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Your Health | 24 days ago

From Heavy to Healthy: Ralph's Transformative Story

Ralph thought about getting weight loss surgery for three years before going through with it. Now, his only regret is not having done so sooner.

Ralph, 49, has been overweight most of his adult life. When he graduated from high school, he weighed 275 lbs. And at his heaviest, he weighed 392 lbs. Being overweight was a part of who he was. Sure he couldn’t do certain things that thinner people do, like go on long hikes or ride amusement parks rides – often the seats were too small to fit into or there’d be a weight limit – but overall, he was content. He had a loving wife, three wonderful children and a good job. But then his health started to become more and more of an issue.

When his doctor told him that he really needed to do something about the weight and recommended a CPAP machine (to help him breathe while he slept), Ralph broke down crying.

“Things started to stack up. For a while I was on blood pressure medication and then the CPAP machine entered the picture – that was the final straw – knowing I’d have to sleep with it, take it through airport security and put it on the back of my motorcycle.”

Being There for His Family

Ralph also started to think about his future with his family. He has three children in their 20s.

My youngest daughter doesn’t remember my father because he passed away when she was young. I wanted to be around – to be a grandpa – to have that impact.”

With all that in mind, Ralph attended a weight loss seminar at Carolinas Weight Management, part of Carolinas HealthCare System, to learn about his options (surgical and non-surgical). He decided that surgery was the way to go. He chose the gastric sleeve option (also known as vertical sleeve gastrectomy).

Understanding His Triggers

In the year leading up to the surgery, Ralph went to counseling sessions to prepare for the surgery and life afterward – and he began making healthier decisions, which helped him lose 60 lbs.

Reflecting on what lead him to this point in his life, Ralph realized that he was an emotional eater. He stress ate when life challenges kicked in.

“I was a part of a corporate relocation to Charlotte – and it was a huge, stressful decision I had to make. I remember going home one night and while everyone was in bed, I stood in my kitchen and started binge eating Pop-Tarts, thinking ‘what am I going to do.’ In the span of 15 minutes, I ate 1500 calories.”

With a better understanding of nutrition, exercise and what needed to be healed within himself, Ralph was finally ready for, what would be, a life-altering surgery. Ralph’s gastric sleeve procedure was a success and afterwards he went on to lose 197 lbs.  

Creating New Memories

“It’s transformative,” says Ralph. “And I wish I would have done it sooner. But it’s not a magic pill, it’s a tool. It’ll work if you’re committed.”

“Ralph has been an amazing example of success. He understood that surgery was a tool to help him and has embraced all the lifestyle, nutrition and mental changes to ensure continued success. He is disciplined and enthusiastic. He’s inspired fellow patients and staff alike,” says Anna Mantey, a physician assistant with Carolinas Weight Management.

These days, Ralph counts calories and sticks to a healthy diet. He exercises almost every day and has taken up hiking with his son. Their favorite spot is trekking to the top of Crowder’s Mountain in Gastonia, NC, which is about 800 feet above the surrounding area. The view from the top is spectacular and includes the Charlotte skyline about 25 miles away.

“I could never have hiked up Crowder’s before. We did a sunset hike to the pinnacle one morning, and it was one of my best moments yet.”

To learn more about weight loss options offered by Carolinas HealthCare System or to register for a free bariatric surgery seminar, visit CarolinasHealthCare.org/HealthyYou