Two years ago, Bill Junge’s pants had a 52-inch waist. He wore shirts size 4XL – or 5XL depending on the brand. He weighed 370 pounds.
Today, at age 54, Junge has a 34-inch waist. He wears medium-sized shirts and had to resize his wedding ring because he couldn’t keep it on his finger. He weighs 185 pounds.
“So I have literally lost half of me,” Junge said.
In April 2011, Junge underwent the LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding procedure at Wyoming Medical Center. He recently sat down with us to share his experience.
The Pulse: How long did you struggle with your weight?
Junge: I’ve been overweight my whole life. All through school, junior high, I was teased through high school. Weight has always been a problem for me. I’ve tried every diet in the book and had some limited success with various programs. But limited was the operative word because whatever I lost, I gained back and then some.
When I was 370 pounds, even buying clothes was a challenge. I couldn’t go just anywhere. I had to order online, stores had to special order for me or I had to find a big-and-tall shop. It was very limited.
It’s something that always with you. You are very aware of your weight. Plus you get tired. Carry a 100-pound sack of flour around with you all day long, how tired would you be? It’s lot of wear and tear on your body. My knees would be sore. Walking was a challenge.
The Pulse: What made you consider LAP-BAND?
Junge: I just kind of hit rock bottom. I was working for the GAP, opening new stores all over the country, so I was traveling all the time. Airplane travel is very difficult when you’re 370 pounds. You don’t fit in the seats. People aren’t always very considerate when they have to be the ones sitting next to the big guy. You have to get extender seat belts. All those things just tend to be embarrassing and made travel difficult. That’s when I hit the bottom.
My physician said that I was killing myself. I was trying to do the watch-what-you-eat diets and they just weren’t working. So the opportunity for LAP-BAND came up and I went to one of the seminars. I thought that it was something I could do.
I liked the idea that it was local – keeping it here in Casper was important to me. As opposed to doing gastric bypass or something, LAP-BAND doesn’t totally change your whole insides. And it’s a microscopic procedure so it’s a quick in-and-out type thing. I like that it’s just a 45-minute procedure and then you’re done and moving on.
The Pulse: Have you noticed a difference in your health?
Junge: Since losing the weight, I’ve gone off high blood pressure medication. I had sleep apnea so I was using a CPAP (machine), that’s been discontinued. It’s just great news.
When I was overweight, I didn’t even think of trying to exercise. It was enough just to get through the day. As I started losing weight, it was exciting to join a gym.
I started right away. It was a very deliberate effort to make myself and, at the beginning, it was just a walk around the block. What is that? A quarter mile? I would do that and I would maybe try twice a day. And then it got up to an hour. As you lose the weight you have more energy, the exercise just feels good to do it.
Walking is my exercise of choice. You can do it all the time, wherever you are. I average two miles a day, more on the weekends. It’s nice to go on the river walks and paths we have around Casper.
The Pulse: Have you hit your goal weight yet?
Junge: No. I have about 10 more pounds to go before I’m truly at my goal. Doesn’t everybody battle the last 5 to 10 pounds?
The Pulse: So, how much are you losing now?
Junge: It’s about half a pound a week. I have weeks that I don’t lose, and that’s OK. I’m maintaining a healthy weight and I’m active.
The Pulse: Are there foods you can’t eat?
Junge: No. You have to eat more slowly and that was a big change. American society is a fast food environment. You order lunch on the go and in two gulps your sandwich is gone. You really have to modify that. LAP-BAND doesn’t let you gulp it and go. You take small bites, you chew and you just have to learn to take your time.
The Pulse: What are some adjustments you had to make after the procedure?
Junge: Chewing. Chewing, chewing and chewing.
You’ve got to slow down and chew a lot. I haven’t had an issue of something getting stuck (in the stomach opening), but some people have. You have to think about it. When you’re eating a meal, it’s pretty deliberate. Slow down, take small bites and chew.
The Pulse: Is that because it makes your stomach smaller?
Junge: LAP-BAND creates a pouch at the top of your stomach – where you trigger the sensation for feeling full – and that pouch holds about a quarter of a cup food. It’s the same as if you didn’t have a LAP-BAND and you ate a big meal, you’d feel full. You just get that way sooner.
The sensation of full lasts until your next meal. So it’s not like you’re constantly grazing. I eat three meals a day. I eat a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner and I’m done. My old self would have been grazing all day long.
The Pulse: Were there any surprises with the procedure?
Junge: Between the preliminary stuff you do before surgery, the weight management program the hospital does and then the program at the surgeon’s office, they set you up for success. You know what to expect before going into the surgery, you know what to expect coming out of the surgery. You meet with dieticians. The fun part is the support group. You are talking to people who have been there done that, so you share recipes and ideas that have worked for other people. There weren’t any big surprises.
The Pulse: LAP-BAND is supposed to be highly flexible. Have you ever had yours adjusted?
Junge: Yes. Usually, it’s a fill. They add saline to the band to make it a little more restrictive. And you do it in small increments so it doesn’t become too restrictive too fast. So over the course of two years, I’ve had probably four or five fills.
The doctors tell you that you can have it loosened. I don’t know why you would want to do that though. If you are being successful with weight loss, why would you want to take a step backwards?
The Pulse: What else should people know when considering LAP-BAND?
Junge: I think probably out of the whole thing, my biggest regret is that I didn’t do this sooner. I was really just impressed with the program and how easy it was. With the coordination between the weight management program and the physician’s office, it was so seamless. They made it so simple.
It all came together for me in about two months, mostly to give my insurance time for preapprovals for the surgery. Whether it’s two months or three months – or some insurance companies require six months of monitored weight programs – start today. That six months will be up before you know it, and you make such a big change in your life that it’s so worth it.
The LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System is just one of Wyoming Medical Center’s weight management options. If you are interested in learning more, here are some options:
* Free seminars: WMC’s Weight Management Program hosts monthly LAP-BAND seminars with Dr. James Anderson or Dr. Todd Beckstead, no commitments required. The next seminar is 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the WMC Support Services Building, 1200 E. Third St. Or, call 577-2158 to learn more about the seminars.
* WMC bariatric support group: This support group meets from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month on the first floor of the WMC Support Service building, 1200 E. Third St. It is an open forum, where anyone can come and ask questions from people who have underwent the LAP-BAND procedure. Call 577-2158 for more information.