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Toni Transforms Herself Inside and Out through Weight Loss Surgery

toni wagner

In 2016, Toni Wagner of Bethlehem lost her husband and suddenly became a single mom. That was her turning point. “I knew I had to make a change to live for my son,” says Wagner.

Weight had crept up on her over the years. “I put on the freshman 15 in college and just kept adding,” Wagner says. Side effects of her weight included sleep apnea and high blood pressure, but the biggest impact was low self-esteem.

She avoided social activities and pictures. “I became isolated, didn’t want to go out or to be social. I was worried people would comment on how much weight I had gained,” Wagner says. “I was withdrawn and in that place for a long time.”

Reclaiming her self-worth

After her husband’s death, Wagner started going to therapy where she gained coping skills to control the powerful emotions of grief and self-doubt. Ultimately, she recognized her self-worth. “I reclaimed my identity and reclaimed who I was as a person,” says Wagner. Once she made strides to achieve emotional health, Wagner was ready for her body to reflect who she was on the inside.

Weight-loss support

With her family support system by her side, Wagner turned to the bariatrics team at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg. “There are multiple support groups that patients can attend at different stages of their weight-loss journey. We have medical weight-loss providers, nutritionists and behavioral health specialists who can help patients, as well,” says Guillermo Garcia, MD, with LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery.

“Meeting with the behavioral health specialist allowed me to talk through my emotions and changes,” says Wagner. “Dr. (Sophia) Michailidis, Dr. Garcia and the whole team at Lehigh Valley Health Network provided me with personal support and got me mentally and physically prepared for surgery.”

Living in the present

In July 2018, the Northampton County resident had gastric sleeve weight-loss surgery close to home at LVH–Muhlenberg that resulted in an 85-pound weight loss. In addition to staying active and eating fewer carbs and sweets, Wagner meditates to help maintain her emotional health and feel present in the moment. “I journal. The process of writing out my thoughts and feelings helps me put things in perspective,” says Wagner.

Now, she looks forward to seeing people and is making up for lost time by taking as many pictures as she can. “You have to work on your inside first. It’s a complete transformation,” says Wagner.


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