How I Keep the Weight Off

Just a few years ago, Carolyn Qammaz got breathless answering the front door. Then in September 2012 she had laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery and lost 100 pounds. Today, she kayaks, roller skates with her 7-year-old grandson and runs with her 20-year-old daughter, Natalie. She’s even planning to jump out of an airplane next year.

Qammaz, 64, of Bethlehem, gained weight after each of her four pregnancies. Then came menopause and a thyroid condition. By 2012, her body mass index (BMI) was 38, and she had high cholesterol, reflux, high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic and wore a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine during sleep. The final straw came when a mammogram revealed possible breast cancer.

“My mother died from breast cancer,” Qammaz says. “Thankfully I didn’t have it. But I know there’s a connection between obesity and cancer, and I didn’t want to go through what she did.”

Enjoying her ‘second chance’

Weight-loss surgery gave Qammaz a second chance. “Less than 5 percent of people can sustain regular weight loss achieved through normal methods,” says Qammaz’s surgeon, T. Daniel Harrison, DO, with LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery. “With bariatric surgery, those numbers are reversed, and 95 percent of people are able to keep the weight off.”

Here’s how Qammaz has maintained her weight loss:

  • She tracked her progress. Right after surgery, she used an electronic fitness band to count her steps and calories. She started at 1,200 calories per day and now is at 1,500 per day because she’s so active.
  • She cleared her first hurdle. Qammaz initially lost 60 pounds after surgery, then plateaued. “So I began running,” she says. Then she lost another 40 pounds.
  • She’s constantly in motion. On a typical day, Qammaz walks around her neighborhood, tends to her garden and does stomach crunches. She also challenges her grandson to foot races.
  • She maintains her diet. To avoid stretching out her stomach, Qammaz eats six small meals a day and thinks protein first.

Today, Qammaz continues to share her story. At a recent Lehigh Valley Health Network Weight Management Center support group meeting, she arrived wearing an old black dress from before her surgery. On cue, she stepped out of the dress, and the audience gasped. She proudly smiled and twirled in a slim skirt and top showing off her size-8 figure.

“I feel healthy and amazing,” she says. “I’m off my medications and having so much fun shopping for clothes and buying shoes. It’s the best gift I ever gave myself.”

–Sheila Caballero