we are – to create a daily routine for long-term weight management that is sustainable.”

Mental Preparation for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Today, Megan has lost a total of 270 pounds. She is confident in her future and her mental attitude is strong. “Everything you do is a decision that is equal to your outcome,” she affirms.

“While I personally make the choices, my support system consisting of my boyfriend, my family, my friends and the fitness communities I have been exposed to through these changes are the folks that help me stay grounded and focused on my journey,” states Megan. “They are cheering me on when things are hard. I’d also like to extend a huge thank you and my appreciation to the doctors and staff at UC Health Weight Loss Center who continue to keep me aware of the resources they provide.”

For those who are struggling with weight and aren’t sure where to turn, Megan has an answer. “I’ve been in that place, and you can get yourself out. I am so glad I found UC Health – there is hope in their Weight Loss Center program. Knowing this is possible can give someone a lot of hope.”

Discover More

Learn more about the UC Health Weight Loss Center by calling 513-939-2263.