Bariatric surgery in Minnesota: How one patient was able to lose weight and regain life with help from Methodist Hospital
Tim Harriger shares his journey to losing – and keeping off – over 300 pounds
Tim Harriger is no stranger to weight loss.
From Jenny Craig to SlimFast to Weight Watchers, he has tried every weight loss method on the market, with mixed results.
“I’ve always been big,” Tim explains. “At 14, I was already 250 pounds. Then in my 20s, I lost about 150 pounds. But after that I ended up gaining back over 200.”
At his largest, Tim, who lives in New Hope, tipped the scales at 538 pounds. Facing health issues and leg infections due to that weight, he made the decision to look into bariatric surgery.
“I told myself if I was still struggling with my weight at 40 I’d look into surgery,” he says. “It was a real wake-up call for me when my doctor said I might not live to see 50 – and definitely not 60 – if I didn’t lose weight.”
Tim’s doctor, a Park Nicollet physician, referred him to the Bariatric Surgery and Weight Management Program at Methodist Hospital. There, a team of dietitians, nurse clinicians and physical therapists work together with the patient on the issues surrounding emotional eating difficulties. They treat the disease of obesity as a whole. And because of that, the care plans created for patients lead to sustained results.
For Tim, the weight loss journey would begin even before having surgery.
“My doctor set a goal for me to lose 50 pounds before the surgery,” he recalls. “He also provided a plan to make that weight loss goal attainable. I ended up losing 60 pounds.”
Patients in the program aren’t always required to lose weight before they have surgery. But if pre-op weight loss is part of their plan (like it was for Tim), they’re always supported so that they can be successful with it.
“We have a combination of lifestyle changes and medications that can help patients lose weight before surgery,” says Jennifer Vesely, MD, who is the Bariatric Surgery and Weight Management Program’s medical director.
Comprehensive support is also important to stabilizing a patient’s weight after surgery.
“Most patients lose weight consistently throughout the first 9 to 18 months post-op,” Dr. Vesely says. “But then some of the hunger and cravings can start to return. That’s when we offer additional lifestyle changes, medication management or even psychotherapy. These can help patients maintain their weight loss over the long term.”
Tim lost 325 pounds between his pre-op weight loss and what he shed following surgery. And today?
“I’m a different person,” Tim says. “It’s made my health problems go away. My blood pressure went down. My sleep apnea is gone. I stopped getting leg infections.”
The surgery itself did play a major role in Tim losing enough weight to turn his health around. But he says it’s the ongoing changes he’s made to his lifestyle that’s allowed him to keep that weight off – and what’s really made the difference.
“The team at Park Nicollet and Methodist have made these changes very easy to follow,” he says. “They provided the plan about what to eat and how much, and they helped me with a workout schedule. I follow it to a T and it works.”
Tim now exercises roughly six days a week. And he’s even begun to tackle 5K runs and triathlons. But even though crossing those finish lines have been great, the real prize, he says, has come from inside.
“I had to decide to do this for myself because I wanted to change,” Tim says. “Some people think that surgery is an easy fix. But you have to work for it. 80 percent of it is just keeping the weight off.”
What sets bariatric surgery at Methodist Hospital apart? Methodist and Park Nicollet have shifted away from the medical community’s old approach to bariatric surgery. Instead of just scheduling a bariatric surgery when a patient requests one, we now meet with the patient to first discuss all their options. Together, we come up with the course of action that will work best for them to achieve long-term weight management. Then we give them the support they need to get started on that plan. Learn more about this restructured approach to weight management – and why it works better.