In Their Own Words:
The Decision that Changed Their Lives

New ASMBS Video to Premier at ObesityWeek 2014

Published in October 2014 Issue             

Elliot Avidan, 42, has the discipline of a military officer, the analytical skills of a lawyer, and the determination of a prizefighter given a second chance after a near knock out from a tough opponent. That opponent -- severe obesity.

“I was given a chance and that’s all I needed. I was headed down a path that most likely would have led to an early death,” said the attorney and Navy veteran.

Avidan is one of three patients featured in a new video developed by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). The video also explores how Avidan, Teresa Bell-Stephens, a nurse and Jamie Dukes, a television football commentator and former NFL player, overcame their own doubts, misconceptions and fears, as well as those of their family and friends, to stop obesity before it stopped them.

“I first considered bariatric surgery in 2011, but my sister talked me out of it. She thought I would die. She just told me to eat less and exercise more. It wasn’t that simple. Without it (bariatric surgery), I couldn’t succeed in the long-term. I would be destined to a lifetime of losing and gaining, while my health deteriorated.”

-- Elliott Avidan

It would take three years before Avidan had bariatric surgery, a decision he credits with saving his life. “I went from 180 to 300 pounds in five years before waking up one day and realizing I was a different person. I was unhealthy, unhappy and almost didn’t recognize myself. Today, my life is completely different.”

Teresa Bell-Stephens, 41, who had a sleeve gastrectomy in 2012, gained more than 60 pounds during infertility treatment. She was successful in having a baby, but unsuccessful in her attempts at weight loss afterwards. She said she was unhealthy, out of control and headed for a future that included diabetes, heart disease and joint problems if she didn’t do something to change that trajectory. She said she had bariatric surgery because, “I wanted to be a parent.”

IFSO is an over 8,000-plus member organization from 58 national societies with four regional chapters: North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. The ASMBS is its largest member organization and leaders from the ASMBS say the relationship between the society and federation is only growing stronger.

The video follows Bell-Stephens as races through her day, which includes hospital rounds and caring for patients, swimming, biking and spending quality time with her husband and son.

“I look at the world differently now because I feel I can engage in everything. And I felt that before I had to sit out on some things. Now I don’t have to sit out anymore.”

-- Teresa Bell-Stephens

Jamie Dukes, an on-air analyst for the NFL Network and former NFL offensive lineman, talks sports for living and during football season splits his time between the NFL Network studios in Los Angeles and his home in Atlanta where he live with his wife and two children.

It took the premature deaths of four former teammates -- all of whom died before the age of 44 from conditions linked to obesity -- for Dukes to come to the realization that his life after football could be a short one if he didn't do something about his weight.

Since retiring from the NFL in 1996, he had gained more than 100 pounds and despite many attempts at dieting, his weight continued to rise. In 2008, after the deaths of three former teammates, all in their 40s, Dukes decided he had to do something about his excess weight. He says in the video, “I thought I was going to die. Guys who were 80, 100 pounds overweight just died. What would make me more special than them?... I just had to
do something.”

That something was bariatric surgery. “It’s a procedure to get you where you need to go.”

“I reached a turning point in my life. I had to make a life decision to change my lifestyle not only for myself, but more importantly, for my family. I want to be around for them and beating back obesity is going to help me do that.”

-- Jamie Dukes

“These patients are inspiring,” said Ninh T. Nguyen, MD, ASMBS president. “They each an important decision that would forever change their lives. We hope others are inspired to do the same.”

Watch the premier of the ASMBS video during Dr. Nguyen’s presidential address at ObesityWeek 2014. The video will also be available for use by members and be featured on the ASMBS website.