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A Milford woman lost 150 pounds and transformed her life after years of struggle – Hometown Life

Apr 12th, 2022

For years, Nicole Gibson always dreaded the moment when she would need to buckle her airplane seatbelt.

The frequent fliers fear was not of an impending crash, but of the humiliating possibility that she might not be able to strap herself in due to her obesity.

After losing 150 pounds with the help of bariatric surgery, this is no longer a worry. Gibson can easily buckle a belt across her slim, 55, 120-pound frame.

When I got my weight downand I got in a plane and put my seatbelt on, that was my non-scale victory, Gibson said. I thought, Holy cow, I dont have to struggle to put my seatbelt on now.

The 52-year-old Milford resident recently celebrated the third anniversary of her surgery and only wishes she had done it sooner.

Gibson waged a battle against excessive poundsthat began in her late teens and continued throughout her entire adult life with little success in diet programs including Weight Watchers and Atkins, no-carb and low-carb, and even a horrible HCG diet that restricted her to 500 calories a day.

Despite all her attempts at nearly every diet, nothing worked at decreasing the pounds, and meanwhile, her health problems were increasing along with her weight. Gibson endured sleep apnea, joint pain, pre-diabetes, and low energy.

Her weight took a toll on her mental health, too, as she suffered low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.

In her job as a Novi manufacturing companys training facility coordinator, she felt she had to work harder to prove herself.

In the world we live in, you are judged immediately by your appearance, Gibson said, adding she could never find nice things to wear.

At her heaviest, her clothing size was a 22and she weighed 273 pounds in fall2018. She had just been diagnosed with hypothyroidism when her family physician recommended bariatric surgery.

It certainly wasnt going to be a cheap and painless fix to a years-long battle.

It is a tough thing to go through, its not the easy way out for sure, Gibson said.

However, Dr. Wendy Miller has seen an increasing number of patients over the years at the Beaumont Health Weight Control Centerwhere she is medical director, as they seek the surgery to finally conquer their obesity.

Unfortunately, it has gotten worse over the years, Miller said. The percentage of people with obesity has increased and a lot of people have gained weight during the pandemic, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73.6 % of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight, including 42.4% who are considered obesewith a body mass index of 30 or greater. Obesity prevalence hasincreased from 30.5% in 1999-2000 to 42.4% in 2017-2018.

COVID has exacerbated sedentary lifestyles that were already on the rise. Miller points to increased use of devices including cell phones and social media and in addition to more sitting, more consumption of processed, high-sugar foods and beverages.

All of this has definitely led to an increase in the number of bariatric surgery patients, both locally and nationally. There is a larger percentage who qualify for the surgery as well, but who choose not to have it, or arent aware they are a candidate for the surgery which is commonly covered by medical insurance.

The patients Miller and the Beaumont Health team sees are ones just like Gibson they have tried diets, exercise, medications, and lost, but still regained the weight. Surgery was not their first resort, but the one that they hope ultimately will turn their weight, and their lives, around.

Its really rewarding to see the transformation in people, their whole outlook changes, very positive environment and fun for our whole staff to see improvement in quality of life for people, Miller said. Several different clinical trials show bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for people with severe weight problems, more effective than diet and exercise."

To qualify for surgery, a patients body mass index (weight in relation to height) must be 40 or above, or greater than 35 with at least one weight-related medical issue, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea or high cholesterol. They must also undergo a psychological evaluation to ensure they are in a good mental state for a positive outcome post-surgery, since a drastic change starts, but doesnt end, on the operating table.

Gibson had the most common bariatric procedure offered by Beaumont Health, the gastric bypass surgery, in which the stomach is divided into two sections, resulting in a one-ounce pouch about the size of an egg and a reduced appetite.

Millersaid the surgery is considered very safe, with a low risk that is comparable to gall bladder surgery, and minimally invasive. Patients typically return to work within two weeks.

Gibson was nervous pre-surgery,but also excited and well-preparedwith six months of meetings pre-surgery on diet, exercise and what would be expected of her in the future.

You are signing up for a lot when you get the surgery, she said. You dont just get this and are done, they retrain your brain and start you on the path of being more mindful of eating.

Gibson lost 30 pounds in preparation for her March 18, 2019, surgeryand on the operating table weighed about 250 pounds. She left the hospital the following day and in the days that followed, consumed a lot of soup and yogurt, mashed potatoes and soft foods in general.

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What she had to give up entirely was carbonated beverages. Because she had previously drank Diet Coke every day, all day long, she thought this might be tough, but it wasnt. She now drinks coffee and iced tea and a lot of water.She avoids fried foods. She was never a meat eater, but she focuses on her protein intake by continuing to eat fish, cheese, and eggs.

The body cant process high levels of sugar after gastric bypass. While she was never big on sweets, she has cut down on carbohydrates including pasta, rice, and bread. She eats smaller meals, more frequently. In the morning she might have a cheese stickor a hard-boiled egg. A few hours later, a yogurt, then two hours after that, some almonds. Dinner consists of maybe a piece of fish and a small salad. She eats a lot of beans black, kidney, pinto, or refried for the protein.

She takes vitamin supplementsand her exercise routine simply is walking.

The weight began falling off instantaneously and continued for a full year and a half. In her support group, people told her dont go and buy a new wardrobe frequently. But it was fun for Gibson, a thrift store shopper who in addition to her full-time job also works at the Clothing Cove in Milford.

She found a lot of encouragement from her friends there, too, as well as from her parents and best friend Cathy, and said she lucked out in that way, as she couldnt imagine going through such a major life change without all the support she had.

In total, Gibson lost 150 pounds and 70 inches in the course of about 18 months. She now maintains her weight between 121 to 124 pounds, and alternates between a size 2 and size 4. Besides her improved weight and size, her complexion is better, her hair is better, and her overall health and outlook is better. She is looking forward to living a longer, healthier life and leaving the burden of weight she carried behind.

I think everyones point to go forward with surgery might be different, Gibson said. I wish I would have done it many years prior, but the right time was when it was and that is what I did. I absolutely feel like a new person, with more energy and increased self-confidence. It was life-changing.

Contact reporter Susan Bromley at or 517-281-2412. Follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.

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A Milford woman lost 150 pounds and transformed her life after years of struggle - Hometown Life

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