Like many Americans, John Rice has struggled with his weight. He has tried numerous diets and weight loss regimens, but nothing has really stood the test of time.
“At my heaviest, I weighed approximately 375 pounds. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve gained and lost more than 5,000 pounds throughout my life. I’ve always managed to lose the weight, but I never could figure out how to keep it off,” said Rice.
Looking for a More Effective, Permanent Weight Loss Solution
Unlike most individuals battling weight problems, Rice never experienced the typical health issues associated with being overweight, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, with age, the cardiovascular risks — including heart attacks and strokes — are much greater. Rice didn’t want his weight to become a contributing factor to those risks. He knew he needed to find a permanent solution to his weight issues.
Earlier this year, Rice consulted with his primary care physician, Dr. Thomas Jackson, at Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital, who referred Rice to Dr. Jaroslaw Michalik, general surgeon.
“Dr. Michalik and I discussed my options, and we both agreed that the gastric sleeve procedure was the best route for me,” said Rice. “It seemed to be the most promising given how it alters the body’s metabolism and controls your cravings and appetite. Those are the areas I’ve struggled with the most.”
Preparing for Gastric Sleeve Surgery
In February 2016, at a starting weight of 305 pounds, Rice underwent nutritional and psychiatric evaluations to determine if he was a good candidate for the gastric sleeve procedure.
“This is standard protocol for potential gastric sleeve patients,” said Dr. Michalik. “Some patients undergo additional testing, such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal exams, to further assess their risks and eligibility. When you factor in the insurance approval process, the entire evaluation can take up to six months before surgery can be scheduled.”
Another protocol for patients preparing to undergo gastric sleeve surgery is adhering to a strict liquid diet for two weeks prior to the procedure. This further aids in overall weight loss, better preparing the body for success after surgery.
On a Thursday in late April, Rice underwent gastric sleeve surgery at Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital. The procedure went exactly as expected – Dr. Michalik removed a large part of Rice’s stomach, reducing it from the size of a football to the size of a banana. Rice felt so good after surgery that he didn’t need any pain medicine, returning to work that following Monday.
Life After Gastric Sleeve
During the first two weeks after surgery, Rice followed a strict liquid diet, before slowly adding solid foods. The hardest part was learning to adapt to his reduced stomach size
“Initially, my brain saw food and wanted to eat it all,” recalled Rice. “I ended up eating too much, too fast, making me sick. The trick was knowing when to stop and how to space out my meals. For me, it’s funny, if I start sneezing, that’s when I know I’m on the brink of overeating.”
Rice also developed an intolerance to certain foods, such as red meat and pork. According to Dr. Michalik, this is quite common for gastric sleeve patients. It’s part of the body’s metabolic shift.
“With the gastric sleeve procedure, there’s no strict dieting or calorie counting. Patients experience a dramatic decrease in appetite and cravings. The key is allowing your body to adjust to these metabolic changes, and then paying attention to when it’s telling you to stop eating,” said Dr. Michalik.
Today, Rice eats approximately 900 calories a day, maintaining a food diary to keep him on track. He begins every meal with a protein, such as hard boiled eggs, cheese, chicken or fish, and then adds in some vegetables. Rice is still able to indulge with his favorite dessert – ice cream – but in small quantities.
The gastric sleeve procedure, combined with Rice’s hard work, has paid off: he’s already lost 100 pounds – just 15 pounds away from his goal weight. His pants went from a size 54 to 36. He is also exercising regularly, including weight-lifting, walking and using an elliptical machine.
“The gastric sleeve procedure has been a critical tool in my journey towards long-term weight loss,” Rice said. “It has totally changed the way I look at food. I no longer desire donuts and other junk food, and I don’t think about what my next meal will be. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I’m hungry. I used to live to eat, and now, I eat to live.”
John Rice, KTUI general manager and radio announcer, demonstrates with a former pair of pants, his weight loss progress after gastric sleeve surgery.