Like so many of us, Shirley Bearden lost and gained the same fifty pounds more than once in her life. By age 54, she was 150 pounds overweight with insulin dependent diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and sleep apnea. After considering her options, she decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
“I did gastric bypass because I was going to die. I’m not sure I’d have lived another year,” said Bearden. “I didn’t know how sick I was until I changed my lifestyle, started losing the weight and kept it off.”
Today, Bearden is a svelte size two and has lost more than half her body weight. She’s passionate about the difference weight loss has made in her health. She no longer needs insulin, her blood pressure is normal, she sleeps like a baby and the asthma that made her struggle to breathe is under control. Needless to say, she’s anxious to share what she’s learned with others. As coordinator of the bariatric surgery program at Mercy Fort Smith she’s doing just that.
“Surgery is just a tool to lose and maintain weight loss. If you have surgery and go back to your old ways, you will gain weight. You have to commit to changing the way you eat for the rest of your life,” said Bearden.
This means understanding portion control, eating the right kinds of food, figuring out what triggers overeating and getting enough exercise. Mercy Fort Smith is helping bariatric surgery patients learn these things and more at a new bariatric support group. Each meeting begins with a presentation from a clinical mental health counselor who speaks on everything from behavior modification to food addiction. A question-and-answer session is followed by a learning activity. Upcoming meetings will include a cooking demonstration featuring healthy recipes, a beginning exercise class and a lesson on how to shop the farmer’s market for great fruit and vegetable finds.
“We are committed to providing support to our patients after their surgery,” said Bearden. “I tell them we’re here to help as long as they need us.”
Meetings are open to anyone in the area who has undergone bariatric surgery at any time in their life as well as those who are considering a surgical procedure. Meetings are held the last Wednesday of each month in the Sicard Education Center at Mercy Fort Smith. Patients can choose from two session times - 8:30am or 6:30pm. Each meeting lasts about an hour. For more information, please contact Shirley Bearden at 479-314-2561 or Shirley.firstname.lastname@example.org.