In June 2006, Kim, a 39-year-old legal assistant in Boston weighing 310 pounds, arrived at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center for gastric bypass surgery. After years of fluctuating weight, unsuccessful diets and feeling uncomfortable in her own skin, she knew she needed a long-term weight loss solution that would help her lead a healthier life. Seven months post-surgery, Kim leveled out at 135 pounds—a weight she has successfully maintained for the past 13 years. The skills and resources she received at the Weight Center provided the support she needed to be successful on her weight loss journey. 

“The Mass General Weight Center is truly unique because it provides multidisciplinary support for the patient pre-operatively, during the procedure and forever after the operation, as well,” says Director Matthew Hutter, MD. “We really focus on the patient, their needs and the support that they need throughout the whole process to make it successful.”

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The Weight Loss Challenge

Kim struggled with the ups and downs of her weight throughout her life, and she experienced, first-hand, how people can be treated differently because of their size. She tried losing weight in many different ways—including through Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. But every time, she lost weight only to gain it back. She tried to stay positive, but also knew she needed to try something else.  Her weight was starting to take a toll on her health—preventing her from walking and exercising without gasping for breath.

She knew if she was going to lose the weight, and keep it off, she needed to change her life, and so she began researching weight loss surgery.

“I knew I needed something that wasn’t going to be there just temporarily,” she says. “I needed something that would be with me for the rest of my life.”

Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass is considered the gold standard of weight loss surgery because it changes how the stomach and small intestine absorb and digest food. The surgery creates a small pouch from the stomach and connects it directly to the small intestine, bypassing most of the stomach and first portion of the small intestine. The newly created stomach pouch is only about one ounce in volume—an adult's stomach before the procedure has a capacity of about 2.5 ounces.

Upon learning about other people’s weight loss through the procedure, Kim discovered Dr. Hutter and the Mass General Weight Center.

“I researched and looked into the Weight Center,” she says, “and they’re the best. I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to go to Mass General.”

I knew I needed something that wasn’t going to be there just temporarily. I needed something that would be with me for the rest of my life.

Multidisciplinary Care at Mass General

As a candidate for weight loss surgery, Kim attended a Weight Center orientation and received a new patient consultation with each member of her care team. That team included obesity medicine specialists, a nutritionist and a psychologist as well as Dr. Hutter.  They asked Kim questions about her health, as well as her goals and expectations for weight loss, and determined if other tests were needed to address any specific health issues.

The conclusion from the care team, and Kim agreed, was that weight loss surgery was the best option for her.

“If more people were to understand how safe it is, how effective the operation is, and the changes in quality of life,” Dr. Hutter says, “I think we could change a lot people’s lives for the better.”

A Lifelong Commitment

Kim’s weight loss surgery provided significant results, as she’s maintained a weight loss of 175 pounds since her surgery in 2006. But it was the beginning of a long-term commitment she had to make to herself.

Gastric bypass produces significant long-term weight loss, but it requires sticking to specific dietary restrictions for life. Kim acknowledges that she will always love food, but she has to limit it with portion control.

You must also adhere to life-long vitamin and mineral supplementation because the section of the small intestine that normally absorbs calories and nutrients no longer has food going through it. The Mass General Weight Center provides this kind of support, working with patients prior to surgery to help them start losing weight, during the actual day of surgery and on an ongoing basis to ensure the weight stays off through follow-up appointments and consultations.

The focus on the patient is precisely why Kim calls the Weight Center her safe place.

"There hasn't been a year that I have not gone to check in to the Weight Center for my yearly blood work and my labs," she says. "That's what's so important to me is when I go there, it makes me feel like, wow, this was the core of my life change."

It hasn’t always been easy, but Kim has managed to keep the weight off for 13 years. She remains committed to her weight loss and the freedom it has given her to do the things she loves, like gardening and going for walks with her husband.

"There's no secret to success. What's made me want to continue with the success that I've had is how I feel," Kim says. "You have to commit to the journey because you want to, not because anyone else is coaxing you to do it. Not because your mother, your husband, your boyfriend, your sister is telling you that you're heavy and you have to lose weight," Kim said. "You need to do it for you."