Donna Doherty loses weight for her family with help from South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center
story by Alexis Williams photos courtesy of Donna Doherty
Donna Doherty of Moss Point feels better at 50 than she did in her 30s and 40s. Always an emotional eater, she relied on food to help her deal with the pain of losing her mother to cancer.
Doherty cared for her granddaughter, Avery, during the day while daughter Kayla worked. “I couldn’t get on the floor and play with her, and it was hard on me,” she said. When she learned Kayla was expecting her second child, Doherty knew she had to make a change. “I thought, ‘how can I take care of two?’” she wondered.
At 281 pounds, she sought the help of Dr. Pete Avara and South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center. She and Dr. Avara discussed how the surgery would ultimately change her life, and she learned she would have to go through counseling with a dietitian before the procedure to learn how to adjust her diet. Her decision to go through with the surgery was finalized after she and her husband, Alan, took a 30th anniversary trip to Yellowstone National Park.
“I couldn’t walk down the trails or up stairs and see everything,” she said. When she encouraged her husband to go see Mammoth Falls without her because of the steep climb, she sat down and waited for him to return with tears streaming down her face.
“On the way home, I got a call from my insurance that I was approved for the surgery,” she said Doherty underwent a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) in August 2015. Since that time, she has lost 126 pounds. Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy permanently reduces the size of the stomach, therefore limiting food intake and decreasing the sense of hunger.
“I went from a size 22 to a size 10,” she said. “I feel much better. The surgery is a tool to change your life.” She added that she is very close to getting into a size eight.
Doherty, who used to fry pork chops and make tomato gravy and biscuits, now grills lean meat and steams and roasts broccoli and other veggies. She relies on protein to keep her satisfied, including pistachios, almonds and boiled eggs. Before her surgery, she never ate breakfast. Now she begins her day with a protein-rich serving of eggs and she steers clear of bread.
As the owner of a convenience store, Doherty was always surrounded by sodas and unhealthy snacks. “I was the person who drank a diet coke and ate a candy bar,” she said. “Now, it’s bottled water and nuts.”
Since her life changing surgery, she has taken charge of her emotional eating. “I don’t let food control me,” she said. “I control the food.”
Along with Dr. Avara and his team at South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss, Doherty also credits her family with her success, calling them her biggest support group. Her husband walks with her regularly. She alternates walking two miles a day with riding her stationary bike. Some days, she even puts the grandchildren, who inspired her to get healthy, in a double stroller and walks with them.
Her family has changed the way they eat, supporting her new diet and therefore improving their health as well. After seeing her inspirational success, Doherty’s twin sister, Lonna, is also considering the surgery.