Weight Loss Success

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The second annual fashion show featured seven patients who have improved their overall health by committing to leading a healthy lifestyle following bariatric surgery

Each year, an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet, per the Boston Medical Center, and they spend about $33 billion annually on weight loss products.

Unfortunately, about 65% of people who go on a diet return to their pre-diet weight within three years, according to the CDC.

From millions around the world who’ve struggled with excess weight, which increases one’s risk of about 50 different health conditions like arthritis, heart disease and some cancers, bariatric surgery is a crucial first step in their weight loss journey.

Each year, about 580,000 people around the world undergo bariatric surgery, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). It’s considered an effective and long-lasting treatment for severe obesity that typically results in significant weight loss and an overall improvement, prevention or resolution of many related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea, per the ASMBS.

However, bariatric surgery is only the first step for individuals struggling with obesity. Following their procedure, they must make a life-long commitment to maintaining their weight loss through healthy eating and exercise. Each year, hundreds of Rio Grande Valley residents accept that challenge.

To shine a spotlight on the successful weight loss journeys of some of its former patients, the South Texas Health System Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery Center hosted its second annual Transformation Celebration Fashion Show on Saturday, March 23.

This year’s models, who have positively changed their lives and improved their overall health through bariatric surgery and post-surgery lifestyle modifications like maintaining a healthy diet and being physically active, included Phylisia Tamayo, Dina Salinas, Ellie Torres, Donico Godinez, Selene Rojas and Zoraida Martinez. In their individual quests to shed excess weight and lead healthier lives, this year’s participants have lost a combined 588 pounds while improving their overall health and well-being.

“Bariatric surgery is undoubtedly a transformative journey, but it’s significance extends beyond the numbers on the scale,” said Brenda Ivory, Chief Executive Officer, South Texas Health System Heart. “The scale is only a small part of the journey. It’s the non-scale victories, including improvements in one’s physical and mental health and the improved energy and renewed outlook on life, which stay with the patients the most. This fashion show is about celebrating all those wins!”

During the fashion show, each of the patients – all stepping out of their comfort zone to do something they had never envisioned doing pre-surgery – strutted down the runway twice in casual and formal attire as dozens of attendees, including family and friends, cheered them on. While on the catwalk, the audience learned more about them through pre-recorded audio that highlighted their own personal struggles with weight, the aha moment that ultimately inspired them to help improve their health through bariatric surgery, the daily steps they’ve taken to maintain a healthy weight and how their lives have been forever changed following surgery.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to not only highlight my physical transformation, but also my improved mental and spiritual well-being. Having been among individuals who’ve undergone similar experiences and witnessing the outpouring of support and encouragement from the audience was truly humbling and empowering,” says Phylisia Tamayo, who has lost 88 pounds since having gastric sleeve surgery in August 2023. “This experience has provided me with renewed motivation to continue to pursue my personal goals; and I am confident that I have an ever-growing circle of support, friendship and inspiration. Thank you so much to South Texas Health System, Dr. Luis Reyes and the bariatric program staff for giving me my life back.”

During the intermission, former bariatric patient Rachel Rodriguez addressed the audience, opening up about her own decades-long battle with weight and its impact on her overall health, including fighting diabetes and depression, before opting to have gastric sleeve surgery in December 2012 after reaching a peak weight of 212 pounds. Nearly 12 years later, Rodriguez has maintained her post-surgery weight of 120 pounds. Following her inspirational keynote address, Rodriguez – a model in last year’s show – joined the models for their final walk. Following the fashion show, she was presented with the STHS Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery Center’s first-ever Transformation All-Star Award in recognition of her dedication to helping raise awareness for healthy living by sharing her own “personal story of struggle, success and overall weight loss” through bariatric surgery and post-surgery lifestyle modifications.

The success of this year’s Transformation Celebration fashion show wouldn’t be possible without the support of the local businesses and individuals who helped the participating patients put their best food forward on the runway, including Leona Style, The Boot Jack, RAD Dress Rentals, stylist Elsa Mariel Medina, Missy’s Modeling Studio, makeup artists Delany Gomez and Clarisa Marquez and Miss Edinburg Ambassador Carissa Sandoval and her mother Carla Sandoval.

“Every journey begins with a single step. For this year’s models, that’s no exception. Following bariatric surgery, they’ve shed the pounds and improved their health and well-being and are embracing new experiences that they may never have envisioned doing before, like walking the runway for the first time ever,” says Tom Castaneda, System Director of Marketing & Public Relations, South Texas Health System. “Despite nervousness, they rocked the runway. It was truly inspiring to see them own the catwalk, soaking up the admiration and support from the audience and shining bright, as an example of what can happen when you commit to prioritizing your health. What an honor to witness and celebrate their incredible physical, mental and emotional transformations!”

If you’re struggling with weight and want to find out if you’re a candidate for bariatric surgery, you can learn more about the South Texas Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery Center’s surgical and non-surgical options by visiting www.sthsheart.com/weightloss, calling (956) 664-1616 or attending one of its monthly weight loss surgery seminars.

About South Texas Health System
South Texas Health System is a multi-facility healthcare system serving patients throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The system includes four acute care facility campuses with specialties in pediatrics, heart and vascular services, maternity and women’s health and trauma services. Inpatient and outpatient treatment for behavioral health needs and addictive disorders is also provided through the system’s South Texas Health System Behavioral facility. South Texas Health System is affiliated with the South Texas Clinical Partners ACO, Prominence Health Plan, and Cornerstone Regional Hospital. The system operates an advanced Level I Trauma Center at South Texas Health System McAllen, the first and only freestanding children’s facility and pediatric ER at South Texas Health System Children’s, the region’s only freestanding heart hospital and specialized cardiac ER at South Texas Health System Heart, and six freestanding emergency rooms located in and around Weslaco, Mission, Edinburg, McAllen and Alamo. For more information about the system and its comprehensive services, please visit www.southtexashealthsystem.com.

Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of South Texas Health System. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.