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Weight Lost, New Life Gained

Amy Dunbar walking with her familyAmy Dunbar celebrates two birthdays now: December 9, 1978 and January 7, 2013. The first is the day she was born; the second is the day she had her weight loss surgery.

“With the surgery, I really did have a rebirth,” Dunbar says. “Before, it was hard to feel happy. I was living with a constant sense of shame. Since the surgery, I feel like I can do anything I want to do.”

Weighing 255 pounds when she entered the Comprehensive Adult Weight Management Program at Baystate Medical Center, Dunbar now weighs 143 pounds. But she lost much more than pounds. She lost a way of thinking and feeling that had pulled her down for 20 years.

Dunbar says she always struggled with her weight. She tried dieting, but it never worked for long. She didn’t date or attend her prom. She wouldn’t wear a bathing suit or go to an amusement park, fearing weight restrictions on rides.

As an adult, she’d scan any room she entered. Was she the biggest? Often, she was. And it felt terrible. But because she didn’t yet have any health issues, she didn’t think of having weight loss surgery. Then she encountered someone she hadn’t seen for a while who had lost a lot of weight. He said he’d gone through the Baystate program.

Dunbar’s primary care physician referred her to the program, and she ultimately had a type of weight loss surgery called sleeve gastrectomy. Dr. Jay Kuhn, who Dunbar calls “her angel,” performed her procedure. After four days in the hospital, then four recovering weeks home, she was back to work.

Commitment Required

Dunbar says weight loss surgery is far from taking the easy way out. “This is not something anyone should take lightly,” she says. “It requires a major lifestyle change; a real commitment. It’s not a magical solution.”

Dunbar describes Baystate’s program as demanding. “They want their patients to be successful,” she says.

Before she could have the surgery, she had to lose 20 pounds to demonstrate her commitment and ability to practice the necessary discipline. She worked with the program’s psychologist to explore the reasons why she overate, and evaluate ways to avoid falling back into old, bad habits. She attended support group meetings, met regularly with a dietitian, and kept a food journal.

A Lighter Future

Today, Dunbar has fully embraced the idea of eating a healthy diet. Her husband even lost 30 pounds just by following the way she eats. And, Dunbar says, her four-year-old son only knows her as healthy, active, and confident.

“I’m teaching my son healthy habits,” she says, “and I’m proud to be his mom. When I was heavy, we rarely took any pictures together because I hated seeing myself. Now, one of the greatest joys I have is being able to see pictures of us as he grows.”

The Comprehensive Adult Weight Management Program at Baystate Medical Center is a patient-focused program to help adults struggling with obesity and weight-related diseases, specializing in the medical and surgical management of obesity. For more information, or to sign up for the free educational seminar, call 413-794-7020.