WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Weight loss surgery is not solely for self-image, in fact, one United Regional doctor said losing the weight and keeping it off can prevent many associated health complications.

One Texoma man said he’s lost the weight and gained his life back.

Imagine removing 80% of your stomach.

“One of the biggest things that shocked me is I never felt hungry anymore,” Cody Lowe, who lost 145 pounds with gastric sleeve surgery, said. “Prior whenever you get full you’re full and this would actually be a different feeling, different sensation, it’s almost even painful, you’re like I have to stop, I can’t force anymore.”

Lowe couldn’t possibly imagine how his life would change after having the gastric sleeve surgery. “I feel better than I did when I was 25, I wish I had done that when it was first recommended to me,” he said.

Lowe said he struggled with weight his whole life. He said he was stubborn in his late 20s thinking he could get the weight off with diet and exercise.

“I’d lost weight previously and then I’d put it right back on, I’d lose weight and put it right back on and when I hit that 346 mark I’m like ok, I gotta get something done,” Lowe said. “Having in my case, an abnormally large stomach, even empty, I was still creating an excess amount of hunger hormones and that led to binges and falling off the wagon and things like that and that’s what creates a yoyo diet.”

That’s where United Regional bariatric surgeon Dr. Chris Finnell comes in.

“Diets, the best medications, all of that stuff is not going to compare to weight loss surgery,” Dr. Finnell said. “If you’re 100 pounds overweight and you’ve really tried to lose weight, you’ve made a diligent effort and you’re worried that your health is going to continue to decline, you really should consider bariatric surgery.”

Dr. Finnell said a patient still has to put in the work to see results though.

“We don’t try to talk about bariatric surgery in terms it’s just a perfect surgery where people lose weight and they keep it off, it’s a tool, it helps you get to a point, it helps you get over a hump is what I say, where you’ve been stuck for many years and you’ll lose 10 or 15 pounds on a diet and then you just can’t get over that next hill,” Dr. Finnell said.

Dr. Finnell said the surgery can also help prevent medical issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and orthopedic issues with joints.

“All of these are really symptoms or results of one disease which is obesity and bariatric surgery is one of the few things that actually attacks the core problem and not the downstream symptoms of it,” Dr. Finnell said. “People who have weight loss surgery tend to live longer than the same group of people who do not and many studies have been done that show that.”

Cody said he finally decided surgery was the way to go and that Dr. Finnell should be the one to do it. That was August 2019.

“It is a minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure on the abdomen where we go in and with small incisions and remove most of the stomach, so it leaves the person with a long skinny tube of a stomach,” he said. “There’s not involvement of the small intestine, there’s not rerouting of the gastrointestinal tract.”

Lowe said he didn’t necessarily recognize the changes right away, but he did feel a lot better.

“It was quite shocking for me, losing the weight after the surgery, I didn’t realize it at first, I still felt like I was that same guy,” Lowe said. “I noticed it when I walked by the mirror, like oh wait, but as far as the feeling, sensation, the things I noticed was I was getting around better, I had less pains in my knees and my back, things like that, I was sleeping better and losing the weight it just, it was gradual but it was rapid in a sense and it took me a while to convince myself that hey I lost this much weight, I’m not that guy that I always was.”

Others certainly took notice, especially after the pandemic sent Lowe home to work soon after the surgery.

“I would go to town as things started to ease up and I would run into people that I’ve worked with for 20 years and I’d walk right up to them and they didn’t know who I was, they didn’t recognize me,” Lowe said.

Lowe’s stomach is now 20% of what it once was. “I actually dropped from 346 to 199 at my lowest, I had got below that 200 mark that was my goal and I’ve been able to maintain that and stay right there within range,” he said.

Lowe lost 145 pounds and now three and a half years later he said things have changed mentally for the better too.

“You realize food isn’t the crutch that it was,” Lowe said.

Lowe is living the life he never thought he’d have.”I get around, I’m more active and now I’ve got a three, six, and nine-year-old that I can keep up with and run foot races with, get tackled by the dogs, fun things like that.”

A new lease on life with the old Cody in the rearview mirror.

Lowe went home from surgery the next day and was back at work within a week.

He also had surgery to remove loose skin and has maintained his target weight range ever since.

Patients who have this surgery are on a liquid diet for three weeks and then a mushy diet for another three weeks.

To be eligible for surgery, a patient must have a BMI greater than 40 or BMI greater than 35 with health-related obesity problem like sleep apnea, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Click here for more Healthy You stories.