February 5, 2020

Mission Possible: Andie Lost 140 Pounds without Surgery

Andie Slivinski weight-loss patientBy Jennifer Sellers

It’s common these days to click online or open up a magazine to see success stories of formerly obese people who have lost large amounts of weight due to weight-loss surgery. You’re less likely to read stories like Andie Slivinski’s. She lost 140 pounds simply using the advice, tools and support she received through the Mission Weight Management medical program.

It’s true that plenty of people can achieve weight-loss success without surgery — and not just those who have only small or moderate amounts to lose. People like Slivinski, who have 100-plus pounds to drop, may still find success through a different route. That’s why Mission Weight Management offers a medical path as well as a surgical one.

When Pounds Creep On

Slivinski never experienced dramatic weight gain. Instead, it resulted in a series of poor decisions over several years. “It wasn’t all at once,” she said. “It wasn’t a stress-related thing. I wasn’t an overeater. It was just, literally, the result of making poor food choices on a regular basis over the course of 20 years. Over time, all those excess calories add up.”

As her weight went up the scale, Slivinski, 39, noticed other things started increasing too — like her cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the pain in her joints. “I was approaching 40, and I knew I had to turn the ship around,” she said. “I was heading down the chronic issues track.”

Slivinski is a clinical nurse specialist, so she has a background in nutrition information, but as she would try different diets, she would experience limited success. The missing key, she said, is that she didn’t have anyone holding her accountable. “I knew what to do, and what not to,” said Slivinski. “I knew, you know, that I should be eating grilled chicken instead of a Big Mac. But the question was: ‘How do I make those choices sustainable over time?’”

Figuring these things out on her own wasn’t working for Slivinski. As an employee of Mission Health, she was aware of Mission Weight Management’s services through peers who work there, so she decided to give it a try. “I knew these people would have my back,” she said.

Slivinski started with Mission Weight Management in August 31, 2017, and chose the medical weight management track. By December 2018, she had already met her goal weight. And that’s not all. Her cholesterol and blood pressure had dropped significantly, and her feet and knees started feeling much better too.

Medical versus Surgical

Slivinski’s story is not uncommon at Mission Weight Management. Many people who choose the medical route have similar experiences. Selecting this route is as simple as making an appointment to discuss your options.

Shannon Glenn, NP-C, nurse practitioner with Mission Weight Management, said the typical factors in determining a weight-loss track include:

Body mass index (BMI): You must have a BMI of 40 or over to have surgery. Those who fall within the 35 to 39.9 range are usually pointed toward medical weight management, although those with a BMI over 40 may also choose the option.

Insurance coverage: Not all health insurance covers weight-loss surgery. Those without coverage will need to cover the cost out of pocket or go the medical weight management route.

Health history: In addition to evaluating suitability for surgery, the weight-management team will look at health factors related to eating and dieting, such as how long you’ve been overweight and what your eating and weight-loss habits have been. If you only recently gained weight or you’ve never made a serious attempt at weight loss in the past, your best option is to go with medical weight management.

Personal preference: Some people simply prefer to avoid surgery or prefer to exhaust their options before going the surgical route. Unless advised otherwise by their doctor, medical weight management could be the best route for many people.

“It really is evaluated on an individual basis,” said Glenn. “We want to know if they’ll benefit from surgery and if they’ll be successful afterward. We also want to know if there’s a better, less-invasive way for them to achieve the same, or similar, results.”

Choosing the Medical Path

For those who choose the medical path, there are many resources available to them. Glenn said education and support are the big pieces of what they offer — but most importantly, they put the pieces together.

“We have educational classes on nutrition, exercise and behavioral management,” said Glenn. “Of course, to some degree we all know how to lose weight, right? But if it were that easy, two-thirds of our country wouldn’t be struggling with their weight. The key is to make sure the information you have is helpful and doable. And from there, having the support that will help you put that information into action.”

This means classes, counseling, support groups, personal evaluations and tips are all part of the Mission Weight Management equation.

“We want people to look at their habits and environments in new ways so that they can make better choices,” said Glenn. “What’s been their downfall in the past? What’s worked? Who in their lives can encourage them? All of these things factor into long-term success. We want them to learn effective habits over the long run. We’ve found this approach works because, ultimately, it’s tailored to each individual’s needs.”

Slivinski agreed that this approach is key. “The secret is that they give you all the tools you need to lose weight and keep it off — you just have to take it and do it,” she said. “That’s it — that’s the whole story, the bottom line. At the end of the day, you have everything you could possibly need. All you have to do is stick to it.”

Andie’s Top Tips for Weight-Loss Success

Be introspective. Take a serious look at why you gained weight. Are you a boredom eater? A stress eater? Are you too busy to make smart decisions? You have to know what to fix before you can fix it.
Learn to integrate your new habits into your daily life. You can’t stay in the diet bubble forever; eventually it will intersect with real life. That’s why they call it a lifestyle change rather than a diet. I’m almost two years out, and I can see that it had to be a global change.
Persevere. This is really the biggest thing. There are going to be days when you make bad choices, or weeks where you don’t lose much, if any, weight. You can’t let it define you. Just keep at it, and you won’t regret it.

Shannon Glenn, NP-C, is a nurse practitioner with Mission Weight Management.

To watch a free online weight-loss seminar or for more information about Mission Weight Management, call 828-213-4100 or visit missionweight.org.