Skip to Content

Published on March 25, 2019

Weight Loss Surgery: I Was 400 lbs., and I’m Never Going Back

Weight loss surgery success

Back in the day, James Brown’s weight was a bonus on the football field, especially during a 13-year run playing semi-pro ball for the Carolina Heat. But when he and his wife, Tracy, had a child on the way, he realized that 399 lbs. was not where he should be.

“Before we had a child, I thought that God put me here to play football,” says James, 45. “But when our son was born, I absolutely knew that was not true. Instead, God put me here to be his Dad. And I needed to make some changes to make sure I could be here for him.”

With the help of the team at the Cone Health bariatrics program, James lost significant weight. And for three years now, he’s kept it off.

During life before bariatric surgery, he shares the familiar story of losing weight and then gaining it all back—plus more.

“Everyone told me I wore the weight well,” he says. “But then I approached 400 lbs. at age 38, and that was an alarming number. I finally realized that, at the rate I was going, I’d be dead before my son was in high school. I wanted to be here for him.”

He knew he needed help and started researching his options. A Greensboro resident since childhood, James says Cone Health has always been his family’s go-to hospital. So in 2014, he looked into the bariatric program there. Though Cone Health was close to home, he wanted to explore all the other bariatric programs, to find the one best for him.

“Compared to other programs I researched, I saw how extensive Cone Health’s program was. And it’s not just the surgery part, but all the pre- and post-visits and support,” James says. “With bariatric surgery, you’re seeing the team for a long time. Their support before and after surgery was a huge deciding factor for me. So I chose them.”

Weight Loss Surgery

“I’m committed to it, and to what I learned at Cone Health. I was 400 lbs., and I’m never going back!” - James Brown

In October 2014, James joined the Cone Health program and began the process of tests and education about how his life would change. In November, he had bariatric surgery. He reports “huge” weight loss after surgery, and he was feeling great.

He says that the educational sessions that are part of every bariatric patient’s plan at Cone Health was important to helping him succeed.

“I really appreciated what I learned from the nutritionist and from others about how to prepare for the surgery and what to expect after,” he says. “They gave us all good insight about what we would need to succeed, and they told us they’d be there to help.”

After eight months of great success, James’ progress stalled. “I dreamed that I would wake up and be 400 lbs. again,” he says. “I was worried.”

James needed guidance, so he called his team at Cone Health to find out what was wrong. And it was during this time that he confirmed first-hand the truth of his research into the program there.

“They answered me right away. They told me that a temporary change in weight loss was normal,” he says. “They reminded me that I’d already lost more than anticipated and not to worry. That’s what I needed to know, and what I needed to hear. They were right there for me with advice and support. They were phenomenal.”

Today at 275 lbs., James has kept the weight off for over three years. His waist was 52”, but he now shops for 40s.

Weight loss isn’t his only “win.” With the encouragement of the Cone Health team, James went back to some of the good habits he had during his football days: he added exercise and weight lifting back into his daily routine. He’s a weekly participant in Fitbit challenges, where he can challenge others to get the most steps over a workweek or a specific day, for example.

Perhaps most obvious to those around him, James’ commitment to success also plays out through his daily walking routine: a mile every morning and two at lunch every day. Plus, he runs two or three times a week. In total, his pedometer records another five to eight miles a day.

“I feel all right about that,” he says, laughing. “But what’s really awesome is how much I can do with my son.”

Before weight loss, tying his shoes made him out-of-breath, he says, much less something like going to a park or playing Frisbee with Rhett, now 6.

“But now, I’m not tired after work and can run around with him for days,” he laughs. “I don’t know how I can express how happy I am with my progress and the tools they gave me to keep with it. It really has changed my life.”

James and Tracy will soon celebrate 20 years of marriage. He knows that not only will he be around as Rhett grows up, he’ll be a full participant in his life.

“I’m committed to it, and to what I learned at Cone Health,” he says. “I was 400 lbs., and I’m never going back!”

About Cone Health Bariatric Surgery

The Cone Health Bariatric Surgery Program is the only program in the Triad that is recognized as a Center of Excellence by North Carolina’s top four health plans:

    • Aetna Institute of Quality (IOQ) for Bariatric Surgery
    • BlueCross BlueShield Blue Distinction Center Plus (+) for Bariatric Surgery
    • Cigna Designated Facility for Bariatric Surgery
    • UnitedHealthcare Center of Excellence for Bariatric Surgery

Patient Stories

  • Bwana Lloyd

    Homeless Yet Hopeful: Cone Health Offers Helping Hand

    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bwana Lloyd lost her job as a hairdresser, ended her engagement and found herself without a place to call home. Thanks to the Cone Health-managed Rockingham County Care Connect program, the Annie Penn Foundation, the Free Clinic of Rockingham County and others, Bwana has been able to access the free preventative, routine and ongoing care she needs to stay healthy.
    January 28, 2021
  • Melvin Burnett

    Weight Loss Surgery: Melvin Burnett's Journey

    “I didn’t want to die, to make my son an orphan and my wife a widow,” Melvin Burnett says. “I became determined not to allow disease to cripple me like it had crippled my father. I felt God telling me to make a change.” With help from the Cone Health Bariatric Weight Loss Program
    January 7, 2021
  • Amanda Wallendorf

    When Migraines Won’t Go Away, Ask Why

    It took a stroke before a sheriff’s deputy was able to make the heart-head connection.
    October 14, 2020
  • Weight Loss Surgery: Ron Payne's Journey

    Weight Loss Surgery: Ron Payne's Journey

    Ron well understands why everyone he talked to before having bariatric surgery said they wished they’d had surgery sooner. “I knew I’d done everything I could do to lose weight, and my kids are in the best years of their lives,” he says. “Why would I want to put this off any longer?”
    September 28, 2020