Yes, it’s true. I lost a ton of weight and gained it back. And for years, I lived in fear and hiding because of the shame I felt. Now, I’m ready to share my story with anyone who will listen.
I could write a book about my journey with weight so far (and maybe I will), but for now, I just want to share a peek into my weight loss experiences of the last year.
UPDATE 2020: Read and see all new pics of my weight loss journey here – Duodenal Switch Before and After
Before we dive in here, though, let me say this. I am not advocating that the duodenal switch is for everyone. While studies do show that weight loss surgery (and the duodenal switch in particular) is one of the only effective ways to lose weight and keep it off, it won’t work for everyone. You will still need to work out, eat right, and ultimately make food less important in your life. There are also a ton of myths about weight loss surgery, and I hope to bring those to light and help those who need help on this journey.
It is very personal for me and it’s taken me quite a while to post this and share it with the world. As some of you may know, I was on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition (now called Extreme Weight Loss here in the US and Obese or A Year To Save My Life in other countries). On the show, in the course of 1 year, I lost 255 pounds going from 493 pounds all the way down to 238.
But, the weight loss didn’t last. I was still recovering from skin removal surgery so my ability to exercise was gone for about 5 months. My food choices started to slip again into the same old pattern. Unknown to me at the time, though, was that my metabolism was severely damaged. I recently read about the study done on contestants from the Biggest Loser which showed a huge drop-off in metabolism which basically leads to weight gain.
I experienced the weight gain but didn’t know my metabolism was so shockingly slow until last year when I had it tested at a Bariatric clinic. I found out my metabolism was operating at a .61 efficiency on a scale from 0 to 1 with 1 being the ideal perfect metabolism and 0 being (I assume) a not even possible low number. This meant that I had to work out nearly twice as hard (or as long) or eat about 800 calories less/day than the average person just to maintain my weight.
Weight loss would require even more exercise or more severe calorie restriction. And that is what lead to my discovery of a unique weight loss procedure called the Duodenal Switch.
How The Duodenal Switch Saved My Life
There’s a rarely done weight loss surgery called Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch (or just Duodenal Switch for short). I am in no way an expert on the surgery, but I learned a lot about it as I researched my options. In short, the procedure reduces the size of your stomach (called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy) then also reroutes your intestines so your body doesn’t absorb everything you eat. This creates a double weight loss effect: you get food restriction as well as malabsorption.
Perhaps the greatest side effect of the duodenal switch is that it cures diabetes in many cases. For me, I found myself with an A1c of 7.9 at the highest. It’s interesting, because before my rapid weight loss, my A1C was never that high. And for those who don’t know, A1C is a measurement of your 3-month blood sugar levels. Anything over 6.5 is considered diabetic. Within about 3 years of the show, I went from 238 pounds completely healthy all the way back up… with diabetes.
I went under the knife on December 10, 2015… one day before my 34th birthday. Before surgery, my weight was (oddly) back to exactly 493… the same weight I was on the show. I managed to lose about 38 pounds before the duodenal switch surgery by doing an extreme liquid only diet that the Surgeon put me on. It shrunk my liver which makes the operation easier. On the day of surgery, I weighed 455 pounds. Today, 6 months later, I weigh 312 pounds.
On the right, you can see me hiding in the back at my friend’s wedding last year. Below is me a few weeks ago with my brother and sister at my cousin’s wedding. I still have about 90 pounds to lose to reach the weight my surgeon set for me.
From my starting weight, I have lost 181 pounds. It has not been easy. My recovery was basically 3 days of vomiting. But man, has it been worth it. I would go through this surgery every year if I had to, just so I can feel like I do now. My diabetes was CURED within 3 days of the surgery. Gone. I was taken off Metformin, and my recent blood test showed my A1C is now done to 4.8 which is an awesome number.
I have no doubt that without the duodenal switch surgery, I was headed to an early grave. Now, I have a whole new life to look forward to. And unlike my other weight loss attempts, I know this one can work for the long haul. My metabolism is improving too. That is one of the other side effects of weight loss surgery, a boost to your metabolism. As of 5/23/16, my metabolic score is now up to .73 and climbing. I can’t wait to see how high I can take it through continued diet and exercise.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, if you have more questions about weight loss surgery or weight loss in general, feel free to leave a comment below. I do my best to respond to them all.
Here’s My Journal Entry About Why I Chose The Duodenal Switch From January 12, 2016 – About A Month After My Surgery
I have had many ups and downs with my weight throughout my life. Sadly, no matter what I tried, I always ended up back where I started or even worse.
After a lifetime of pushing myself to extremes, I finally got real with myself. I knew I could lose weight, I’d done it time and time again. But what I lost faith in was my ability to keep the weight off.
At first, I blamed myself. Where’s my willpower? Where’s my desire to live and not be fat anymore? Finally, after years of beating myself up and feeling like a failure, I looked more into the science of weight loss. I reviewed study after study, diving deep looking for what I may have missed. Finally, I found it. Nearly everything I read pointed to the fact that less than 1% of people are able to lose weight and keep it off for more than 5 years.
But, there was an exception. And that exception was weight loss surgery. I didn’t want to believe it, but as I looked around all I could see was story after story of people who had lost weight and gained it back. Including myself multiple times.
This led me to ask a difficult question. Why are we doing the same thing over and over again, even though it isn’t working? More imporantly, why am I?
[shareable]Why are we doing the same thing over and over again, even though it isn’t working? #weightloss #thinspiration[/shareable]
I was able to convince myself that I could do it “on my own”. I just needed to try harder, work out harder, count my calories extra close, weigh everything, go to counseling, obsess daily, bare my soul at meetings, pray and plead to God for help.
And that was how I lived my entire adult life.
Until I discovered the stats and the truth about weight loss surgery. So, after much soul-searching, I decided surgery was my most logical option. After reading and watching videos on the different options available to me, I settled on the Duodenal Switch procedure. This surgery is the Platinum standard, and studies show it is the most effective for long-term weight loss and health.
I figured if I’m going all in, I might as well go ALL IN. And I did. On December 10, 2015 I said goodbye to fad diets, broken promises, failed weight loss attempts, and the sadness that followed me for 20 years. I said no to an industry that tells us our goal weight is just a shake, pill or packaged bar away. I said no to beating myself up. I said no to the shame that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve happiness, that I was a failure.
I said no to all these things, when I said YES to my weight loss surgery. This new journey has just begun, but I’m on a whole new path now, one that I’ve never seen before. One that actually works for the long haul.
Jennifer Panizza says
Congratulations Mike. I have been following you ever since your episode on EMWLE. I to have been struggling with weight problems. I am so glad you have found a way to keep it off this time around. I hope to see more pictures of you on FB. Keep inspiring us.
Thanks Jen for your kind words. You have inspired me as well. Keep up the great work!! I am going to start posting selfies everyday for the next 3 months to make up for lost time haha jk… maybe.
Yolanda Janton says
Hi Michael, so good to hear from you and so happy you are back on track. I don’t know if you remember me, Yolanda. I met you the last day of your final taping in the lunchroom where you guys were wrapping things up with EMWLE. I have followed you since then. I lost 82 lbs back in 1978 and it has been a lifetime battle keeping the weight off. Stay focused and positive and put God first always. So proud of your achievement weight wise and business wise. Looking forward to your book. Our Lord bless you always.
Yes I remember you, of course. I am glad that you have kept up with me all this time. It has definitely been a long road and I’m glad to have someone on my side like yourself who understands the struggle. God bless you!
God Bless you, Mike. I wish you only the best.
So glad to have updates from you.
Thank you Shari!!
Candice Nethercott says
Mike this is truly awesome! So happy for you. I have seen from afar how you struggle with your weight,but it sounds like,thru lots of research,that you have found your niche. Keep it up,and the future is yours.
Thanks so much for writing. Yes, it has truly been a struggle. I am ready more than ever to help those who need it and stay focused on myself too. It’s a hard road for many of us, but I will do whatever I can to help others.
I’m a long term DSer (over 10 years). Keep going! You’ll see how great life can be. Just be sure to keep up with your protein, vitamins and minerals. Good luck.
Awesome thanks for the encouragement! It’s crazy but I’ve never got to meet another DSer in real life yet. Hopefully soon! I am doing great on my vitamins and water and protein I’m good now thanks to a 40g protein shake haha.
Hello Mike!!!? I just wanted to say your such an inspiration. The struggles of weight loss and weight gain are real and you have been on that road you know what its like. But no matter what you always keep moving forward looking to change your life around and you didn’t give up. That means alot for you, your family,and your followers. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to hearing more from you! Never give up!God Bless!
Thank you very much for saying that. If I can share anything with others, it’s to never give up and always keep fighting.
If we keep on fighting, we can accomplish amazing things.
Hey mike, my name is Cory from the U.K I just watched your story on tv. I just want to say, a huge well done on your journey, I’m sure you have inspired thousands who have watched this, including me! So thank you for helping me change my life
Thank you so much Coru! Glad you enjoyed the show and so happy to hear you are feeling inspired. Keep up the great work!
Hi Mike – I’ve just watched your episode in the UK and found this blog through wanting to follow up on you! I’m interested in how long your 2012 revelation at OA kept you going and what didn’t ultimately work with that approach in the end? I totally agree with you that for some, WLS is the answer-I had a gastric bypass in 2008 and would recommend that route to anyone.
Great question! For me, the OA extremeness was a bit much. I know it works for a lot of people and there are elements I took from it that I use every day (like the one day at a time, one choice at a time stuff). I just found for myself that extreme control was just another side of the coin for me. I would fluctuate from one extreme to the other. With getting the Duodenal Switch surgery, it really helped me to solve a lot of the physical stuff that very few people talk about. My metabolism was super slow and without resolving that issue I don’t know if weight loss would have ever stuck for me.
Helen Thoma says
I agree! I came to the conclusion after so many years of yoyo dieting and unhappiness and a whole heap of therapy, I needed to just accept that I would always overeat and that I needed a physical restriction to prevent the consequences of that. I just love living my life without my weight being the main focus of everything-life is too short.
Deborah Fletcher says
Well done you!!!! I has DS 12 years ago. I don’t find Many people who have had this surgery. I have written my book. I have not published yet…. Bit nervous ?. I lost 170 lbs in 8 months. Thank you for sharing your story
Hi, have you had any complications, such as malabsorption issues, gatrointestinal problems, leaking, etc?
No issues. I take a lot of vitamins (especially ADEK) but that’s a small price to pay. No more diabetes, sleep apnea, or drugs!
Bernard Curtis says
It takes a lot of motivation to overcome your problem with achieving your desired weight.
Steven Wilbur says
My wife had the ds surgery about 9 months ago. She had lost over 90 lbs. But, as her husband, my support of the surgery was the diabetic impact. She was on two types of insulin (slow and fast acting) and two pills of metformine and we still could never get a handle on it. By the time she had the surgery she was testing at best 150 on her blood sugar levels and we never could get it stable. She was suffering with neuropathy (which cannot be reversed). After the surgery it took about a complete month in her case but she was completely cured. She is off everything and her a1c is now 5.2. Her triglycerides are amazingly low, heart rate is from 90+ to now 60. Blood pressure has gone from really high to 116 over 60. Just astounding. It is scary to commit to and definitely a change but the health benefits are truly incredible. I’ve seen people die from diabitis and it is a horrible, slow death that usually requires cutting off feet and parts off legs. Who knew that there is actually a cure. This should be available to all diabetics as an option.
Yes Steven I agree so much about the diabetes benefit. I do wish the surgery was allowed for diabetes treatment. Seems like it would save a ton of money! Maybe there’s even a modified version of it that wouldn’t cause such weight loss if the person weren’t overweight.
Jackie Fletcher says
I myself had the gastric sleeve in 2016, i lost 130 lbs and kept 110 off then in 2019 I just converted to the bilio pancreatic diversion, since my second surgery I have only lost 12 lbs and I’m wondering why since my first surgery the weight fell off and this time it isn’t, super frustrated, I just joined the gym to see if this helps, here’s to hoping!!!
When you are a 2-stager I have heard that the weight loss isn’t as fast, but it still happens. Hang in there and keep up the positive attitude!
Charlene Otis says
So glad to read your story! I am 47 and have been “morbidly” obese since I was in my mid 20’s. Before that, I was up and down 20-30 pounds and thought THAT was horrible! lol I had the gastric sleeve in May 2015- my 25th wedding anniversary. I started at 325- my height is lost from 5’7″ to 5’5 due to 2 back surgeries and back degeneration. I lost down to 248. But, I made my habits bad again. I am like you wondering why I hurt so bad with fibro, degenerative bone issues, asthma, high blood pressure, pain, pain, pain and won’t do anything for it! And to boot I am an RN that teaches others how to be healthy! I am considering the switch, but the sleeve was SO hard on me for 5 weeks. Just getting your thoughts…
Weight loss that stays off is VERY hard. I don’t fault anyone for gaining back weight as it is nearly scientifically impossible in today’s environment. Those who do keep the weight off without surgery usually have some kind of underlying condition that drives them towards obsessive behavior.
I think you should definitely speak with a qualified surgeon about the Duodenal Switch surgery to see if it’s right for you. The results for me have been life-changing.
Debra De La Motta says
Thank you for this article! It was almost spiritual whilst I was reading it! I am female and currently weigh around 480 pounds! In 1996 I did the RYGB or gastric bypass operation and lost about 160 pounds! But I gain back all my weight and plus 30 pounds! I too am thinking of doing the Duodenal Switch surgery. While I don’t believe this operation alone will make me lose weight, I do see some commentary that you can have a weight regain after this operation! Do you know anything about that? Please advise thanks.
Hi Debra… glad you liked the post. Sadly, from the studies I’ve seen the RNY seems to have pretty high stats on regain. The DS has some regain too, but from what I’ve seen it is the lowest amount of regain of all the surgeries. I am living proof that it works and so far so good on keeping the weight off. December will be 5 years since I had the surgery. A big part of it for me is to exercise with resistance training and also walk a lot. I also do some intermittent fasting each week. If you make slow progress you are more likely to keep the weight off as well long term. Best of luck to you!