Pomegranate’s first shift senior youth leader on the boy’s unit, Marvin, has lost over 200 pounds to date. He keeps a pair of size 66 shorts in his locker to keep the inspiration going and to show teens how even insurmountable obstacles can be overcome in not only weight loss, but life. At first they are incredulous. They ask lots of questions. They want to know how he did it, what it was like, how hard it was and how long it’s taken.
Marvin struggled with his weight from childhood on, though he played football in high school. He was bullied (mainly in middle school), and made fun of because of his size. Finally, after trying several diet plans, he sought medical assistance through a gastric bypass operation in June, 2006. At first during pre-op testing, he was told it was likely that he had colon cancer or sickle cell. It turned out to be sickle cell trait, which is abnormal blood cell formation. The CDC reports, ‘People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait (SCT). People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD), but they can pass the trait on to their children.’ It’s important to be adequately hydrated/drink enough water with the disorder.
When he finally had the surgery everything went well and the weight loss started immediately. In the first two weeks he lost 38 lbs. At first, the weight loss was slow, and then everything sped up. ‘The hardest thing was not being able to eat solid food for almost three months,’ he admitted. ‘I lived on smoothies and soft food . . . ‘ he said. Now he can do just about everything he attempts with ease. It’s been about seven and a half years . . . and I’m still losing. I hope to stabilize at 225 lbs,’ he said. Marvin exercises by walking . . . which is easier now with the 200 lb weight loss. That’s a whole person!
Marvin set healthier goals, dreaming big, and educating others on the importance of eating right and exercise. ‘I learned from my aftercare nutritionist the importance of counting calories and eating smaller portions. I had several adjustments such as learning to put down the burgers and fries, and replace them with yogurt and salad. I also learned to eliminate the soda and replace it with more water,’ he said with a grin. That doesn’t mean totally giving up on favorites, just controlling what, and how much he eats and making better choices more often.
It doesn’t take long to exceed daily calories in one meal if you are not paying attention! For instance, two slices of a popular pizza exceed 500 calories; half a pizza- exceeds 1000 calories! Coupled with a large high sugar soda, and later, a Blizzard (milkshake) or candy bar, and you’ve taken in the entire days’ worth of calories in one sitting, far exceeding fat, sugar, and sodium intake. That’s standard fare for many teens coupled with a 1000 calorie burger and fries at lunch (and more high sugar soda). Three thousand to six thousand calories sitting in front of a game console most of the day with chips and a sports drink, and it doesn’t take long to gain weight if you’re not active.
Paying attention to diet is especially important with weight gain or loss a side effect with many medications such as mood stabilizers or anti-depressants. A body-conscious teen might stop taking his or her medications, which is not advisable. Wellness nurse Lori does a lot of education on medication, diet, exercise and healthy decisions. A registered dietician makes sure residents and staff alike find fresh fruit, vegetables, or soup alongside wraps, main meals, and favorites at Pomegranate. Teens do get to vote on meal choices, (though curly fries are preferred to baby carrots).
‘My friends and family love the new Marvin even more than the old Marvin. Most importantly, I think by having the gastric bypass surgery I added a lot more years on to my life,’ Marvin says. When asked if he has anything to tell teens, families and readers alike, he added, ‘Don’t take your health lightly!’ Posing with his old shorts in front, he is half his former size, but twice his former confidence!