When Aaron Smith sank comfortably into an airplane seat bound for California, he felt the deep satisfaction of a hard-won goal. His once 518-pound body had slimmed down to fit into the seat without touching the sides. He and his fiancée, Kristen, were on their way to hike through Sequoia National Park to celebrate their engagement.
“You don’t get the results you wish for; you get the results you work for,” Smith said.
A sleeve gastrectomy procedure in June 2015 reduced his stomach to one quarter of its original size. With that impetus and a lot of hard work, he lost 305 pounds thus far and gained new freedom in his life.
The 36-year-old pastor of Clough Pike Baptist Church in eastern Cincinnati said that even as a child, he was considered a big kid. Despite his best efforts, he saw his weight climb when he took a desk job after college.
“I’m a very disciplined, regimented person,” Smith said. “I did NutriSystem, Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet and worked out. No matter what I tried, I’d lose two pounds and gain five.”
At 375 pounds, he stopped getting on the scale. He continued, however, to be fairly active and had no particular health problems.
The tipping point
Two events occurred in November 2014 that changed his thinking and his life.
As a life coach and pastor, Smith was counseling a college student to be ready to embrace opportunities.
“We’re supposed to be available if God calls us,” he said. “If you don’t have a passport and
God tells you to go, you’re not available.”
He realized he wasn’t practicing what he preached. “I thought, ‘If God calls me to go somewhere, I can’t travel on a plane or do manual labor without being winded,’” he said.
A visit to his primary care doctor for a sinus infection provided a second revelation:
“I got on the scale and weighed 518 pounds,” Smith said. “I was in shock.”
Not a magic pill
After a candid discussion with his family doctor, Smith went to see bariatric surgeon
Dr. George Kerlakian at TriHealth Weight Management Center, who laid out the benefits and
risks of weight-loss surgery. Smith decided to pursue a sleeve gastrectomy to reduce the size of his stomach.
“I don’t like going to doctors, and the thought of surgery is crazy to me,” Smith said.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it only once.’
“This surgery is not a magic pill, but it’s an amazing tool you can use to get where you want to be. I go to the gym five days a week. I stick to the regimen my doctors and dietitians set out for me. I see that I’m able to do much more now, and I feel great.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I have gained the life I’m supposed to be living.”
This story originally appeared in TriHealth Weight Management's The Skinny Spring 2017 Edition