Skip to main content



Feb 14, 2023, 16:50 PM by GoodHealth Digital Edition

Weight has been a constant challenge for 51 year-old Ron Wheeler since his childhood. “I started Weight Watchers for the first time when I was ten,” remembers Ron. “I tried intermittent fasting, low carb diets, every weird fad diet you can think of.” Ron lost more than 100 pounds a decade ago with Weight Watchers, but without staying connected to a regular support system to hold him accountable, he put the pounds back on. “As soon as I stopped going to meetings, you stop following the plan and then you don’t keep it off,” he shares.

Ron’s weight was impacting many areas of his life, like his ability to hike, bike and visit the beach with his family. “I didn’t want to take my shirt off at 350 pounds. I didn’t want to be seen by people,” he admits. Ron felt crushed when he had to stop going to amusement parks because he couldn’t fit on some of the rides. “It’s hard to explain this to a child, why Daddy can’t go on the ride,” he says.

Primary care physician, Miguel Loya, DO at Sansum Clinic’s Solvang Country Clinic helped Ron manage his Type 2 diabetes. He shared with his patient the serious health risks like heart disease and kidney failure faced by diabetics. This news was sobering for Ron.  “I have a 13 year old daughter and quite frankly, not being around for her was not an option,” he says regretfully. 

before and after weight loss photos

Dr. Loya and Ron discussed surgical solutions to address his weight and ultimately, Ron warmed up to the idea. In 2019, Ron met with bariatric surgeon, Marc Zerey, MD, CM, MSC, FRCSC, FACS to understand his options. There are several types of weight loss surgeries, some which limit the amount of food taken in; others affect the digestion of food and absorbing of nutrients. Dr. Zerey specializes in minimally invasive procedures, like laparoscopic gastric sleeve, gastric bypass and LAP-BAND® surgery. These techniques allow for greater precision with less of a surgical incision. “He listened very well and helped me understand very clearly what was going to happen. It was extremely helpful to me and eased my nerves,” comments Ron. “The recovery from my surgery was extremely short and easy.”  Ron lost 120 pounds following his gastric sleeve procedure, and with his increased energy, he could walk five miles regularly with his wife. His A1C returned to normal levels, he no longer needed medication to control his diabetes and his nighttime snoring ended. ”I’m a totally different guy. It’s amazing,” comments Ron.

At Sansum Clinic’s Bariatric Surgery Center, which is a nationally-recognized Bariatric Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence®, surgical technology, dietary and nutritional counseling, emotional support, and long-term follow-up care are all integrated. Dr. Zerey works with a team of bariatric specialists—including a dietitian, a program coordinator, and nurse specialist. This bariatric surgery team coordinates with patients and their primary care physicians and endocrinologists, to create a personalized plan. Patients are required to attend an orientation class before surgery, as well as nutritional counseling and a regular support group post-procedure. Ron says the accountability he still receives from his support group keeps him honest and on track. The accessibility of the bariatric team over his weight loss journey has meant a great deal. “Being able to reach out to them at any given time and know they would be able to help, that was a huge deal.” 

Ron met with clinical dietitian Christina Dominguez, MS, RD before his surgery, and several times afterwards. He greatly appreciates what he learns from nutritional counseling. “It was huge to have a support system to not go back to old habits. Before surgery, there were times when I would just eat and eat. Now, I am able to leave food on my plate. I know when I am full and I am done,” says Ron.  “From my perspective, he truly used the surgery as a stepping stone to achieve a better life,” notes Christina. 

Photo caption: Ron Wheeler before and after weight-loss surgery.