Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program

Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Update

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Karletta Lost 130 Pounds and Osteoarthritis Pain with Penn Bariatrics

Karletta Howard needed more than a change in lifestyle, she felt like she needed new knees.

At her heaviest, she weighed 283 pounds and the osteoarthritis in her knees made it painful to walk. She consulted with an orthopaedic surgeon about her pain.

“He told me that my knees were so bad, even losing weight might not help,” she remembers. “But it was the push I needed to look at my life and make a change for the better.”

Up until that point, Karletta had tried to lose weight on her own with different diets, but she never had any lasting success.

“Working out was always a challenge for me because of the osteoarthritis, but I knew I had to make real, lasting changes to my diet, or I wouldn’t lose the weight.”

Karletta met with Noel Williams, MD, and together, they felt the gastric bypass procedure would be the best fit for her.

“During the pre-surgery testing, I learned I was borderline diabetic and had sleep apnea,” she says. “More than just my knees were at stake – my whole health was dependent on losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.”

Karletta had weight-loss surgery in April of 2013. She followed the post-operative nutrition plan to a “T," and saw the results of her hard work soon thereafter.

“Within months, my sleep apnea went away,” she says. “I was no longer diabetic, and my entire outlook on food changed for the better.”

Karletta found support in her daughter, who would go grocery shopping with her.

“She was nine at the time, and would help me read labels for food,” she says. “She made sure we were choosing foods that were low in sugar and sodium and high in protein.”

Within 18 months, Karletta had lost 130 pounds. And, as a slim size 6, she shares her story as an inspiration to others.

“Knowing I am healthy today, and will be healthy for my family is an inspiration to me,” she says. “If my story can help others, that’s even better.”

As for her knees, Karletta's pain is still there but the need for new knees isn't. Osteoarthritis is a condition that won’t simply go away by losing weight, but it has become less painful.

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight 

Find out if weight-loss surgery is right for you at a free information session.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is Your Weight Putting You at Risk for Breast Cancer?

Did you know that one of the most important things you can do to decrease your breast cancer risk is maintain a healthy weight?

Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center is internationally recognized as one of the leaders of breast cancer prevention, treatment and research. Many of the innovations in breast cancer treatment and prevention began here, including the first breast cancer risk program in the country.

Obesity and Your Risk for Cancer

Although some might miss the connection between metabolic and bariatric surgery and breast cancer, obesity is actually one of the most significant risk factors for breast cancer. This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen. The more fat cells in the body, the more estrogen is made, and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.

One of the best ways you can decrease your risk of developing cancer, including in the breast, is to adopt the “The Prevention Triangle.” The Prevention Triangle is comprised of exercise, weight control, and having a healthy diet. These three components are second only to not smoking, in the prevention of cancer.

For those with a body mass index (BMI) of 35-39.9 kg/m2 with a weight-related co-morbidity such as diabetes or high blood pressure or a BMI 40 kg/m2 or higher with or without a weight-related co-morbidity, the most clinically effective treatment is weight-loss surgery.

At Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, we offer a comprehensive program to help individuals achieve their goals of exercise, diet and weight control to complete the Prevention Triangle and reduce their cancer risk.

Breast Cancer Survivors and Bariatric Surgery

A history of breast cancer alone does not exclude someone from being a weight-loss surgery candidate. In fact, some people previously not considered a candidate for Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, due to the risk of malabsorption of medications, such as long-term hormonal treatment (tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor), may be a candidate for vertical sleeve gastrectomy.

Individualized treatment from a comprehensive center such as Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery is key for anyone considering bariatric surgery, especially breast cancer survivors.

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight and understand the best way to keep it off. You can also learn if weight-loss surgery it is right for you at a free information session.

Monday, October 27, 2014

7 Sweet and Savory Bariatric-friendly Recipes for the Fall

The fall is a great time to try new, heart and home-warming recipes.

We've collected some of our favorite fall recipes featuring all the flavors and scents of the season.

Velvety Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup is easy to make, full of fiber and a healthy way to enjoy a warm, fall meal.

Get the recipe here.

Cinnamon Roll Protein Shake

This cinnamon roll protein shake is a great way to incorporate some of the spices of the season without adding too many calories!

Pheasant Stew

As the temperature drops and winter draws near, there is nothing cozier than a bowl of warm, delicious stew. Pheasant stew is full of flavors and vegetables!

Get the recipe here.

Beef Daube Provencal

A flavorful and hearty beef and vegetable stew is the perfect cold weather meal for a family or company dinner.

Get the recipe here. 

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Many Chinese menu items are loaded with fat, calories and sodium, but there are ways to prepare healthier versions that preserve the flavorful taste you love. This sweet and sour shrimp is nutritious, low in fat and calories and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Get the recipe here.

Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilaf

Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato pilaf presents the perfect opportunity to mix warm, cozy and delicious fall flavors with healthy ingredients.

Get the recipe here.

Chunky Vegetarian Chili

Nothing says fall more than chili! This quick, meatless chili is full of fiber and protein, low in fat, and delicious enough to please meat-lovers. Make this meal ahead of time and pack it in a thermos or microwave-safe dish for easy lunches during the week.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

200 Pounds Gone Forever After Bariatric Surgery at Penn

Growing up in Alabama, Roosevelt “Tre” Ford was always around rich Southern food. Sundays meant big meals with family and friends, and the table was always plentiful.

“We are a part of a big church community, and every Sunday, my mom would have friends over from church to enjoy a big meal,” says Tre. “It was the way we grew up.”

Tre was a football player, and his activity and training kept him fit. But when he stopped playing, and started a career in the recording arts, his weight started to creep up.

I was writing and recording music in LA, and there was always food around,” he remembers. “You’d spend all day recording a track in the studio, eating during breaks, and then leave at 2 am only to stop and get food to bring back to the hotel room.”

Tre began traveling a lot, performing across the world with a singing group, Hillsong. “At the time, I weighed 526. I was buying two airline seats for every trip,” he says.

But it wasn’t until an annual trip to Disney with his family Tre knew he needed to do something about his weight.

“Every year, we’d go to Disney as a family for Thanksgiving, and that year, I couldn’t fit on some of the rides,” he says. “I told myself that by next year, I’d lose enough weight to fit in any ride. It was the wake up call I needed.”

Tre’s cousin had bariatric surgery in Alabama, and became a resource and source of inspiration for Tre. He decided to explore bariatric surgery in Philadelphia at Penn, and met with Dr. Korus, who explained the procedures. Together, they decided that the gastric sleeve procedure would be the best option for Tre.

“I started meeting with a dietitian, completing all the tests required and learning new ways to eat,” says Tre. “I was ready for the change, but I knew it would be hard work.”

Tre, who was 28 at the time, didn’t have too many medical complications – and if he did, he didn’t want to know about it.

"I was only concerned with what my life would be like after I lost weight. If I had any medical problems, I asked, ‘Will they go away if I lose weight?’ and if Dr. Korus said ‘yes’ I didn’t even worry about them,” he says. “I was determined to lose weight, so I knew any health concerns I had would be gone.”

Tre had surgery in 2011, and since his surgery – and all the changes in his lifestyle – Tre has lost more than 200 pounds.

“I’ve stuck to the plan, I’ve added exercise into my life again, and I am conscious of everything I eat,” says Tre. “Since surgery, I’ve also become a father, so being healthy isn’t just for me anymore – it’s about being there to see my child grow up, and being there for my wife.”

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight for Good

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Walk with the Penn Bariatrics Team at the 2014 Philadelphia Heart Walk

We all know that exercise is important for cardiovascular health, and one of the best motivations for exercising more is doing it with a group!

Join the Penn Bariatric Program Team

The Penn Bariatric Program is joining the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk to promote physical activity to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Join the Penn Bariatrics Team at the 2014 Philadelphia Heart Walk, and not only will you getting the chance to work out with a fun group, you’ll also be helping a great cause.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of all Americans. When you support the heart walk, you’ll make a difference in people’s lives – including your own.

Saturday, November 8, 2014
8 am - Registration opens
10 am - Opening ceremonies
10:30 am - Heart walk begins!

Citizens Bank Park
1 Citizens Bank Way
Philadelphia, PA 19148

The Heart Walk is free to register and join; there is no minimum fund raising level. If you do raise money, you’ll be helping fund groundbreaking research to develop new therapies and better treatment options for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

We hope you’ll join us for a fun and active day at Citizen’s Bank Park.

To register, go to

Find out if bariatric surgery is right for you

Learn more about bariatric surgery, and if bariatric surgery is right for you at one of our free information sessions.

Register here. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What to Expect at a Penn Medicine Weight-Loss Surgery Information Session

Vince Benchino, MBA, RD, LDN,, is the Penn Metabolic & Bariatrics Program Coordinator at Pennsylvania Hospital. He also runs all information sessions at Pennsylvania Hospital, and works with patients throughout their entire weight-loss journey.

We asked Vince what types of questions people ask when they come to a weight-loss surgery information session at Penn.

Weight-loss surgery information sessions are the perfect opportunities for people to ask any question they have about the surgery.

At an information session, we go over the types of surgeries offered at Penn Medicine, their pros and cons, and what the process is like within our program.

Probably the number one question I get asked is, “How long will it take for me to get the surgery?” and a lot of that depends on the type of insurance they have.

Most insurance companies require about three to six months of supervised medical weight loss. This means they are meeting with our dietitians, getting educated on how to eat, and demonstrating that they can adopt new, healthier eating and exercise habits.

Also during this time, patients will undergo testing for things like diabetes and sleep apnea. They will see specialists at Penn to determine if they are healthy enough for the surgery.

People who come to information sessions also ask for surgeon recommendations. I tell them I can honestly recommend any surgeon I work with here at Pennsylvania Hospital. Each of our surgeons has a different personality, so it really depends on whom that patient bonds with the most. We have extremely low rates of infection and complications, and our program does a great job all round.

The other thing to consider is scheduling. Some surgeons might have schedules that better fit with one patient over another. Or, maybe a patient knows someone who liked a particular surgeon and they want to go to the same person. Others might just want to schedule an appointment to get to know their surgeon. It really depends on a lot of factors, but any of our surgeons are going to help you be successful in your weight loss.

Finally, I want to add that it’s okay to come to more than one information session. Sometimes, people come to their first session and that is their first bit of research. They might do more research and then come back to our information session in a few weeks to help them make a final decision. That is perfectly fine. We want to make sure you are comfortable with your decision and the program in which you will start your new, healthier life.

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight for Good

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What to Eat After Weight-Loss Surgery

Vince Benchino, MBA, RD, LDN, is the Penn Metabolic & Bariatrics Program Coordinator at Pennsylvania Hospital. He also runs information sessions and support groups at Pennsylania Hospital, and works with patients throughout their entire weight-loss journey.

He tells patients that immediately after surgery, they need to stock up their pantries and refrigerators with that they need to succeed.

“Immediately after surgery, and for the first two weeks, patients will eat protein shakes, sugar-free and fat-free puddings, yogurt and cream-based soups made with skim milk – not cream,” says Vince. “Then, patients can progress to a pureed diet for one to two weeks.”

Vince says it’s not as bad as it sounds.

“People can have scrambled eggs, or tuna fish – or even chicken salad, but it’s important to blend everything out,” he says. “No hard chunks of food.”

After that period of time, patients will transition to soft foods, which is almost the same thing as pureed foods, but not put through a food processor or blender.

“Then you just progress,” Vince continues. “Within a month and a half or so, patients will try new foods.” Some people go right into eating raw vegetables, and others may take more time to get to that point.

“A lot of people think they will never be able to eat foods with the same consistency and texture as before surgery, but they can,” Vince explains. “We educate a lot and everyone goes at their own pace.”

Learn How Penn Medicine Can Help You Lose Weight for Good

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Learn about weight-loss surgery and if weight-loss surgery at Penn is right for you at a free information session.

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