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Winning the Losing Game

Charlotte Viou gasps as she lugs her 302 pounds up another merciless flight of stairs. At last she reaches the top and leans against a wall. It takes five minutes for her catch her breath. She hopes no one will see her.

“Walking up those stairs at work was the turning point,” says the 45-year-old charitable- gaming director for Red River Human Services Foundation in Fargo. “That’s what got me online to research weight-loss surgery. It was time consuming, but well worth it.”

A shortened life

Always “the big girl” in high school, Charlotte tried over and over again to lose weight -- programs, medication, a doctor-prescribed weight loss plan, and more. None brought lasting results.

“I’d lose weight, but after I went off the special diet, I’d gain it all back -- plus some,” says Charlotte. “I never had the knowledge or the experience to keep it off.”

As the years went by, Charlotte’s reasons for losing weight became more serious. Her obesity brought on early stage diabetes and high blood pressure, plus she suffered back pain from an old injury. The excess weight made it hurt even more.

There were other hurts, too -- ridicule when she went to an exercise class, frustration when told time and again to lose weight and embarrassment when she couldn’t squeeze into a chair.

“The emotional part was up and down, but I knew the health issues were only going to get worse,” she says. “I didn’t want to die at 50.”

A complete program

When Charlotte read about Sanford’s Weight Loss Surgery Program, she wanted to know more.

“They had everything -- a good pre-surgery program, educational sessions with dietitians, a psychiatric evaluation and follow-up ,” she says. “At Sanford it wasn’t just surgery. You also learned the habits that would lead to long-term success. That’s what was always missing for me.”

A nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, Sanford offers a high qualified team, a complete program (including lifelong support groups) and proven results.

Charlotte took the next step, attending Sanford’s free weight-loss surgery informational session.

“There were a lot of people there who had the same questions and concerns I had,” she says. “The information presented was awesome. The speaker didn’t just give vague answers -- they were precise and detailed. It’s exactly the kind of information you need when you’re making a decision that’s going to change your life.”

All-around success

On May 12, 2010, Charlotte underwent laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery performed by Dr. Luis Garcia, one of three board-certified weight-loss surgeons at Sanford.

The surgery and recovery went smoothly. Charlotte immediately put into practice everything she learned about nutrition, exercise and vitamins. Thirteen months later, she reached her goal of 145 pounds -- less than half her former self.

“Even though the weight came off really fast, this surgery is not an easy fix,” she says. “To keep the weight off, you have to do your part.”

For Charlotte this includes tracking her food intake, exercising daily and completely staying away from sweets.

“Maybe I’m one of those patients who can eat candy and not get sick, but maybe I’m not. I’ve never tested it and don’t plan to. I decided early on that sweets make me sick so I don’t touch them. That works for me,” she says. “Why go through surgery then defeat yourself by eating junk?”

Fully alive!

Today, two years after her surgery, Charlotte maintains her weight loss. She loves her life, including:

Posted Date: May 2012