I can’t say enough about the support services I received from St. Luke’s.– Michelle
Feeling confident, Michelle Star of Easton strode into her 40th high school reunion, having lost 100 pounds following bariatric surgery four years earlier.
“It was so much fun,” Michelle said. “I was dragged around that reunion. People would say, ‘Guess who this is?’ While her elementary school classmates were fairly quick to guess, those from seventh grade through graduation were clueless.
Ten years ago, Michelle turned to the St. Luke’s Weight Management Center, the region’s most comprehensive program for both surgical and non-surgical approaches to weight loss. Unlike other weight loss programs, the St. Luke’s Weight Management Center offers wide-ranging services after surgery to help patients reach and maintain their goal weight.
The reunion was such a wonderful experience because she felt so attractive. That feeling had evaded her much of her life as she steadily gained weight, reaching 235 pounds. She had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and was prediabetic. Today, she feels great, has tons of energy and is very healthy. But she admits that while the health concerns were a major factor, it was vanity that drove her to the final decision to have weight loss surgery. A retired East Stroudsburg University librarian, she was known for her expansive knowledge, but she also wanted to be appreciated for her looks.
“I was sick and tired of being judged for my weight,” she said. “It’s amazing to me how differently people treat you when you’re thin compared to when you’re heavy.”
After the surgery, she dropped to 130 pounds but lacked energy, so her surgeon encouraged her to gain 10 pounds. Since then, Michelle has maintained her weight between 138 and 140.
Michelle enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame following the surgery. She was featured in St. Luke’s Weight Management Center’s promotional campaign and even had her face on a billboard. Old friends and acquaintances saw the advertisements and reached out, telling her how wonderful she looked. In retirement, she has followed her bliss and become an actor, usually extolling “as seen on TV” products with the occasional background work and community theater role.
“I like that St. Luke’s takes advantage of the resources of their many successful patients,” she said. Michelle participates in community education sessions and has participated in panel discussions. And she is always willing to share tips with another patient struggling to keep weight off post-surgery or speak to a person contemplating surgery because she was motivated by successful patients prior to her surgery.
Michelle always thought that if she could only lose weight, she would do everything necessary to maintain it, and she has. She capitalized on all the support services St. Luke’s Weight Management Center offers. For the first two years following surgery, Michelle attended the St. Luke’s Weight Management Center support group meetings every month. Once a year, she sees her doctor and has blood work.
“I can’t say enough about the support services I received from St. Luke’s,” she said. Should she start to falter, she contacts the office and schedules a “refresher session” with one of the program’s dietitians. Or she’ll jump on the Center’s patient-centered Facebook page to get encouragement from other weight loss patients.
Michelle said her weight loss opened the door to so many new experiences, but more importantly, it helped her to look at herself in a new way.
“It’s all about how you feel about yourself,” she said. “If you don’t like what you see on your exterior, it affects your self-perception. You start to think that being overweight is a moral failure. Overeating was an addiction for me before the surgery. Food was my drug of choice. Deciding to have the surgery was one of the best decisions I ever made. Today, I’m living my best life.”