A patient shares her weight loss success story

Andrea Walker before and after weight loss.

For Andrea Walker, weight loss had been a battle she’d fought for years. She would diet, exercise and shed a few pounds – get frustrated and then quit.  “I was basically healthy, but uncomfortable at my weight. I was concerned that I would start having weight-related health issues. As I got older, I found it increasingly difficult to lose weight.”

Over the years, she had tried most of the popular weight loss plans – she’d lose weight, but then gain it back.  She knew she wouldn’t consider anything invasive, so when her husband discovered the minimally invasive intragastric balloon procedure on the internet, she was interested in learning more.

Even though she lives in mid-Missouri, Andrea chose to attend an information session at Washington University (about 1 ½ hours from home) because she wanted the expertise of a Washington Univeristy physician and  BJC Healthcare.

Making the decision

The nonsurgical process, performed at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, involves the doctor inserting one or two balloons (depending on which procedure the patient chooses) into the stomach. Once in place, the balloons (or balloon) are inflated with saline and remain in place for six months. The balloons fill space in the stomach and this allows the patient to feel full – so he or she eats less and loses weight.

 During this six month period, the patient works with a dietitian and a coach to learn healthy eating habits. After the balloons are removed, the patient continues to receive support from the doctor, dietitian and coach to continue the healthy lifestyle and maintain long-term weight loss.

“At the information session, they were very clear about the success rate — five years after the procedure, only 25% will have kept the weight off. I had to decide if I was willing to spend the money. It was a huge commitment. They told us to go home and think about it.”

But Andrea knew she didn’t have to think about it. She told her husband, Dennis, she wanted to make the initial screening appointment before they left that day.

Am I crazy?

The night before Andrea was to have the procedure, she said to her husband, “Am I crazy? What am I doing?” Andrea and Dennis had only been married three years, and he told her even if she became twice her size, he would love her just as much as he did now. “He told me it was my decision. Whatever I wanted to do, he would stand by me. I knew then there was no question about doing it, because I had someone who was very supportive of me.”

65 pounds!               

In the beginning, Andrea lost an average of four pounds a week. She ended up losing about 10 pounds a month, for a total of 65 pounds. “All the weight came off in the first six months. That was pretty cool, because nothing else I tried had done that.”

There were many reasons why she was successful, when she hadn’t been before.

“I knew the balloons weren’t magic.  They were a tool and I had to work the tool – I had to work it hard. The balloons gave me a kick start and held me accountable. They are there and you want to work with them as best you can.

There was just something about feeling full. I wasn’t hungry. I had a great support system behind me – beginning with my husband, my doctor, coach, nurse and dietitian. There were a lot of people cheering me on.”

Another reason for her determination was the money.  “As much as I hated that insurance didn’t cover the procedure, having financial skin in the game made me want to get my money’s worth.  When I would have a bad day, I would say to myself, you have to make it a good day because you can’t waste that money.

I also knew it was a now or never kind of thing. The older I got, the harder it was going to be to lose weight.”

Andrea Walker and Dr. Kushnir
Andrea’s Washington University care team included gastroenterologist, Vladimir Kushnir, MD, along with her coach, nurse and dietitian.

Cherry on the top

Since the balloons were removed, Andrea doesn’t feel as full as she did those first six months. “I can eat more if I choose to now. But I’ve gotten into the habit of eating smaller portions and asking for a takeout carton before I start to eat in a restaurant. That is what those six months taught me.

If you keep your eye on where you are going, you’ll reach your goal. My goal wasn’t to get skinny; my goal was to feel good. Being thinner, looking better and having more energy – that is just the cherry on the top.

Weight is always going to be a struggle for me. I want to be that 25% who keep it off for five years and longer!”

Learn how the program can work for you: Sign up for a free information session or call 314-362-2652.

Washington University Nonsurgical Weight Loss Program
Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital – Medical Office Building 3
1020 N. Mason Road, Suite 100
Creve Coeur, MO 63141