Being overweight influences every aspect of life - relationships, work, self-esteem, overall health - to name a few. When Cyndi Sloan, 49, of Palmer Township, looks back on the years she spent being overweight, she refers to it as “wasted time” - time she spent feeling bad about herself, time spent worrying about what other people thought of her, time spent being sad about how she looked. At 5’4 and 264 pounds, Cyndi was considered obese. She knew that achieving a healthy weight would have numerous health benefits but getting started was daunting. Today, two years after her weight loss surgery, she is 120 pounds lighter and more committed than ever to maintaining her healthy, fit lifestyle.
It started three years ago when Cyndi decided to interview for a front desk job at St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center in Phillipsburg, NJ. She felt certain her weight would hinder her from securing the position. “I don’t blame you if you don’t hire me because I’m overweight,” she told the manager. The manager told her St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center is for everyone of all sizes at every stage of their health and wellness journey. She assured Cyndi she represented the struggle so many people have with their weight and that she can also represent the change people can make if they commit to exercise and fitness.
Cyndi never forgot her manager’s kind and encouraging words. She did, of course, get the job and decided to kick her own weight loss into high gear.
She went to see Leonardo Claros, MD at St. Luke's Weight Management Center, a bariatric and metabolic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive and advanced laparoscopic surgery. While St. Luke’s offers both surgical and non-surgical approaches to better manage and overcome obesity, Cyndi and Dr. Claros decided that the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure that causes weight loss by reducing the size of the stomach, would be best for her. Since it’s a minimally-invasive approach, she would have a faster and more expedited recovery.
Cyndi always felt supported by the team of health care professionals at St. Luke's Weight Management Center, including dietitians, social workers, behavioral health specialists, exercise physiologists, nurses, physician assistants and physicians. This expert team continues to guide her about nutrition, behavior modification and fitness. “They were and still are supporting me,” explains Cyndi. “It requires commitment, focus and education that I couldn’t get alone, which is why I’m so grateful to everyone at St. Luke’s.”
Post-surgery, Dr. Claros praises Cyndi as a prime example of what can be achieved through surgical weight loss combined with diet and exercise. “Cyndi understood from the start that the weight loss procedure is a tool, a powerful, durable and effective tool to help patients lose weight and maintain it long term, but it is by no means an ‘easy way out’ so compliance and dedication to the necessary changes are vital,” explains Dr. Claros.
It’s been two years since her surgery and Cyndi is no longer considered obese. She dropped from a size 24 to a size 6 and has even run a 5K, which is something she never could do without periods of walking. Cyndi continues to work hard in her quest to get stronger and healthier and strives to be a positive influence in other people's lives.
Cyndi says that sometimes, someone comes into the fitness center, intimidated to start an exercise program because they are overweight or obese. “It’s so hard to take that first step,” recalls Cyndi. “I tell people that if they are serious about making a life change and exploring medical weight loss surgery, they have to be ready to make a complete commitment. It’s not a once-and-done step, but many steps over a lifetime. You have to be ready in your mind as well as your body; it’s not going to work if you don’t work.”
Running is part of Cyndi’s new, healthy lifestyle
Part of Cyndi’s post-surgery lifestyle involves fitness, specifically running. Cyndi has participated in the Decker 5K, an event to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, founded by Cyndi’s primary care physician, Eugene Decker, DO and his son, Cyndi’s co-worker. She walked the first year she participated, but she has been slowly increasing her miles since she started training in December, running six days a week for 36 minutes a day. Now, she’s running a 12-minute mile. She competed in this year’s Decker 5K in June, running the entire race and finishing in 29 minutes! 96th out of 243 runners!
Motivated to stay fit, Cyndi wants to be a positive influence in other people's lives. Her husband, who recently had open heart surgery, is now making exercise part of his cardiac rehab. Her sister, who also started an exercise program, has lost 20 pounds and reduced her medications.
Cyndi credits St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center for helping to increase her running stamina and make fitness a priority. Her family, friends, physicians and her fitness center colleagues all help keep her on track to reach her ever-increasing fitness goals. She likes to say, “the sky’s the limit!”