Lose it Now!

Lose it Now!

Christopher Ellis is half the man he used to be.

He’s also twice as happy. The 34-year-old lost 331 lbs. thanks to bariatric surgery and credits St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Weight Management Center with giving him his life back.

Christopher’s turning point came two years ago on Thanksgiving Day. While hosting the holiday dinner, a small ice storm prompted him to go outside and salt the sidewalk.

“I used to avoid things like concerts, where I was concerned about fitting into seats, but now I go to anything I can afford.”

“I slipped and fell and couldn’t get up on my own,” he says. “Not because of the ice, but because of my weight. If someone had not seen me, I could’ve been stuck out there in the freezing cold. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and scary.”

He knew he needed to make a change, but he was afraid.

“My biggest fear was my food addiction,” Christopher says. After his first meeting with a dietitian, he went home and cried, afraid that one of the only joys he had left in life—food—would be gone. The distant promise of weight loss success, however, inspired him to stay the course.

Christopher finally chose St. Luke’s program because it provided the support he needed. “St. Luke’s put an emphasis on changing your way of thinking about food before changing your body,” he says. “I knew I had issues with food that needed to be addressed [before jumping into surgery] and I felt like St. Luke’s was my best opportunity to do that.”

Dr. Maher El Chaar, co-medical director of Bariatric Surgery, performed the weight-loss operation, a procedure commonly known as gastric bypass surgery. When Dr. El Chaar first met Christopher in 2015, at a weight of 550 lbs. and BMI of 72, Ellis was medically classified as “mega-obese”—a step beyond the morbidly obese category typically referenced by mainstream news media.

Christopher was only in the hospital overnight. He followed a liquid diet for one week, followed by a week of pureed foods, and soft foods for the next eight weeks. After that, he was able to consume regular foods—albeit smaller portions than he was used to.

Christopher has been able to say goodbye to more than just oversized meals and clothing sizes—he has left sleep apnea, several blood pressure medications, plantar fasciitis, joint pain, and pre-diabetes in the past. He’s also been able to say hello to countless new experiences.

“I still consider myself to be rather shy,” he says. “I used to avoid things like concerts, where I was concerned about fitting into seats, but now I go to anything I can afford.” Christopher also now volunteers to represent his company at meetings and strikes up conversations with people he would have been too intimidated to speak to in the past.

Dr. El Chaar continues to see Christopher as a patient—and will do so for the rest of his life.

“The goal is to maintain the weight loss,” he says, noting that St. Luke’s is special because it is a weight management center. “Obesity is a chronic disease, and the surgery is not a magic bullet—you have to be willing to put in the effort to make the change in lifestyle and be committed, and the doctor needs to provide support and education.”

Struggling with weight and thinking about bariatric surgery? “Do it!” Christopher encourages. “This is the best decision you will make for yourself. You will actually get to experience life instead of watching it slip by.”

Darin Carlton made a very important wish when he blew out the candles on his 50th birthday: He wished to reach his 60th.

Darin knew from his family history that he wouldn’t live to see his 60th cake unless he made a drastic change. Always a self-described “big guy,” Darin says, “I always made excuses … so what’s a few extra pounds?”

But on that birthday, he decided to lose the weight.

“I should have done this a long time ago.”

After investigating weight loss programs—and even considering surgery like Christopher at one point—Darin wanted to see if he could do it without the surgery. On March 2, 2016, Darin began his medical weight loss journey, with the help of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Weight Management Center.

Eighteen months later, Darin is about 95 lbs. lighter. Thanks to his weight loss, he achieved the personal milestone of running his first 10K race last October. “The goal was to finish it with no walking,” he explains. Before the St. Luke’s program, he couldn’t run three feet, let alone three miles, Darin quips. Today, he typically runs 5 miles at a stretch.

He has also changed his diet: “One of the things I find myself doing is reading every food label before I buy something,” Darin says, which he had never done in the past.

Darin says that one of the most rewarding things about his weight loss experience is the reactions of other people. “It’s wonderful seeing the expressions of people who I have not seen in a while,” he says. “Their positive comments reinforce my desire to maintain and stay on track in the future.”

Just like training for his 10K, Darin knows that there are struggles to be overcome. “I had to realize that this journey is a marathon and not a sprint,” she says. “I did not get this heavy overnight and I wasn’t going to lose the weight overnight either, but as I passed the 50 lb. mark and continued losing weight to where I am today, I realized I should have done this a long time ago.”


For more information on bariatric surgery, the option that Christopher Ellis chose, check out weightloss.sluhn.org and consider signing up for one of the upcoming informational sessions.

Get the scoop on non-surgical treatments, like the successful program that transformed Darin Carlton, at weightloss.sluhn.org.

Patients who have undergone extreme weight loss, might consider body contouring. This specialized form of plastic surgery shapes and tones the appearance of skin after significant weight loss.

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