Amanda L Happier & Healthier – Amanda's Weight Loss Story

"From head to toe, inside and out, I feel like a different person. And I like it."

How weight-loss surgery transformed one patient’s lifestyle.

Amanda Lukacs, 39, struggled with her weight since childhood. “Name a fad diet, and I tried it,” she says. Any pounds she shed always returned, so Amanda, of Point Pleasant Borough, lived with the trials of being overweight—from the challenge of finding clothes to fit her frame to feeling judged when she ventured out in public.

Amanda also feared that her weight increased her risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. As the years passed, the numbers on the scale began to climb. One day in 2017, when she hit 370 pounds, Amanda decided it was time to take action. She had been pondering weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, so she scheduled a consultation at the Center for Bariatrics at Community Medical Center (CMC) and met with board-certified surgeon Gurdeep S. Matharoo, MD, FACS, FASMBS. The Center takes a comprehensive approach to helping patients with weight loss; skilled bariatric surgeons, nurses, dietitians and psychologists work with patients before and after surgery to ensure success. After Amanda and Dr. Matharoo discussed the various types of surgery, Amanda elected to undergo a procedure called sleeve gastrectomy.

The advantages of sleeve gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy has become the most popular form of bariatric surgery in the world because it’s effective—most patients lose 60 to 75 percent of excess body weight. In addition, the operation has important advantages over other weight-loss procedures, says Dr. Matharoo. Most sleeve gastrectomy procedures can be performed laparoscopically, meaning the surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s abdomen and inserts a slender instrument with a video camera on the tip that projects images of structures inside the body onto a monitor. The surgeon makes several more incisions, through which fine surgical instruments are used to reduce the patient’s stomach “from about the size of a football to that of a banana,” says Dr. Matharoo.

Bariatric surgery promotes weight loss in two ways. Shrinking the stomach makes people feel full quickly when they eat a meal, so they consume fewer calories. In addition, removing a portion of the stomach alters levels of appetite hormones, which reduce food cravings, says Dr. Matharoo. It also corrects metabolic problems that raise blood sugar levels. As a result, most people with type 2 diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery no longer need medication for the disease by the time they leave the hospital.

A healthier lifestyle

In preparation for surgery, Amanda was required to meet with a bariatric dietitian, Anne VanMeerbeke, RDN, LDN, every four weeks over a six-month period. During these sessions, she learned how to make healthier food choices and adopt a new way of eating—lots of protein and light on carbohydrates. Amanda was also encouraged to begin exercising. Making these changes in advance means a patient is ready to “hit the ground running” after surgery, says Dr. Matharoo.

Amanda confesses she felt nervous on the day of her operation: March 22, 2018. Not only was she having surgery, but she was saying goodbye to the old Amanda forever. “That was the last day of my old life and the first da y of my new life,” she says. Amanda’s mother, Jane, accompanied her to the hospital, holding Amanda’s hand until it was time for the procedure.

The operation went as planned. Amanda was discharged two days later and in the months that followed, her new life revealed itself. The numbers on the scale steadily dropped. When her weight loss slowed a few times, clinical nurse Denise Fitzgerald assured Amanda the pounds would continue to drop, and they did: She reduced her weight by more than half and now weighs 170 pounds.

Amanda’s chronic back and knee pain disappeared, along with her sleep apnea, which means she wakes up feeling more rested and ready to go—a major change. “I used to just sit around and be depressed,” she says. “Now I can’t sit still.” Amanda works out at a fitness center five days a week. “I’ve turned myself into a little gym rat,” she says. Her new life has required some adjustments, like skipping the noodles in favor of extra vegetables when she dines out at her favorite Japanese restaurant. But she’s learning to treasure simple pleasures, like shopping for clothes at any store she likes and no longer feeling self-conscious in public. “From head to toe, inside and out, I feel like a different person,” says Amanda. “And I like it.”

How CMC can help

It’s not about losing weight overnight. It’s about staying healthy over time. We offer education sessions and support groups, which are held the first Monday of each month in the Community Medical Center auditorium. Call 888.724.7123 to register. Learn more about bariatric surgery at the Center for Bariatrics at CMC or call 732.557.8966.