Renesha Sizer is an energetic 20-year-old college student. She works out nearly every day and her friends refer to her as a health freak. But this fit lifestyle didn’t always come easy to Renesha.
Renesha, from Washington, D.C., is from a long line of what she refers to as “country thick” women and a history of type 2 diabetes.
She was never unhappy with herself or her weight, but noticed her health was declining and decided to take more control when she entered college.
“I started working out my freshmen year three times a week and nothing was happening,” she said. “I did yoga, drank weight-loss shakes and nothing was happening so I thought, ‘Okay, time to call the doctor now.’”
When she was 19 years old, Renesha came to Children’s National Hospital's Obesity Program under the care of Evan P. Nadler, M.D., to undergo the sleeve gastrectomy procedure.
To be admitted to the Children’s National Weight-Loss Surgery Program, patients need to meet very specific medical requirements that include: a BMI of 35 with a comorbidity such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea or high blood pressure or a BMI of 40, the completion of a six-month medically supervised exercise and diet program.
Renesha had a BMI of 47 and weighed 286 pounds.
She also was experiencing gastroesophageal reflux, severe acanthosis nigricans (the darkening of the skin, a sign of insulin resistance that could also be a warning sign of type 2 diabetes), and back pain. Dr. Nadler also found out, through a consultation, some concerns with Renesha’s diet.
“She’s always been a vegetarian, but her vegetarian meals consisted of french fries. She wasn’t eating protein and she didn’t understand what it meant to eat healthy,” he said.
After several weeks working with a team of nurse practitioners, dieticians and psychologists at Children’s, Renesha was prepared for surgery.
“At first, I wasn’t nervous to get the surgery, then, in the surgery room, I saw all of the people and the equipment and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ Renesha recalls. Dr. Nadler supported Ranesha and provided the boost of confidence she needed. She loved working with Dr. Nadler and his team and said she was so happy he was her doctor.
Following surgery, Renesha was sore, but already moving about the recovery room, thanks to the minimally invasive procedure. She returned to school the next week.
So much has changed for Renesha since her surgery. She takes pleasure in the little things she can now do like crossing her legs, tying her shoes without first sitting down and chasing her little brother.
“I have so much more energy, at first it scared me. I thought ‘Why am I up so early? Why am I so peppy?’ I’ve always been bubbly, but I’ve never had energy to do things. It always took me so long to walk from where I live to school – it was awful,” she said.
Dr. Nadler agreed that her bubbly personality was always there and she’ll need it to continue her new healthy lifestyle.
“Renesha has a much better understanding of what it means to be healthy now. She knows that her current weight is her new normal and she will have to work hard to maintain that,” Dr. Nadler said. “[The surgery] is not a free pass to go back to bad habits.”
Now, a year later, Renesha’s BMI is down to 36.3. She does not have any more back pain and now all of her tests are at normal levels. She’s no longer at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Renesha is a positive reinforcement among her family and friends too. She is very proud that her sister has dropped 14 pounds by changing her diet and exercising. Renesha often pushes her sister and other family members to work out with her when she’s home from school. She has also inspired her friends to eat healthier, read food labels and even drags her roommates out for walks.
She even has a bit of advice for other kids interested in weight-loss surgery.
“First off, be happy with you and who you are. Don’t do the surgery for anyone else, but yourself,” she said. “And if you’re looking into surgery, look into it. Look into the different details of it, look at how it will affect you.”