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Building a Better Life

Kent Osborne pulls up to the Vermillion City Hall on his motorcycle, greeting people in the parking lot with a relaxed wave.

For more than seven years on the city council, he has ridden his Honda VTX 1800 to countless meetings. But two years ago, as local government officials moved into the new city building that he helped plan, the 47-year-old man struggled to even walk to the door without having to catch his breath.

“I really felt like I was on the freight train to 500 pounds and there wasn’t anything stopping me from eating anything I wanted whenever I wanted,” says Kent, walking up the stairway to the city hall chambers, an easy climb that was almost impossible for him when the council moved into the new building in 2009. “I had to do something to get my life back.”

Losing and gaining

For years, Kent had tried diets and exercise plans to try to shed pounds. He would be successful at losing large amounts of weight and then put it back on – and then some.

“I can stick to a plan to a point, but then everything would fall apart,” Kent said. “I can be a good boy and eat my salads, but then I don’t anymore and it gets even worse.”

He had a wake-up call when he got bad news about a friend that he had made from one of his past “successes” in weight loss, a hospital-led program that combined exercise and diet. His friend, who also had a life-long struggle with weight, died due to medical conditions related to his body size.

“It really put a point on this for me, seeing the death of someone who was in the same kind of situation,” he says.

When Kent consulted with Dr. Dennis Glatt about the possibility of undergoing bariatric surgery, he had to be weighed in on the scales for people using wheelchairs. At 476 pounds, he was too large for the regular scale. He decided to opt for Roux-En-Y gastric bypass, a procedure that divides the upper end of the stomach to restrict food intake, having his surgery in September 2009.

An energy for life

Almost immediately, Kent found himself dropping weight and gaining stamina. With a busy work schedule, time volunteering with several civic agencies and three active children, ages 15 to 20, he had always been tired.

“I’d swing my legs out of bed in the morning, and my feet and my joints would just ache and I hadn’t even done anything yet,” said Kent, whose doctor took him off prescriptions for pre-diabetes, thyroid issues and high cholesterol, plus two blood pressure medications as he lost 199 pounds. “Suddenly I could walk and I enjoyed walking.”

His relationship with food changed. Rather than eating large amounts of food out of habit, he started eating the kinds of things his body needs.

“I look at quality over quantity,” Kent said. “I still love to eat and I enjoy feeling full, but I’m more in touch with my body and what kind of food makes it feel better.”

A familiar voice

During his last election for council, Kent did some door-to-door campaigning. People who hadn’t talked to him in the past year didn’t know who he was at first when he stopped to visit.

“It’s my voice that people recognized,” said Kent, who works as director of online services at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. “It was a little strange, but it was nice feedback.”

For Kent, the biggest change he noticed was the first time he got back on the motorcycle that regularly rides to council meetings. Just weeks before his surgery, he got into an accident on the large Honda and had to send it to the shop for extensive repairs.

That next spring he was over 100 pounds lighter when he first took his motorcycle, fixed up with new parts and paint, out for a spin on a warm day in May. He discovered that the 950-pound motorcycle was unbelievably easier to ride and control.

“Nothing feels better than actually riding on your motorcycle, not just sitting on top of it, like I used to do,” says Kent, pointing to his beloved bike. “I like to say we were both transformed over the winter – transformed for the better.”

Posted Date: May 2011