Mark Goss knows how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off. At age 34, the Annapolis resident and business owner weighed just over 350 pounds. When his primary care doctor warned him that he was headed for early heart disease and stroke, he knew it was time to get healthier for the sake of his wife and two young daughters.
After years of trying a number of weight loss programs that didn’t work for him, Mark was inspired when he attended a free seminar held by AAMC’s Weight Loss and Metabolic Surgery Program. The program’s emphasis on forming healthy, lifelong habits made sense to him. After undergoing surgery in 2014, he lost more than 100 pounds, his weight has remained stable, and he has a new, healthy lifestyle that he knows he can sustain.
“If you are serious about long-term weight loss and getting healthy, the AAMC weight loss surgery program provides an outstanding tool for making the changes that can save your life,” says Mark, who now provides peer support to new and prospective AAMC bariatric patients. “I’m sure it saved mine.”
Even Biggest Losers Gain
Recent research has shown just how difficult it can be to sustain weight loss like Mark’s. In one study, detailed in a May 2016 New York Times article, researchers followed a group of contestants from the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” for six years after their weight loss. During those years, the contestants’ metabolism actually slowed down. It became harder than normal for them to burn calories, and most regained their weight.
“Weight loss surgery provides an added advantage to diet and exercise as the only proven, long-term weight loss solution for patients struggling with obesity,” says Alex Gandsas, MD, director of AAMC’s Weight Loss and Metabolic Surgery Program. “But a focus on overall wellness and long-term support is another crucial factor for success. We’ve found that patients do so much better in a program that will support them for the rest of their lives. Surgery is only one of the components on the journey along with nutrition, psychological counseling and medically supervised exercise.”
No more medication
Mark was a candidate for sleeve gastrectomy, one of two minimally invasive weight loss surgeries offered at AAMC. The small stomach pouch his surgery created now provides a fail-safe against overeating, he says. “I can comfortably eat one plate of food, and immediately after that I have an amazingly full feeling.”
Prior to the procedure, he had a complete medical evaluation and physical fitness training. After surgery, program dietitians prescribed him a diet that he says helped him break an addiction to junk food. He also entered the AAMC Bariatric Optimization Program, a carefully monitored exercise regimen. “The program gave me the building blocks I needed to continue exercising on my own with a personal trainer,” he says. He continues to work out regularly and stays away from unhealthy foods.
All in the family
Mark’s journey has also had a profound effect on his family’s health. His wife has lost nearly 100 pounds with diet and exercise, and his daughters now ask for the healthy foods they see their parents eating. In addition, the once sedentary family is now active and the kids are enrolled in sports programs. “We are where we should have been to begin with,” he says. “The surgery was a catalyst for a life change.”
Mark now helps guide the program and supports others in his role as a patient and family advisor. And if he needs help, Mark knows he can contact his AAMC team with any questions, concerns or complications. He credits this support as a key factor in his ongoing success. “Everyone’s really friendly and just an email away,” he says.
“I struggle the same as everyone, and moderation is still the key. But it’s easy now that I have the mindset and the knowledge to keep my weight under control and to stay fit,” Mark says. “It’s up to the individual to capitalize on the opportunities this program offers, and AAMC makes it easier.”