When Chris Zito underwent a gastric bypass surgery in 2018, he felt confident it would enable him to lose significant weight, once and for all. After all, he was motivated. He wanted past embarrassments about his size in the review mirror, so had lost the 40 pounds required to be cleared for surgery. He had an excellent support team in surgeon Thien Nguyen, MD and his staff of counselors and nutritionists at Overlake. His family was entirely supportive, all the pieces were in place for him to succeed.
So, one year later, down more than 100-pounds from his peak weight of around 400 pounds, Chris is not surprised that he is no longer pre-diabetic, nor that his sleep apnea has improved to where may not need a CPAP machine anymore. What has been surprising is how his world has opened up. How mental work-arounds that he had constructed no longer exist.
Healthy Outlook readers may recall Chris’ story; a news producer at a Seattle television station, his colleagues at KING-TV profiled him as he underwent a gastric bypass surgery in 2018. Before surgery, Chris was wearing clothes sized 4XL. He had been known to break a toilet seat when sitting down. Airlines would automatically hand him a seatbelt extender when boarding. In the time since his gastric bypass procedure, this 40-year-old father has experienced life differently. From milestone moments with loved ones to everyday activities, “The mental wall I had built without even realizing I was doing it is crumbling, which is nice,” says Zito.
On a recent Thursday afternoon this fall, Chris got a text from a friend asking if he was available to be the fourth for a round at Chambers Bay Golf Course in Pierce County. Site of the U.S. Open golf championship in 2015, the course is a “links course,” meaning it is rugged and windswept. And hilly. Chambers Bay does not have electric golf carts, one has to walk the entire course pulling their bag on a wheeled cart.
But given the chance at a free round of golf at this same prestigious course where Jordan Spieth took home the trophy, Chris did not hesitate. “I said ‘Yep;’ it didn’t phase me for a second,” says Chris. “I didn’t worry about if there would be a golf cart or not, I just went for it.”
Chris admits it was still a difficult afternoon out, “I’m still building stamina and I haven’t golfed nine-holes in a very long time, but when an opportunity like this presents itself, I don’t have hesitate anymore, I can just do it.”
One weekend over the summer, Chris and his family drove the Cascade Loop, stopping at overlooks to see waterfalls and dams. “Before I would have tried to find the parking lot that got us closest, but this time I could say, ‘Hey let’s see where this path goes,’ or ‘Look, there are stairs, let’s take them.’”
And the friend’s wedding in a California vineyard over the summer, involving a half-mile walk down a dirt road? Again, no problem. “The fun thing is rediscovering, you don’t realize all the things you are compromising on, the things you are not doing.”
That means daily activities too. Chris realizes how different it feels to go shopping for clothes off-the-rack and find items that he likes, rather than only being able to shop for oversized options online. When he goes out to a restaurant, he does not need to request a table, he can be seated in a booth. He joined his family to see the University of Washington cherry blossoms in the spring, no matter that the hike to campus was a long ways uphill from the parking lot. “It was, probably, 20 flights of stairs, but it was fun, something I did not even think about.”
Chris will tell you that he still is not where he wants to be; he would like to lose another 100 pounds. He knows it is up to him to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise. The bariatric surgery has done all it can do. But, given how much his life has improved, Chris says he has no reason not to be optimistic. “I have had no problems whatsoever; this was the best thing I could have done. My only regret is that I didn’t do this surgery 10, maybe even 20 years ago.”
Chris’ daughter is in her last year of preschool. She has a new bike that she is just learning to ride. Whereas previously he would have been hindered from helping her balance, now he can lean-in and offer an assist, as soon she will be pedaling off on her own.