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Weight-loss surgery helped Gale find her groove

To celebrate her 59th birthday, and her new life, Gale Bagstad planned to run the Turkey Trot race on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. Things didn't go according to plan when she was sidelined by an injury. But as the last five and half years demonstrated, Gale saw this as just a small setback and is still determined as ever to check this off her bucket list.

This goal is important to Gale because she once weighed 240 lbs. "I'd get winded doing simple things like going up stairs. I hardly did anything," she recalls. "I had been overweight most of my adult life. I tried many diets—losing some weight only to gain it all back and then some. After I turned 50, the weight was affecting me medically. I had high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and sleep apnea."

So on Feb. 8, 2012, Gale underwent weight-loss surgery at Gundersen Health System. Bariatric surgeon Matthew Baker, MD, performed a sleeve gastrectomy procedure which involved removing about 85 percent of Gale's stomach. With a stomach now about the size and shape of a banana, the amount of food Gale could eat before feeling full was dramatically reduced.

"I researched my options," remembers Gale (Gundersen offers a variety of weight-loss options including three different minimally invasive procedures). "I chose the sleeve procedure because it was the most permanent and restrictive. Even so, I knew this wasn't a magical fix. I would have to work hard to change my life. The surgery was just the beginning and I was determined to make it work."

And that she did. One year after her surgery, with lifestyle changes and plenty of hard work, Gale lost an amazing 96 percent of her excess body weight. This is well above the typical 60 percent that most people see with the sleeve procedure. More importantly, Gale's high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and sleep apnea were all resolved. Gale explains, "My relationship with food has changed. Before, emotions and food controlled me, not the other way around. Now I recognize true hunger. I control what I eat and I eat the right things."

More than five years after her surgery and holding steady at about 140 pounds, Gale looks and feels great. "I found my groove," she says, "I can actually do things. I want to do things! I never had the energy before, but now I have so much more motivation. I don't have to ask myself 'can I do that?' I just do it!"

So Gale decided to take on a new challenge: to train and run a 5K. Unfortunately, she sustained an injury while training. Undeterred, Gale is now working with Sport Medicine on an exercise program to help her avoid further injuries. Gale has her eye on her first 5K in the spring and running the Turkey Trot next Thanksgiving as she marks her 60th birthday.

If you struggle with your weight and you're ready to "find your groove," discuss your options with your healthcare provider or attend a free informational seminar.

To request an appointment or ask a question over the phone, please call (608) 775-0055.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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