The day after Thanksgiving, Chris Zito climbed on the scale, and notched up a milestone. Weighing in at 314 pounds, he was officially 100 pounds lighter than his highest-ever recorded weight – lighter than he had been in many years. But this 41-year-old Renton dad was not done yet. "It's premature to celebrate, I've got another 100 pounds to go," says Zito.
Wanting to see his daughter grow up was a big motivator in Chris's decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery in August. He says he has always been bigger than his friends, though his size did not keep him from sports or having an active social life. Still, in the past five years, his weight had crept up enough to becoming a defining feature. “An ‘a-ha’ moment was getting on an airplane and the flight attendant handed me a seatbelt extender and said, ‘Here, you need this.’”
Before undergoing the surgery, which involves connecting the small intestine to a reduced stomach pouch, Chris worked with the team in Overlake Medical Center's Metabolic and Bariatric Weight Loss Clinic. He consulted with a psychologist and a nutritionist who guided him in losing the 40 pounds required to be approved for the surgery. After years of trying different diets and exercise, only to regain the weight, Chris says he viewed this "drastic" surgery as his last hope for regaining health.
Chris saw another opportunity, too: the chance to share with the world how bariatric surgery could change a person's life. As a news producer at KING-TV, the NBC-affiliate in Seattle, Chris knew that his journey would speak to viewers, the many people out there who struggle with their weight while knowing the enormous health risks of obesity.
When Chris underwent the two-hour procedure at Overlake in August, he was joined by his mother, Susan, but also a TV reporter, a cameraman. With a microphone clipped to his scrubs, Overlake surgeon, Dr. Thien Nguyen, talked through each step of the procedure in the operating room. The reporter asked questions. The cameraman recorded as Chris emerged from his anesthesia-induced slumber.
In the weeks that followed, Chris allowed viewers into his world of pureed food, nutritionist consultations and follow up appointments with Dr. Nguyen. Outside the hospital, the KING-TV crew also captured the successes, the "non-scale victories" that Chris was beginning to rack up: clothes that were becoming baggy, the ability to hit a golf-ball at the driving range and gaining the confidence to run around with his fun-loving daughter on the playground.
Dr. Nguyen is passionate about the benefits of bariatric surgery, explaining that no other single medical procedure can yield so many long-term health benefits. "As much as I love surgery, it's even more fun to see how well patients do, how their lives change as a result of the surgery," says Nguyen.
For more on Chris's story, watch the clips below and KING5's Facebook Live.