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Published on August 27, 2018

Weight Loss Surgery: It's About What My Body Can Do

Jenny Beale

Six months after weight loss surgery, Jenny Beale, 43, did something she never thought she could. And she only did it because of some positive peer pressure from friends she’d known just a few months.

“I climbed to the top of the Oak Island (NC) lighthouse,” she says. That’s 131 steep steps, straight up 153 feet, in about 30 minutes.

“I don’t even like heights, so I’d hoped someone would back out, so I could,” she says with a laugh. She was egged on by a group of new, but close-knit friends who bonded tightly during their hard work with the Cone Health Bariatric Weight Loss program.

Though the climb wasn’t her idea, she was just glad she could do it. Beale’s progress with losing weight at the time of that trip was significant. Just six months after surgery, she went from a body mass index (BMI) of 47 to 31. Her progress continued steadily and today, she’s reached her goal, a BMI of 25—after losing a total of 120 lbs! (Body mass index takes into account height, weight and sex, and is an indicator of overall health.)

“My dress size has also been cut in half!,” she says. But it’s really her new level of fitness that gives her the most thrill.

“It’s not about my body, but about what my body can now do,” she says.

Finding the right fit

For decades prior, Beale lost weight and gained it back. Her knees were in such bad shape that surgery seemed inevitable. Her back gave her trouble, and “everything kind of hurt, then,” she says. She was only in her 40s.

Mom to three busy boys, ages 9, 7 and 4, her weight and low fitness level kept her from interacting with them the way she wanted. “I couldn’t get onto the floor to play with them,” she recalls. “I chose parking spaces to minimize walking. I was the person who steered clear of plastic chairs at their outdoor events, who sat on the sidelines, watching, not doing.”

But with her children and husband as inspiration, Beale decided to find a weight loss program to fit her needs. An internet search confirmed her first choice, Cone Health. “My husband works at Cone,” she says, “but I’d never needed care there before. When I attended the information session, I could see it was a natural fit.”

Jenny Beale

Jenny Beale, before and after the Cone Health program

Private steps

One of the challenges that Beale found help with at Cone Health was what she calls a food addiction. “That’s not something people talk about in the same way they talk about other health conditions,” she says. “There’s a stigma to addictions and there’s a stigma to weight.”

So she kept her decision to join the bariatric program quiet from all but her closest friends and family.

“I knew I had to make the decision to go through this for myself, to make the best choice for me and for my family,” she says. “Plus, I didn’t want my boys to have a similarly unhealthy relationship with food.”

Beale recalls that the medical team at Cone Health made it clear that society is worried about how you look, but the focus at Cone is different. “They’re here to save your life,” she says. “Their support was really great. When I had struggles, they were there to say, ‘It’s okay. You’ll do better tomorrow.’”

Giant leaps

They gave Beale the tools to succeed, and she has continued mastering them. Instead of finding the closest parking space or standing on the sidelines—as she had done for years—Beale has embraced fitness as a lifestyle. She works out three days a week as part of the HOPE program, a long-term fitness option for patients who go through the Cone Health bariatrics program. Even that commitment could have been a challenge, considering she’s at home with her three boys. But she found a way.

“I get my exercise early in the morning, before my boys are up. Because once they’re up, that chance is gone,” she says with a smile. She is now more involved in their long list of activities, and she has even added an adult kick-ball league to hers.

“There are so many things I no longer worry about,” she says. “It leaves more room for happiness.”

The momentum continues

After that lighthouse climb, she also trained for and completed a 5K run. With Kelly Sutphin, one of her new friends from the program, she also traveled to Las Vegas. There,  after training for weeks, they completed a 10K run there.

Her commitment to health and fitness has had positive effects on her family, as well. Meals at home have changed for the better, though the boys miss having some of their favorite, but unhealthy snacks in the pantry, she says. Instead, they enjoy having a mom with so much more energy. Changes at home also led her husband to lose weight.

“Making such a drastic change to your lifestyle can be scary,” Beale says. “But it’s a positive change, and I found that the scary parts weren’t really that bad. You just have to make a commitment. Know that the team at Cone Health gives you to what you need to be a success.”

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

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