Sleeve Gastrectomy

Ray's "Before and After" Photo

Raymond Zirilli is a US Air Force veteran who lost 90 pounds with gastric sleeve surgery. Here he tells his story and how he resists temptation now, a year and half post-surgery.

When I was in my twenties, I was recently married and had just entered the US Air Force. Married life with my family was very different from the life I had running with my single friends. I became very sedentary on my time off from work and began to see the results of that inactivity. At six-feet tall, my weight rocketed from 165 pounds to 210 pounds in four short months during my USAF basic and technical training. 

The military had weight standards. The maximum weight standard for my height was 205 pounds; however, the only time I recall weighing as low as 205 pounds was on weigh-in days. Mandatory weigh-ins in the military are conducted every six months, and in order to make weight, I’d begin a crash diet a month before. After making weight, I’d spend the next five months, mostly sedentary and eating as I pleased.

Of course, I gained even more weight. It fluctuated between 215 pounds and 255 pounds over the next 18 years, and then it ballooned to 285 pounds after leaving the military, where it remained for the next 20 years.

At 57 years old, and with weight-related high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, I decided I had to do something. I was tired of yo-yo dieting and dealing with weight-related health issues. I learned about bariatric surgery at Penn Medicine, and after meeting with my surgeon there, I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery. 

Bariatric Surgery: Not the End-All Cure

I had my gastric sleeve surgery in December of 2014, and the procedure itself was easy. I was up and walking the morning after, released from the hospital after a short two-day stay, and recovering at home for just four weeks before returning to work.

After reaching my goal weight of 195 pounds, complacency set in as I began to drift back to my old eating habits, especially in the winter months. Instead of going to the gym at night, I’d sit and watch my favorite TV program and eat things that weight-loss surgery patients typically don’t eat. 
I recognized I had a problem when I stepped on the scale and saw I had gained back 15 pounds. The honeymoon was over, and it was time to get back to work.

How I Turned My Life Around

ray_3I quickly got back to the support groups at Penn, where someone suggested I reboot and get back to the basics. It was a great reminder, and something I needed to hear. One of the things I learned during this time is: when no one is watching, you can get away with bad habits. 

Today, I’m back on track thanks to some wonderful help and support from my friend Lou, the Penn staff, and the awesome folks in the weight management support group.

I stay busy chasing my grandsons (I can keep up with them now!), I walk more and faster than ever before, and I recently started riding my bike again. I am no longer on any medications for type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. I feel great.

My Suggestions to Pre- and Post-Op Patients

  1. Attend support groups. They’re the reason I’m back on track, and I learn something new at every meeting. 
  2. Reach out to other patients in the support group and become Facebook friends with as many folks as possible, so they can look after you. I use Fitbit and My Fitness Pal, so I can add friends who can cheer me on when I make progress. It holds you accountable, not only to yourself, but to others who also share your struggles. 
  3. The Penn Bariatric Surgery staff, along with the post-surgery patients, have a wealth knowledge and experience and can provide advice and guidance to overcome obstacles to losing or maintaining weight. Use them. 

Want to lose weight like Ray? Register for a free weight loss informational session.

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