Eric Dobrzynski - Essexville, MI
"The MyMichigan approach is different. Dr. Cudjoe's first question was 'How can we help?' There was no rush, no pressure. He made me feel very comfortable."
He's Eating Smart after Bariatric Surgery
Eric and Shaelyn Dobrzynski have been married for five years. "She's tall and thin and never cared that I was heavy as long as I was healthy," Eric said. Except he wasn't healthy; he weighed more than 370 pounds, had high blood pressure and didn't sleep well.
"I had always been overweight," Eric said. "I had tried fad diets but they never worked. I'd contemplated bariatric surgery, too. I met with different hospital people and sat through their seminars but I never felt comfortable. Their first action was always 'let's check the insurance.'"
Fortunately, Eric didn't give up. Instead, after watching MyMichigan Health's online seminar about bariatric surgery, he set up a meeting with General and Bariatric Surgeon Ernest Cudjoe, M.D. "The MyMichigan approach is different," Eric said. "Dr. Cudjoe's first question was, 'How can we help?' I felt very at ease. There was no rush, no pressure. He made me feel very comfortable."
Eric started the process in September 2016. He said Dr. Cudjoe and his staff made the process easier than he expected it to be. "His staff is fantastic!" he said. "They are very friendly, easy to work with and supportive."
Bariatric patients have to closely follow a special pre-surgery diet. "I started the diet right in the middle of the holidays," Eric laughed. Holidays or not, he was committed to following the program. "This was my second chance. I wanted to be a success story for life."
Eric underwent a sleeve gastrectomy on Jan. 3, 2017, at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. A sleeve gastrectomy maintains the basic function of the stomach; however, the volume the stomach can handle is significantly less. Patients who undergo sleeve gastrectomy feel full quickly and consume less food at each meal. On average, patients lose about half of their excess body weight in 12 months.
The following day, Jan. 4, Eric went home to recuperate. "I was a little sore, but there was no serious pain," he said. While he found it difficult to sleep in an upright position, he said recovery was easy – a little too easy. "I felt so good, I started doing things much too soon after surgery and pulled a muscle. Other than that, I felt very normal after four days."
Eleven months later, Eric has lost 140 pounds and is well on his way to meeting his goal. While he acknowledges that bariatric surgery was a crucial jumpstart, he is exceptionally disciplined about his food and lifestyle choices.
"I followed everything in the book to a T," he said. "They told us 'if you follow the guidelines, things will go more smoothly,' so I did not deviate from the plan one bit."
"For me, it came down to changing my mindset," Eric said. "I looked at it as an all-encompassing, health-related change. Surgery was a tool, not a fix."
Eric said the core of his success is taking personal responsibility, planning and following through. "I plan meals, I plan when I want to exercise and above all I eat smart."
"That's the best advice I can offer to anyone," he said. "If you don't eat smart, it's easy to fall into old habits. I can eat anything except pasta and I can eat at any restaurant – I just eat around the bad stuff. I'm diligent about eating smart. I still enjoy a good steak. I just work out a little extra the next day."
Eric makes things work. "I've come up with a lot of unique recipes and good menus. If we do burgers, we'll buy French bread, slice it very thin and toast it a bit on the flat top. Add some green beans or broccoli, and you have a great meal," he said. "I like cashews so I'll count out the right serving into a small dish and when they're gone, I'm done. I don't eat out of a jar."
If he wants a taste of something sweet, he buys a single serving bag of tiny chocolate peanut butter cups and has a couple. Eric keeps portions small and makes up for an indulgence with extra gym time. He and his wife work out together four to six times a week at a gym in Bay City. As an incentive, they use that time, and only that time, to watch their favorite television shows.
"I diligently adhere to the rules of the program – protein first, then veggies, keep the sugar down and maybe a very small amount of healthy starch," he said.
Eric still enjoys a business lunch or pizza with the staff. "It's a mental thing: How much do I really need to eat?" he said. "If we have pizza, I have a couple of bites and then just eat the toppings. If you have fast food, be smart about it. Eat one piece of chicken, not three or four. If you overindulge, make sure you work out a little extra the next day."
Eric said bariatric surgery was the tool he needed to regain a healthy life. "For the first few months, I was very uncomfortable talking about my surgery," he said. "Now, I'm happy to share my experience because surgery saved my life."
To all those who have tried and failed to lose weight on their own, Eric offered one other bit of advice: Stop waiting. "Bariatric surgery is a gift," he said. "Give yourself the gift that can change your life."
MyMichigan Health offers bariatric surgery in both Alma and Midland. Those who would like more information about surgical weight management may register for a free in-person information seminar at www.mymichigan.org/bariatricseminars or watch MyMichigan's online seminar video series at www.mymichigan.org/bariatriconlineseminar.