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A Weight Loss Odyssey

A Weight Loss Odyssey

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of HealthLINK Magazine

At age 43, Tony Knave weighed 450 pounds—thanks to a high-stress job, a taste for fast food (“I could eat a 10-piece bucket of fried chicken plus sides and soda for lunch,” he says), evenings sitting on the couch, and a metabolism genetically geared to pack on the pounds. “I wore size 6XL shirts and took six medications a day for prediabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety,” he says. “I wasn’t the husband or father I wanted to be. I’d tried every diet but always gained back more weight. Something had to change.”

It did. In the summer of 2015 Knave, now 45, of Strasburg, Virginia, had gastric bypass surgery at Winchester Medical Center. He has lost more than 200 pounds, his blood pressure and blood sugar levels are healthy, and he is off his medications and having the time of his life. “I shoot hoops with my daughter Heather; play with our Jack Russell terriers, Max and Spirit; and have set up walking groups in Strasburg and Front Royal with my wife, Dana,” says Knave. “I’ve got loads of energy. I love my life—and I owe it all to the staff of the Metabolic & Bariatric Program at Valley Health. They treated me like family every step of the way.”

Quality and Caring

Accredited by the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the Metabolic & Bariatric Program at Valley Health is the only comprehensive medical and surgical weight loss program in the region. With advanced weight loss options including surgery and medical weight management, the program features a highly trained staff of surgeons, physicians, behavioral therapists, and dietitians. This compassionate, patient-centered team provides tools and customized support so that people who are overweight or struggling with obesity can lose excess weight—and keep it off.

“People who decide it is time for surgery say they wish they had done it sooner,” says bariatric surgeon Troy Glembot, MD, the program’s medical director and the surgeon who performed Knave’s gastric bypass. “The health benefits are significant. Getting to a healthier weight can help prevent or control weight-related medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, high cholesterol, joint pain, and more. And it changes lives.”

Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach; some procedures also bypass sections of the small intestine so that fewer calories are absorbed and levels of hormones associated with hunger, fullness and other metabolic functions change in beneficial ways. “Because your perception of hunger and appetite have changed, you feel full on smaller portions of food,” Dr. Glembot explains. “Surgery can also increase your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories. Metabolism often slows down in people with obesity, which makes weight loss difficult as your body fights to hold onto every pound.”

The program offers four bariatric surgery procedures—the adjustable gastric band, sleeve gastrectomy, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, and the duodenal switch—as well as revision surgery for people who have had bariatric surgery in the past and need an
adjustment or a new option for optimal weight loss. In addition, nonsurgical medical weight management options include medical nutrition therapy, exercise therapy, behavioral change, and, if recommended, FDA-approved weight loss medications. The program also offers metabolic rate testing.

“We work with each patient to reach his or her weight loss goals,” explains bariatric physician Angela Harden­Mack, MD. “A healthy lifestyle is the foundation for losing weight and keeping it off. Obesity medications and bariatric surgery therapies are appropriate and often used in conjunction with nutrition, exercise and behavior therapies.”

Every Weight Loss Journey Is Personal

Knave had his first appointment with the program after finding out his health insurance covered bariatric surgery. Over six months, he met with counselors, dietitians and physicians to ensure that he was a good candidate for surgery.

Knave learned about life after surgery—which includes following a special diet for several months during recovery, then making smart food and activity choices to ensure the pounds come off. In meetings with a program counselor, he realized that emotions triggered overeating. “I used to binge under stress,” Knave says. “Now, when I’m having an emotional day I can call or even come in to the program to talk with someone about it, rather than drinking two liters of soda.”

In the year after surgery, Knave’s transformation inspired his wife to have bariatric surgery. “She’s lost 135 pounds,” he says, with pride and love in his voice. “Now we look more like the old Tony and Dana from the day we got married.”

To learn more, visit valleyhealthlink.com/bariatricprogram or call 540-536-0010.