OLNEY, Pa. -- Bariatric surgery can be life-changing for someone with obesity.
However, it takes surgery plus support for long-term success.
An Olney man explains how the two-pronged process helped him turn his health around.
"You look up from the laundry basket one day and you're 455 pounds, right? How did I get here?" says Leonard Rhett.
Leonard looks at his old self with disbelief that such an active person had gotten so out of control.
"My family and work and other obligations came into play, and you don't get a chance to exercise," he recalls.
He finally hit the wall on a family vacation.
"I have to give up my seats on the front row because I couldn't fit the seats," he recalls. "My son is 7, we're at Disney, I cannot ride a single thing with him. It's one of those things that just tears at you because he's never going to be 7 again.
Leonard called Temple Hospital the day after he got back, to start the process of bariatric surgery.
His family went all-in for a healthier diet.
"My wife even decided to go vegan to help keep those types of things out of the house," he says.
His son, now 12, has been a big help, too.
"He's not into sodas and cakes and ice cream, like that kind of stuff," Leonard notes.
But a major key to his success was support - from the Temple team and support groups of fellow patients.
Dietitians such as Michelle Conlon, a coordinator of the Bariatric Program, meets with patients individually and in classes to prepare them for surgery and beyond.
"Never projecting a judgmental type of attitude, just listening to them, giving them strategies," she says, adding, "Trying to break old habits, talking it through, and coming up with alternatives."
Psychologist Jeffrey Grand helps patients understand their food issues, yet keep the joy of special treats.
"You focus on four bites - a bite to say hello, two bites to enjoy it, and a bite to say goodbye," says Grand, Psy.D.
Now 200 pounds lighter, Leonard shares his story with the monthly support groups, so patients understand they're not alone.
He also urges patients to follow the experts' advice of Temple Health's support system.
"My nurse practitioner was huge, just huge in helping me get along on this journey," says Leonard.
And Conlon says surgery doesn't come for patients till they are ready.
"That might mean three months, it might mean six months, and it might mean a year. But at the end of the day, we want the best and most successful outcome for them," she says.
Dr. Grand says the team is also there to help patients get back on track when weight loss hits plateaus, a hurdle that sometimes happens 18 months or so after surgery.