Representative Steve Holland has pondered lots of weighty matters during his 25 years in the Mississippi Legislature. Last summer he tilted the scales in his own favor.
It all started when the 53-year-old undertaker, farmer and state legislator from Plantersville went for his physical at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. “I’ve had a litany of health problems that have plagued me over the years, but this time it really was not good,” Holland says. “My blood pressure was extremely high, but I refused to start medication. I was already being treated for sleep apnea and my blood sugar was high. I have lots of health problems, but weight was responsible for most of it. My doctor said ‘you can do something now or you will not be with us long.’”
His Jackson physician referred Holland to Terry Pinson, M.D., a general and bariatric surgeon who serves as medical director for North Mississippi Medical Center’s Bariatric Center in Tupelo. Dr. Pinson performs two types of bariatric (weight loss) procedures- laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery.
The most common weight loss surgery, gastric bypass creates a very small upper stomach pouch-less than one ounce-by transecting the stomach. Because it doesn’t take much food or liquid to fill the new, small pouch, the person enjoys eating a lot less. In addition, food is not absorbed as well as it once was, contributing to rapid weight loss.
After discussing both options with Dr. Pinson, Holland opted for the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery. In this procedure, a silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach and filled with saline. This creates a new, smaller stomach pouch that can hold only a small amount of food. The gastric band is the less invasive of the two procedures, as it does not require stomach cutting and stapling or gastrointestinal re-routing to bypass normal digestion.
Before he didn’t feel like exercising, but now “I jump out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and go walking,” Holland says. He also put a treadmill in his office at the funeral home to walk on while he conducts business by phone.
Not only has Holland lost 78 pounds, but his blood pressure is normal, his blood sugar is in check and his sleep apnea is greatly improved. He’s also gained a new outlook. “Life was just going away for me. I was so stressed out that there was almost no end in sight,” he says. “It was challenging my energy level just to get through a day.
“This decision has not only changed my life physically, but also helped me to reshape my priorities in life. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I was going to have much of it left.”
Jim Bain has been a pharmacist in Tupelo for more than 30 years. Now he’s happy to share his secret with anyone who asks about his prescription for success.
Knowing his weight was the major contributor to his diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, Bain had tried most everything to shed excess pounds. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve probably lost the equivalent of three to four people but turned around and gained five to six of them back,” he says.
When he went for a physical in December 2007, his diabetes was out of control. “I was taking six pills a day plus a shot all for my diabetes,” he says. “I was also taking two pills every day for my blood pressure.”
With a family history of heart attack and stroke, he knew the time had come to take action. After discussing both options with Dr. Pinson, he opted for laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery. “This little band is my willpower,” he says. “It will only allow me to eat so much food before I become uncomfortable.”
Still, making lifestyle changes was no easy task. “Being self-employed, I had learned to eat a double cheeseburger, fries and apple pie in three minutes,” he says. “And after working 10 to 12 hours a day, I wasn’t going to go to the gym and work out.”
These days Bain reads food labels and eats sensibly but doesn’t deprive himself. “I buy a birthday cake for all my employees on their birthday,” he says. “If I want a small piece, I eat it. But on my birthday, we had a fruit tray.” He also makes time to work out at the NMMC Wellness Center four to five days a week.
In the end, it’s a personal decision to have a weight loss procedure done and a personal responsibility to make it succeed. “Just as easily as I’ve lost this weight, I know I could gain it back,” Bain says. “If you do it for yourself and you win, then you’ll be there for everybody else. If not, you won’t be.”