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All in the Family

Jenny Vangerud holds up a pair of size 26 jeans. Her mom, Judy, holds up her 22s. "Our fat pants," says Jenny, laughing.

But the jeans bring some painful memories, too. Jenny remembers herself at 359 pounds sitting in front of the TV mindlessly eating chips. "I felt down a lot of the time," she says.

Judy remembers weighing 290 pounds and gorging on fast food after a day of work. "There were times when my husband, Tim, would try to get me out for a walk and I always had some excuse," she says.

The years of unhealthy habits came to a sobering end. Jenny learned she had very high blood pressure requiring medication. "I was way too young for that," says the 36-year-old. She also had knee problems made worse by excess weight.

Judy learned she had borderline diabetes in addition to high blood pressure. "That scared me," says the 58-year-old. "Another scare came when my brother died of a massive heart attack at age 52."

Both Fargo women had tried to lose weight, but needed something more …

Real change

In the summer of 2007 Judy and Jenny attended a free informational seminar at Sanford. They met the team and learned about the complete program, including education, extensive preparation, follow-up support and proven success. Sanford is a nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.

"Dr. Garcia explained that weight-loss surgery isn't magic, but the start to a changed lifestyle," says Judy. "He's a doctor we could trust." Dr. Luis Garcia is one of three board certified weight-loss surgeons at Sanford

Jenny and Judy met several times with dietitians. They also met with a psychologist who assessed their motivation and readiness for a dramatic life change.

"I wanted to be healthier so I could live longer," says Jenny. "People who are extremely overweight have medical problems that shorten their lives."

Says Judy: "I wanted to be around for Tim's and my grandchildren."

The good life

Jenny's successful surgery took place in November 2007 followed by Judy's two months later. Both qualified for laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery – one of four surgical options offered at Sanford.

The surgery set the stage for a healthy life that centered on nutritious, small meals; thorough chewing and slow eating; exercising a minimum of four days a week; and taking daily vitamins.

"It was amazing to see the weight come off," says Jenny. "I felt like a melting snowman."

Together they lost 259 pounds. Judy now weighs 172 and no longer needs her diabetes and blood pressure medications. Jenny weighs 218 and her blood pressure has fallen.

"Dr. Garcia said a permanent weight loss of 100 pounds would be a success," says Judy. "We definitely reached that goal."

Loving yourself

Mutual support and a supportive family made all the difference for the mother and daughter. "Going through this together and talking things over made it easier – even fun," says Jenny.

One more time they pick up their "fat pants." They slip them on over their current size 14s. Laughing, they stomp around the living room.

"Weight-loss surgery was the best decision I ever made," says Jenny. 'I'm happier, I have more energy and I don't try to hide anymore. I like who I am."

Posted Date: January 2011