For eight years, receptionist Tanya Remaly's friendly smile was one of the first things patients saw when they arrived for weight-loss surgery appointments at LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery–1240 Cedar Crest.
Remaly, 40, of Bethlehem, also had a busy home life as a wife and mom. "I was in a pattern of taking care of everyone and everything besides myself," she says.
Over the years, that pattern caught up with her: She gained weight that wouldn't budge. She also required medication to manage high blood pressure. "I tried diets, but even if they worked short term, I would gain back the weight and then some," she says.
When Remaly, her husband, Harvey, and their family started making plans for a trip in 2016 to renew their wedding vows, she wanted to look and feel different.
"I wanted to look good," she says. "And because we are going to Disney World, I wanted to have stamina for all the walking we will do."
So she decided to follow the lead of people she saw at work. "I would see patients coming to our office throughout all stages of their weight-loss surgery care, and I saw how our surgeons and support staff helped them," she says. "By the end, you see how good they look. They were healthy."
Starting her journey
To get started, Remaly first attended a weight-loss surgery information session with her husband and learned her options. Then she met with her colleague, bariatric surgeon T. Daniel Harrison, DO. "I recommended sleeve gastrectomy, because she didn't suffer from acid reflux disorder," Harrison says. "Acid reflux can be eliminated through a different procedure—gastric bypass surgery. But in Tanya's case, sleeve gastrectomy was the best option."
Sleeve gastrectomy (also called gastric sleeve surgery) removes about 85 percent of the stomach, narrowing it to a tube or sleeve. It also removes part of the stomach called the fundus, which is responsible for producing an appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin.
"It's a double knockout for weight gain," Harrison says. "By reducing the size of the stomach, you get full faster, and by removing the fundus, you lose the urge to eat that's fueled by ghrelin."
Remaly opted for a six-month preparation leading up to surgery. "My dietitian helped me learn what I can eat and how much," she says. "And the entire team guided me all the way until surgery day so I was prepared and knew what I needed to do to lose weight."
In March 2015, Harrison performed Remaly's surgery. Afterward, she strictly followed her post-surgery guidebook diet. "You must follow it exactly," she says. "When they tell you to have only liquids in the first two to three weeks, you need to listen. Your stomach is healing, and you need to treat it gently."
86 pounds in eight months
Remaly felt little to no pain in recovery and immediately began focusing on losing weight. Starting at 236 pounds, she lost her goal weight (86 pounds) within eight months by following her dietitian's recommendations. "I focused on protein first, and then vegetables and fruit," she says. "I also planned my days so I eat more frequently." That means, in addition to regularly scheduled meals, she eats high-protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese or occasionally fruit. "I never feel hungry," she says.
Today, Remaly has gone from a size 22 women's to a size 10 misses, and she's ready to say "I do" again. "I feel very energetic," she says. "I want to do it all because this is my new beginning."
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