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Maria Occhuzzo: How I’ve Maintained My Weight Loss After Bariatric Surgery

May 25, 2021

Four years ago, this August, I took control of my health. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked or felt, and I couldn’t keep up with my two young sons; bariatric surgery fixed all of that and more.

When you have bariatric surgery, you must adjust to new ways of eating and drinking, which is challenging. What’s exciting is the weight comes off shockingly quickly within the first few months. However, sticking to your new lifestyle and maintaining your weight and overall health, after that initial weight-loss slows, takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

I started out at 208 pounds, and I’m currently 126!

Here’s what’s helped me stay on track:

Follow up – Maintaining a relationship with my surgeon, Dr. Marc Neff, and dietitian, Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM, has been key for me. I see them both a couple times a year. They’re there to help me and provide reassurance. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? Appointments are easy to schedule, and the staff is easy to talk to. I don’t feel like I’m going to the doctor; I feel like I’m catching up with friends.

Protein – Everyone is different, but, personally, focusing on getting enough protein has helped me stick to the right portion sizes and make better choices. Protein is a basic of nutrition, not just for those who have undergone surgery, but for everyone. When I feel like I’m falling off track, I return to the basics – the things I know I need to keep my body strong.

Exercise – For me, working out is about stress relief, not burning fat or calories. For the first couple years, I actually didn’t have a regular workout routine. But I wasn’t sedentary; between working at a hair salon and playing with my children, I was constantly on my feet. I started going to the gym in September. I alternated between that and walking. Now, I can walk 3 ½ - 4 miles at once, like it’s nothing. I was already energetic, but it’s certainly been boosted.

Positive and reflective mindset – There are times, especially in the beginning, when it’s difficult and tempting to give up. But you have to remember, it’s only going to get better. Whenever I hit a hurdle, and I’m not feeling so ambitious, I think about how much I love the way I look and feel. I love the size smalls that I fit into, but moreso, I love my new self-esteem. I’ve come so far. Why give up now?

Support – I’m not sure that I could’ve gotten through half of it without the strong support system I have, which includes my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my care team here at Jefferson Health – New Jersey.

All of these things have helped me keep my health at the forefront of everything I do. From minor temptations, to the stress of the pandemic, to grieving the loss of my dad, I’ve gotten through it all. It’s hard – like anything in life – but it’s possible.