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"Gastric Bypass Surgery Gave Me My Life Back"

"I'm a completely different person."

I used to get dirty looks when I went out. Now people offer me drinks! I love the attention — I just eat it up. My weight had always made it too difficult to play sports. But today, I'm a hiker, a skier, and I'm training for a triathlon. I have everything I ever wanted, thanks to surgery, and I'm so grateful. I have respect for my body. I'm getting my MBA and I have a wonderful boyfriend. I want to be healthy, to have a family, and to be a good role model for them. That's enough incentive for me to keep off the 100 pounds I lost. I keep my size 22s handy to remind myself of how far I've come.

Cassie Pisano, 28
Student, Denver
Height: 5 feet 8 inches
Starting weight: 270 lbs
Current weight: 170 lbs
Pounds lost: 100

1 MAKE HEALTHY SUBSTITUTIONS. I keep a log of what I eat, and once a week I review everything I've eaten to figure out where I can make better choices. For example, I realized that I drink a lot of smoothies. But they're high in carbs (a Naked Juice smoothie has more than 30 grams per serving!), so I've switched to Diet V8 Splash — only 3 grams of carbs per serving, and it satisfies the craving.

2 TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT RESTAURANTS HAVE TO OFFER. Quiznos has 200-calorie sandwiches, and Starbucks now has lower-cal, sugar-free versions of everything. I still drink my Frappuccino — just a lower-calorie version, and I skip the whipped cream.

3 INSPIRE OTHER PEOPLE. I'm not going to eat the cupcakes at the birthday party just because everyone else is. I adjust my diet to fit my lifestyle, and hopefully other people see that and do the same. I like to think about helping others make healthier choices, not about what I'm giving up.

4 EMBRACE COOKING. Sundays are devoted to cooking. My boyfriend and I make food for the entire week, putting every dish into single-serve, calorie-controlled portions. It's easy to just grab it and go, and we're less tempted to go out and spend money on fast food during the week.

5 MAKE IT FUN. Buy a really cute gym outfit; make playlists of the music you like. Find little ways to encourage yourself to go to the gym and stay on track.

Cassie knew that having a new body would require more than just surgery; it would require a new mind-set — a realization all patients must come to before going under the knife, says Robert W. Sewell, M.D., president of the American Society of General Surgeons. "Weight-loss surgery is not a quick fix," he stresses. If you're considering surgery, Sewell suggests asking yourself: 1. Am I serious about losing weight? 2. Am I ready to make the lifestyle changes it takes to be successful? 3. Am I willing to commit the necessary time and resources? 4. Do I feel this is the best option for me?

If you answered yes to all four questions, start educating yourself about the different types of bariatric surgery. Gastric bypass is the most common; other options include lap band and stomach stapling. Keep in mind that all surgeries carry serious potential health risks and that generally only patients with a body mass index of 40 or higher (considered "morbidly obese") are eligible. Check out the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery website, asbs.org, to learn more.

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