For Lamar Smith, it was a startling visit to his primary care doctor that turned his life around. At the time, he was 45 and weighed more than 500 pounds. He had diabetes and high blood pressure. "My doctor told me if I didn't make some changes, I'd probably have a heart attack within 10 years," Smith recalls. "It was a shock at first. But it made me take stock of my life, and I started looking into surgery."
In the spring of 2019, Smith underwent gastric bypass surgery through the Inova Weight Loss Surgery Program. Since then, the Gaithersburg, Maryland, resident has lost 115 pounds (and counting). "Surgery is just one part of it. It really has become a lifestyle change," he says. "I'm a totally different person."
Bariatric Surgery, Lifestyle Changes
Smith was active in his youth, playing football and basketball. Over the years, he put on weight, but didn't think much of it at first. "I figured I could always go to the gym and drop the weight when I wanted to. But as I got older, that became harder."
After the wake-up call from his doctor, he decided it was time to get serious. With support from his wife and teenage son, Smith started preparing for bariatric surgery. He had tests to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery, physically and emotionally. He met with the Inova team to learn about the process and attended six months of nutrition classes.
Even before surgery, Smith started making changes. "I was watching my portion sizes, eating more fruits and vegetables. I stopped drinking soda," he says.
But those changes could only prepare him so much. After surgery to reduce the size of his stomach, he was required to follow a liquid diet for four weeks as he healed. "I didn't realize how dependent I had become on food until it was taken away, and it was tough," he says. "But I knew that on the other side, it would be a different life."
Eventually, the diet changes became routine. When he graduated to mushy foods, he celebrated by cooking himself an egg. "I was so ecstatic," he recalls with a laugh. Now, he rarely thinks about the restrictions. "I don't crave sweets. I don't crave bread. I don't miss them," he says. "I know what I can and can't eat, and it's become a lifestyle."
Weight Loss and Non-Scale Victories
The first two weeks were the hardest, Smith says now. But as the pounds dropped off, it all seemed worth it. "Once it started it was like a runaway train," he says. By his six-month checkup, he'd lost 100 pounds. He's down from a size 8X shirt to 3X, and he's still losing pounds and inches. "I had to stop wearing my rings because they kept falling off. I'm waiting until I'm done shrinking to get them resized," he adds.
He's still taking medication for diabetes, but his blood sugar levels have been dropping with the pounds, and he's hopeful he'll no longer need medication soon. His blood pressure is also trending downward, and the lymphedema in his legs is improving.
Everyday living has also gotten a little easier. "I can go into a store and try stuff on without having to order it from a specialty catalog. I can bend down and tie my own shoes. I was able to throw away my seatbelt extender," he says. "Those non-scale victories are things that I cherish."
He also has more energy and has become more active. He and his son started taking regular walks and playing basketball together. "That's become a bonding time. For him to see me more active has been a good thing for him," he says.
During breaks from his job in a banking call center, Smith gets up to walk laps through the company's large buildings. In the process, he's met new coworkers — and had lots of people stop him to tell him how great he looks. "I'm not used to the attention. Being a big guy, you kind of hide. People look past you," he says. But he's been happy to share his experience. He's even inspired other coworkers to pursue weight loss surgery themselves. "If my story can help someone, I'm all for sharing," he says.
"It's not all easy. There were good days and bad days, but I knew that I would be better for it," he adds. "Aside from marrying my wife, this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life."
Ready to take the first step toward a healthier life? Learn more about Inova Weight Loss Services to find out if medical weight loss or bariatric surgery is right for you.