Mom & daughter together notch 200lb weight loss

ELMER, N.J. (WPVI) -- Rebecca Liber has a close relationship with all 3 of her daughters, but she and 22-year-old Allison, her youngest, have been extra close due to a common struggle with their weight.

Rebecca's battle has been as an adult, but her daughter, called Allie by friends and family, has been battling since she was a child.

Last year, when Allie told her mom she planned to have bariatric surgery at Lourdes Health, she urged her mom to think about it, too.

At 5'3" tall, Rebecca weighed 220 pounds, and had severe sleep apnea due to excess weight. Allie weighed 260 pounds.

Rebecca hedged at considering weight loss surgery, till Allie reminded her how she looked forward to having grandchildren.

Allie warned her if she didn't take action, "You're not going to be around to enjoy them."

"That was my wake-up call," says Rebecca.

On May 4, 2017, both women had gastric sleeve surgery, in which the stomach is reduced to about the size of a banana.

It can only hold a small volume of food at a time, helping reduce calories by volume.

But their Lourdes bariatric surgeon, Dr. Harish Kakkilaya, says sleeve gastrectomy is also "a hormone" operation.

It reduces the amount of ghrelin, the hormone driving the appetite. It also affects other metabolic hormones.

"It can cure diabetes," he says, and has a good long-term success record.

Dr. Kakkilaya says too few doctors are discussing bariatric surgery with their obese patients, and that's keeping the patients from improving their health. He says studies show it's the only reliable, durable option for the severely obese.

"Once they are obese, the chances of substantial permanent weight loss without surgery are negligible," he told Action News.

Dr. Kakkilaya says having multiple members of a family undergo bariatric surgery isn't too unusual.

He has 6 members of one family who've done it, as well as a number of husbands and wives, however, he thinks Rebecca and Allie are his first mother-daughter team.

The doctor and the Libers agree bariatric surgery isn't a quick fix, that it requires work before and afterward to change your relationship.

The Libers began adjusting their diets several weeks before the procedure, eating protein shakes and more vegetables, and cutting down on empty-calorie foods, especially those with added sugar.

Rebecca says that process helped jump start the positive changes she was about to make. She now eats small meals, but feels full.

Within a few weeks after surgery, she was no longer waking up gasping for air and her sleep apnea was gone. She now sleeps soundly and has "tons of energy."

"I used to feel like I needed a nap in the afternoon," says Rebecca. "Not any more!"

Rebecca has lost 75 pounds, Allie is down 120. She weighs 160lbs and is aiming for 150lbs.

As a hairdresser on her feet all day, Allie says she's less tired at day's end.

"I feel amazing!" she told Action News.

"I always worked out, but now I enjoy it even more," and she has achieved her goal of feeling better and being happy with herself.

"I've run 5K races before, but now, I'm training for a 10-mile run," says Allie.

And about those grandchildren?

Rebecca's oldest daughter had a girl recently and grandmom is thrilled she has the energy to keep up!

See their story in their own words: click here.

For more information on Lourdes Bariatric program, click here.
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