Back in January 2014, Frank Lucente underwent gastric sleeve surgery with Anita Courcoulas, MD, of UPMC Bariatric Services at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. Frank, who is 6 feet tall, weighed 370 pounds at his heaviest. After the surgery, he lost nearly half his body weight, going down to 194. “That weight was hard to maintain, but I got comfortable around 210,” he says. At the time he worked out a lot, doing the stair machine and lifting weights three or four times a week.
“I wanted to get healthy so I could see my grandkids grow up,” he says.
Frank was impressed with Dr. Courcoulas and her team right away, he says. “Dr. Courcoulas helped me become accountable,” he says. And he says her entire staff is personable and helpful. He wrote a commendation letter to Dr. Courcoulas because he wanted to tell her what her staff truly is like. He says they excel with both the professional and the human parts of their jobs.
Then, life started to intervene and so did the pandemic. By late 2021, Frank’s weight had crept back up to 278 pounds. He went back to Dr. Courcoulas, intending to undergo gastric bypass surgery this time. During that process, he consulted with Lisa Martich, RDN, LDN, clinical nutrition coordinator at UPMC Bariatric Services. She offered another option – a lifestyle and medication program that, with Frank’s active participation, could help him reach his goal without the need to undergo another surgical procedure.
He was interested, he said, “but only if my wife could do it with me.”
While she’s never been morbidly obese, Frank’s wife, Cindy Lucente, has struggled with her weight for years since having kids. At the time she and Frank began working with Lisa Martich in November 2021, she weighed 220 pounds.
The Lucentes began working with Lisa via virtual visits to modify their eating habits, activity levels, slowly changing their behaviors to become healthier and in time, drop pounds. “She’s very supportive and gives us good suggestions and encouragement,” Cindy says. “Sometimes we give her little tips of foods that are nutritious -- good snacks and what have you.”
“We always address challenges that have arisen since our last appointment,” Lisa says. “How did they handle the challenge? What were the outcomes? Life throws so many unexpected curve balls. As habits and strategies to manage these challenging moments become stronger over time, it makes maintaining a lifestyle a bit easier.”
Along with lifestyle changes, Frank and Cindy have been taking a prescription medication to help with their weight loss – semaglutide, also called Wegovy®. Frank teaches computer science at Westmoreland County Community College, and his health benefits help keep the medicine affordable. Even with the aid of the medicine, Cindy says, she logs everything she eats using a smartphone app. “I find that when I don’t log, I don’t lose,” she says.
Frank and Cindy, 72 and 69 years old respectively, live in Latrobe, Pa., and at Seven Springs, Pa. They stay active by doing 10,000-step walks a couple of times a week. During COVID, they say, they took walks this length every day. And they also golf. They hope to introduce weight training into their exercise routines. They both say that getting back to living a healthy lifestyle works better when you’re both on the same page.
As of early June 2023, a few months shy of the two-year mark working with Lisa Martich, Frank is at 202 pounds and Cindy is at 162. Her goal is about 150 or 155, and she hopes to hit it by the time they mark two years on this lifestyle journey.
“Lisa took us on and that was magnificent,” says Frank. “We never wanted to leave her after the first interaction. We’re part of a program and that’s something that has made a big difference in our lives.”
This patient’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
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