Not everyone who has weight loss surgery has success like Ron Dale, who weighed 360 pounds before surgery two years ago and now weighs 168 pounds.
The retired Dover Township resident said without commitment and strict adherence to the guidelines provided by doctors, success after surgery is unlikely.
And people who think weight loss surgery is the easy way out?
"Those people are uninformed," said Dale, 61.
Someone who agrees to a lifetime of limiting themselves to small quantities of food and a strict vitamin regimen is not taking the "lazy option," he explained.
"It's not an easy life change, and you must change your life," Dale said.
Some patients experience complications with bariatric surgery, which uses a variety of procedures to reduce the size of an obese person's stomach or to remove a portion of the stomach.
But thankfully for Dale, a brief case of gout was the only complication.
"Any complications that I could have
is well worth it," he said. "I would do this again no matter what."
Other benefits: After his surgery, Dale not only began losing weight, but other health problems began to clear up.
Dale no longer has Type II Diabetes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or pain in his joints.
Before the surgery, Dale could barely get his resting heart rate below 100 by relaxing, and now it is in the 50s.
He researched surgery for more than five years and talked it over with his family doctor for about three years before choosing this route.
"It is hard to imagine that small quantities will satisfy you when you're used to eating large quantities," he said.
Dale ate more than 5,000 calories each day before surgery.
"I was eating enough for two people, and now I'm probably around 1,200 calories," he said.
Staying plugged in at weight-loss surgery support groups is crucial to success, Dale said.
"They're operating on your stomach and they're not operating on your brain," he said. "A lot of issues that people have are psychological, but they have resources if you take advantage of those."
Stigma gone: Another major change has been the way people treat Dale now that he isn't 360 pounds.
"When you're a large person, when you're fat and overweight, people don't notice you as much. They don't respect what you say as much, and now I find myself being sought out and listened to," Dale said.
The social stigma attached to being overweight and obese is "absolutely there," he said.
Dale and his wife, Brenda, have been married 42 years, and they have two adult sons.
Their 39-year-old son had bariatric surgery in Hershey last year, and has had more complications than Dale, including having his gallbladder removed.
But for Dale, even if he had experienced complications, he says the surgery would have been worth it.
"The only thing I'm doing is listening to what they tell me to do," said Dale. "I was committed because I had a chance. This gave me a chance and I am very, very grateful for it."
Getting dressed, sitting in a restaurant booth or just getting up from a chair are some of the small things that remind Dale of how far he has come.
"At 360 pounds, getting up from a chair is a chore," he said. "All I have to do is just live and remember where I was -- and it's not hard to remember how I was because I was there for years -- and I can be thankful for where I am."
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or firstname.lastname@example.org