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Published on January 21, 2022

Weight Loss Surgery: Committing to a Healthy Mindset

Sean Houle's Success Story

Getting His Life Back

Getting ready to depart for vacation on a plane with his wife, Sean Houle, 45, of Julian, recalls not being able to latch his seatbelt and needing an extender.

At 325 pounds, he was the heaviest he had ever been. For years, he had tried low-carb and low-fat diets along with workout videos without much success. 

“I had gotten to a place where I needed something more to get my life back,” he recalls. 

The Tipping Point

Earlier in his career, Sean worked as a registered nurse as part of a hospital mobile critical care and transport service. On his feet all day, he often had to act a moment’s notice to care for patients on life support, which meant getting in 12,000 or more steps a day. As he began a graduate degree in health informatics, he transitioned to information technology as an application analyst role in 2016.

“Working on IT support and upgrades, I was sitting 8 or more hours a day plus several more hours in the evening working on my degree,” he shares. “As a result of being sedentary, I got heavier than I’d ever been before. Nothing I did took the weight off.”

Outside of work, one of Sean’s great joys throughout his life has been hiking, backpacking and camping with his friends and family, including his three children.

As he started to get heavier, he could only hike for short periods. His joints felt achy and painful.

“Hiking felt more like a chore than the activity I had always enjoyed so much,” he recalls. “I got to the point that it wasn’t possible for me to hike or backpack up a mountain. I felt short of breath just climbing up stairs.”

Over time, Sean developed hypertension, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. After he and his wife did research on their own, Sean approached his primary care physician about bariatric surgery.

Committing to a Healthy Mindset

“My doctor was really supportive because he knew I had tried diets and exercise and wanted to get my active lifestyle back,” he says. “He agreed that gastric sleeve surgery, which reduces the stomach’s size, was a great option for me.”

To learn more about the surgery and the lifestyle he would need to commit to, Sean attended Cone Health bariatric seminars and support groups to hear from a surgeon, nurse and other patients.

“The main thing I learned is that the surgery is a long-term commitment and not just a quick fix,” he says. 

Sean believed this was the best path forward for slimming down in a healthy way and getting back to the outdoor activities he enjoyed.

Three months prior to his surgery, Sean cut out sugary foods and drinks from his diet. He also committed to a regular exercise routine at his local gym.

“I wanted to get myself into a new healthier mindset beforehand,” shares Sean, whose surgery took place just before the pandemic in early March 2020. “I knew I would need to eat right and be active.”

After his surgery, he was told that he could return home after he was up and walking around the unit with the help of a nurse.

“That night, I lapped the hospital unit 20 times,” vividly recalls Sean. “While I prepared myself for the worst, my experience was the best I could have hoped for.”

A New Lease on Life

Sean Houle's Journey | Sean Today

Sean Houle Today

“While it’s not a magical cure all, my advice to others in similar situations is to do it,” he says. “The nurses and surgeons give you the tools and support to help with your weight loss and healthy lifestyle journey.”

After his surgery, Sean participated in the Bariatric Exercise and Lifestyle Transformations (BELT) program, a partnership between the Cone Health and a local university. During the 12-week program, he collaborated with a personal trainer to create a plan for staying active and to learn proper exercise techniques.

A year and a half after his surgery, Sean has lost 95 pounds. He no longer has hypertension or is pre-diabetic. His cholesterol levels are much lower. He eats healthier, works out at a local gym and has taken up CrossFit.

Along with inspiring his son to lose weight and get healthy with him, Sean says his greatest accomplishment so far has been hiking 75 miles along the Appalachian Trail with friends.

“I feel like a new person, my energy levels are at a point where I can do what I want physically without worrying about not being capable,” concludes Sean. “I am looking forward to continued hiking and traveling adventures for many years to come!”

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

Stories of Exceptional Care

  • 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