Success Without Surgery

Choosing Well Leads Patient on 200+ Pound Weight Loss Journey

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Steven Keller wasn't always interested in losing weight. He ran cross-country in high school and was active through college. As he got older, jobs became more sedentary. It became easier and easier to grab fast food on the go. Slowly, the weight began to add up.

"It comes on and you don't realize it. You buy a new size of pants every so often, without even thinking about it. Then, you realize where you are."

For Steven, that meant weighing close to 500 pounds.

Setting Realistic Goals

By April 2012, Steven had already lost 163.5 pounds without surgery.

Though Steven wanted to get healthy, it was a challenging process. "You feel too big to get started," Steven said, "and it's easy to get discouraged."

When his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Steven felt the kick-start he needed. "I wanted to show her what I could do to get healthy."

Steven was already an Aurora patient, so he started his journey with the website. He looked for doctors specializing in weight loss. Though surgery was an option, he wasn't ready to commit. "I wanted to attempt lifestyle changes first, before making such a drastic commitment of a surgical solution," he said.

His search brought him to Dr. Kenneth Byom, DO.

Dr. Byom started the first appointment with an assessment, asking about Steven's occupation, activity level and eating habits. "I also explained the three different types of calories – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins," Dr. Byom said. "Many people don't have a true understanding of what a calorie is."

Steven received thorough physical and psychological screenings to establish his readiness for a medical weight loss program. Working closely with Dr. Byom, they formulated daily caloric and exercise goals supervised through monthly medical appointments.

"My patients and I work together to develop a plan for realistic weight loss. I like to keep it simple," said Dr. Byom. Steven liked the way it was presented. "It was like a mathematical equation – it clicked. It's not strict or rigid – it wasn't 'you can't eat this, or only eat this.'"

Dr. Byom noted that restricting foods is not necessarily the best option. "When you're following a very strict plan, you may lose some weight, but you're not likely to stick with the plan for the long term," he said. Instead, Dr. Byom suggests better choices and moderation. "I encourage a realistic strategy to eat better," he added.

"If you want pizza, have some pizza," Steven explained. "Just choose a healthier recipe and don't eat the whole pizza."

Structured, Not Strict

After losing over 200 pounds, Steven continues pursuing his target weight of 225.

Though not strict, Steven's journey was structured through a food journal. "You have to be 100% honest and committed," Steven emphasized. He began taking notice of what he was eating, and gained a better understanding of food. "You can have taste and nutritional value," he noted. "It's not one or the other."

He began discovering new foods, leaning toward fresher choices. "Fresh foods have more taste," he explained. "Prepackaged food has taste, but much of it comes from salt."

Steven began focusing on portion sizes as well. Instead of limiting food choices, he scaled down his portions. "Friends will ask, 'Can you eat this or that?' and I'll explain I'm not on a restrictive diet. I'm just watching what I'm eating," he said.

In addition to the new diet plan, Dr. Byom also prescribed Phentermine. "Medication is another tool to assist patients with weight loss," he noted. "Obesity is not a safe condition. Losing weight helps reduce the risk for heart attack, hypertension, diabetes and even certain forms of cancer."

Dr. Byom added that the medications tend to be as safe as other commonly prescribed medications. "They are just less well-understood." He noted that medically-supervised weight loss drugs are also far more regulated and monitored than over-the-counter products.

Steven also added exercise to his daily routine. He started out with a 1/2 mile of walking and gradually moved up to more. He began using the exercise center at his workplace during his lunch hour. "It wakes me up for the rest of the day," he noted. "It's a lot better than a cup of coffee." Coworkers noticed that not only was he losing weight, but feeling better as well.

Steven pursued new hobbies, such as gardening, to maintain an active schedule. Last summer, he built a garden, growing a variety of fresh vegetables, included ghost peppers.

"I used to hate weeding my parents' garden as a child," he said. "I never envisioned myself gardening as an adult," he chuckled. But thanks to his lifestyle change, what was once a chore is now enjoyable.

"Dr. Byom pushed me to be a little more active than I would have been otherwise, and to set some activity goals that I wouldn't have set on my own," said Steven. "And that wasn't a bad thing."

The Journey Continues

Steven has never gotten discouraged during his weight loss journey. As he noted, "The weight didn't go on overnight, it's not coming off overnight." Through healthy choices and increased activity, he has lost more than 200 pounds – and the weight is still coming off.

Steven initially wanted to reach a goal weight of 240 pounds, which represents 50% of his starting weight of 479.5 pounds. Upon realizing the progress he has been able to accomplish Steven has since revised his goal weight to 225 pounds.

"Steven's going strong. He's just getting healthier and healthier," said Dr. Byom. "He is losing weight effectively, quickly and safely. He's very motivated – I see no reason for him to stop now."

"It's difficult to predict who will be successful and who won't be successful with weight loss," said Dr. Byom. "Steven is definitely a great success story. He is proof it can be done without surgery."

"I've always been of the mindset that it didn't go on overnight, so it won't come off overnight," said Steven. "I do have a goal weight that I want to get down to, and once I'm there, I want to prove to myself that I can maintain it. I don't foresee that being a problem as I've made lifestyle changes to get this far."

Steven is grateful for Dr. Byom and his Aurora caregivers. "They all had a great attitude toward me reaching my goal of being healthy. They made me feel very comfortable, no matter what."

Steven hopes sharing his weight loss journey might motivate someone else to begin their path to better health. Steven said, "I won't ever say this was easy, but it is so rewarding seeing my commitment to this lifestyle change improve my physical and mental well being."

For more information about our award-winning weight loss experts and programs, visit www.aurora.org/bariatrics.