Leah Heming finished graduate school with a Master’s degree as a nurse practitioner and a big problem – a very busy schedule over the course of her education and clinical training had ruined her previously healthy lifestyle, leading to weight gain.

“After grad school I tried to get back into my routine of healthy meal preparation and exercise. I would be successful for a couple of weeks and then fall off the wagon. I did that yo-yo diet for several months,” said the 41-year-old mother of five.

As a result of Leah’s weight gain, she became pre-diabetic and developed sleep apnea.

“I decided to ask for help,” Leah stated.

A Blessing Health System employee, she turned to the Blessing Weight Loss Center for help where she worked with the center’s team, including surgeon Melissa Matrisch, MD; nurse practitioner Jennifer Holcomb, clinical dietician Annslee Fahey and social worker Katie Thomure.

Leah underwent gastric sleeve surgery, a minimally invasive procedure, during which 80 percent of her stomach was removed. She lost weight and received education and support to keep the weight off.

“The surgery is a tool. In order to have it work for you, you have to know how to use that tool. That’s where the Blessing Weight Loss Center team comes into play,” said Dr. Matrisch. “As the surgeon, I rely on the expertise of our dietician and social worker to really help our patients be successful in learning how to use that tool.”

“Studies show that when patients follow the recommendations of each team member, they are more likely to be successful in their weight loss after surgery,” she concluded.

“We target the complexity of obesity through a team approach,” said Annslee. “It helps the patient access support from various disciplines who are able to define the challenges the patient may face in different areas of weight loss.”

Patients must meet body mass index thresholds to be a candidate for surgery and psychologically prepared for the changes that come with surgery in order to succeed long term.

“Changes that patients can expect with weight loss surgery affect every aspect of their life,” said Jennifer. “It will also affect their family – how they shop, how they prepare their meals, their activities. There is a very big emotional aspect as well.”

Katie helps patients understand the emotional aspect of their new life.

“We talk about the feelings related to food, identifying ways that food has been in a person’s life, their relationship with food, voids that it fills, work on coping skills to develop different skills not related to food, and making sure they have the support needed to be successful after surgery.”

Helping to keep Blessing Weight Loss Center patients successful after surgery is a support group and annual check-ups for life.

Leah lost 65 pounds, is no longer pre-diabetic and does not suffer from sleep apnea.

“My feet don’t ache when I get home from work and I am not short of breath when I finish work out class. Now I can go and go and go until I fall asleep,” she said proudly.

“That’s the whole purpose of this, taking back control of your life. I am in control of meal planning, when I eat, what time I eat, how much I eat, all based on the tools the surgery has given me.”

For more information about the care provided by the Blessing Weight Loss Center team, go to blessinghealth.org/weightloss.