At 5 feet 7 inches, Marcelle Holiday weighed more than 285 pounds, her all-time heaviest. Her doctor told her that, at age 37, she was borderline diabetic. She was unhappy and tired of feeling fatigued. Her feet and back constantly ached, and she suffered from acid reflux.
She knew her life had to change. Marcelle began researching obesity and weight loss surgery and quickly realized there was a valuable resource right in her community – the bariatric surgery program at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.
Marcelle began the six-month pre-surgery program at Magee that included nutrition, behavioral, and exercise guidance to prepare for gastric bypass and the lifestyle changes that would follow. In September 2009, surgeons created a small pouch that bypassed Marcelle’s stomach and attached to the intestine, restricting the amount of food she could eat and the number of calories her body would absorb.
Following the surgery, the weight began to come off — 15, 30, 50 pounds — and she noticed an increase in her energy level. "My desire to go and do things rebounded. Each time I had to shop for new, smaller clothes, it was a real psychological boost. Family and friends commented that I looked happy and was a pleasure to be around," she explains.
However, the drastic weight loss caused Marcelle to develop unflattering, excess skin. Now, Marcelle knew she was ready for the next phase of the bariatric program.
Marcelle consulted with J. Peter Rubin, MD, Director of the Life After Weight Loss program, to help prepare her for this next step. "Dr. Rubin and his team made me feel completely okay with myself. They allowed me to decide what I could and could not live with, "she said. "The entire process was all about me, my comfort level, my goals, and what outcomes I could realistically expect."
She then underwent plastic surgery to remove excess skin that resulted from her drastic weight loss and to contour her stomach and arms. Dr. Rubin performed an abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, and a braichoplasty, lifting and reshaping the under portion of the arm.
Following the surgery, her recovery was complication-free. She was so thrilled with her new looks that she bought five new bathing suits to wear during a trip to Florida with a friend. "For the first time, I walked on the beach without my head down wearing a muumuu," she said with a laugh.
The Bariatric and Life After Weight Loss program not only changed Marcelle’s weight but her mindset as well. "Food is for nourishment now. My life is not food centered. I’ve found other things to do," she explains. "I can be social without having the focus on food."
Recently, Marcelle discovered she loved to run, and has trained for and competed in a number of 5K and 10K races. She remembers seeing her husband and friends cheering her across the finish line after her first race. "It was the most glorious thing in my life," she said. "If you had told me three years ago I’d be running 5Ks and wearing size 6, I’d say you were crazy. At age 40, I feel like my best self ever."