Home Enthusiast From 455 pounds to a cycling enthusiast, the Olney man enjoys the post-bariatric life

From 455 pounds to a cycling enthusiast, the Olney man enjoys the post-bariatric life

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OLNEY, Pa. (WPVI) — Only a small percentage of people eligible for bariatric surgery are estimated to have it.

Often people have misconceptions about what life will be like afterwards.

Leonard Rhett, 56, says he is delighted with what he calls his “second life”.

Weight control was easy for Leonard.

“I played baseball and football in high school. I played semi-pro baseball for a while,” he recalled.

But in adulthood, work and family obligations contribute.

“You don’t realize you’ve gained 150 or, you know, 200 pounds,” he notes.

“And then before you know it, you look like — Who’s that guy in the mirror? I don’t recognize him,” Leonard said.

“You get to the point where food becomes therapy,” he adds.

By the time he hit 455 pounds, Leonard struggled every day.

“It would be so hard to get out of bed, I was waking my wife up at 3am because that’s when I got up to go to work,” he says.

“I’m a trucker. And it got to the point where getting to work sites, balance became an issue. I fell 3 times over a 4-year period, and lost a lot of time on the job” , he recalls.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came on a trip to Florida when Leonard couldn’t fit in the airplane seat and couldn’t ride amusement park rides with his 7 year old son.

“It’s one of those things that really kind of tears you apart because he won’t be 7 anymore,” he says.

“That’s when I said, I can’t go on living my life this way. Something has to change,” he recalled.

Dr. Tatyan Clarke, bariatric surgeon at Temple Health, says there are many misconceptions about bariatric surgery.

“That they will only eat diet foods for the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Clarke.

“That they won’t be able to participate in some of these social food experiments that we have,” she adds.

In fact, Dr. Clarke says the goal is to teach patients to have a better relationship with food.

“To help you learn to eat so-called normal foods in the proportions and amounts that are actually conducive to a healthy weight over time.”

Temple nutritionists helped Leonard change his diet for nearly two years to get the final OKs for surgery, and the support from the entire team has been invaluable.

“They took all the anxiety out of the procedure and just allowed me to focus on what I needed to do.

“I lost 76 pounds before the surgery,” he says proudly.

Leonard also says his wife’s support meant the world.

“She changed her eating habits. She went vegan and that took all the temptation-type foods out of our house,” adding, “She’s a caterer. She stopped cooking things that would be tempting.”

Two years after the operation, and 205 pounds lighter, he loves his life, especially being able to do what he wants with his son.

“If he says, well, can we do this? And can we do that? I can actually say yes,” Leonard said with a big smile.

“Sunday we went kart racing, you know,” he says, noting that they’ve done it a few times.

“It’s fun to go to work because I’m not afraid of falling,” he adds.

He’s also an avid cyclist now, taking part in a children’s cancer fundraiser for the third year in a row.

“It’s a totally different life. I’m grateful to have this second life,” he says, determined “never to see the number 4 again in front of my weight.”

Dr Clarke says family support is an important key to success, and when a family member also changes their habits, it has ripple effects, improving the lives of the entire household.

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