At 257 pounds and 5 feet tall, Deneen Young had come to terms with her weight. She was confident and beautiful and didn’t need to be a small size to know that.
But, as much as she tried to convince herself she was okay with how she looked and felt, deep down she wasn’t alright.
It wasn’t until her uncle, a man who has been fit throughout his life and often encouraged Deneen to eat healthier and exercise, asked her the question she needed to hear: didn’t she want to live to see her grandkids?
“My response to my uncle was that I want to see my great grandkids,” remembers Deneen, a mother of a 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.
Deneen’s primary care physician Deborah K. Witt, MD, of Jefferson’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, recommended she talk to surgeon David S. Tichansky, MD, FACS, director of Jefferson’s Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Program.
During her first visit, Dr. Tichanksy explained how the vertical sleeve procedure would be the best option for her. Also known as a sleeve gastrectomy, this surgery reduces the portion of the stomach that makes ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger to the brain.
The Turning Point
The preparation for bariatric patients includes a psychological evaluation and a two-week liquid diet before the operation. While this was challenging, Deneen sought comfort with Jefferson’s support group for bariatric patients.
A member of this group helped put the pre-surgery requirements into perspective. If Deneen can’t handle this part of the process, then she’s not ready. Deneen knew she was ready.
From that moment on, her life as she knew it would be forever changed.
After the operation, Deneen stayed on a liquid/pureed food diet and then, with the assistance of a Jefferson nutritionist, slowly incorporated solid foods.
She also began to exercise. She started to walk. Deneen was walking a lot, but she knew it just wasn’t enough. Then she really started moving.
Running – which she wasn’t able to do when she was obese – became her passion.
A New Person – Inside and Out
Today, after having dropped 130 pounds in less than two years, Deneen says her life has been completely transformed.
“Before, I would come home from work, take care of the kids, and would go to my bedroom and sit on my bed and eat a bag of chips,” Deneen says, recalling her previous lifestyle. “I’m an athlete now.”
She’s completed two half-marathons and now serves as a co-ambassador to Black Girls Run, a running group that encourages African-American women to get healthy and keep moving.
She’s inspired her son to run cross country, and her daughter is excited her mom is able to do more activities with her.
“Surgery was the tool to jump-start my weight loss,” says Deneen. Getting regular exercise, eating healthy, weighing food and going to support group meetings are just some of the ways she has continued her journey towards better long-term health.
Deneen credits Jefferson with putting her on the path to a new, healthier life.
“Dr. T is DA BOMB and please put ‘da bomb’ in caps,” exclaims Deneen, adding that his whole team is amazing.
Having the Jefferson team and a supportive family – her husband and children still keep junk food out of the kitchen and store it away so Deneen doesn’t have to face the temptation – have been integral to Deneen’s success.
However, the advice she gives to anyone considering bariatric surgery is: “Do it for you, not for anyone else. Know it’s a process. Be prepared to change your entire lifestyle.”
As Deneen now plans for her future – which consists of becoming a life coach, writing a memoir and opening a boutique for women of all sizes – she knows to not rush things and let things happen when they happen.
“Your race. Your pace,” she says with a smile.
To schedule an appointment with the Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Program, please call 1-800-JEFF-NOW.