Bariatric surgery finally allowed LaRhonda Darby to live her best life
How far would you go to lose weight?
As a contestant on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition in 2011, then-33-year-old LaRhonda Darby quit her job, converted her living room into a gym, and dedicated six hours of her day to grueling workouts. Going “extreme” worked — but only temporarily.
Over the year of filming, LaRhonda went from 433 pounds to 202 pounds, winning a car in the process. However, after filming wrapped, she had to go back to work, and finding time for a six-hour workout wasn’t realistic. On top of that, LaRhonda says her issues with food ran deeper.
“I’m not overweight because I love food,” she explains. “I had a traumatic childhood, and weight was my protector.”
In the six years since the show, LaRhonda gained back the 231 pounds she had lost, plus another 49.
“There was never a time I wasn’t in pain,” she says. “My muscles and joints ached.” She leaned on doses of ibuprofen just to get through the day. Walking was a challenge, as were most daily activities, like running errands, going to work, and fitting into typical seats at restaurants.
She finally had enough.
— LaRhonda Darby
Time for a lasting change
LaRhonda hired a therapist to help her address her addiction to food, and she turned to the Weight Management Program at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and Sachin Kukreja, MD, bariatric surgeon on the medical staff.
LaRhonda and Dr. Kukreja decided the best procedure for her was what’s commonly known as a DS (short for biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch). In LaRhonda’s case, Dr. Kukreja was able to take a minimally invasive approach with the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System. The DS is typically reserved for the most extreme cases, and LaRhonda — with a weight approaching 500 pounds — was a perfect candidate.
Dr. Kukreja says the DS typically results in 90 percent excess weight loss. An added bonus? It’s 98 percent effective in resolving diabetes. A naturally occurring peptide that regulates insulin production and glucose metabolism increases exponentially after the surgery is performed.
In a DS procedure, surgeons reduce the size of the stomach, fashioning it into a sleeve shape, so that patients can’t eat as much food. Surgeons also reroute a significant portion of the small intestine, which limits the number of calories and amount of fats that can be absorbed.
Dr. Kukreja says the procedure fell out of popularity over concerns that it kept the body from taking in enough nutrients. However, he modified the surgery so patients like LaRhonda aren’t dependent on taking extra vitamins and can eat normal food. “They don’t have to live life on protein shakes,” he says. “They can eat most regular foods while avoiding fats.”
As of June 2019, LaRhonda Darby has lost 300 pounds since her bariatric surgery at Methodist Dallas. She enjoys running 5Ks to help prioritize physical fitness.
Say hello to success
Since the surgery in July 2017, LaRhonda has lost 300 pounds — and she’s still going.
She’s already back in her favorite pair of jeans and wearing high heels again. “I love heels,” she says.
LaRhonda now sees exercise as a way to be healthy and completed a 5K in December 2018. “I’m allowing myself to live as if I was never heavy to begin with.”
LaRhonda thanks God for helping her through the challenges of the journey, but she also credits both therapy and her surgery for helping her get back her life, adding that the Methodist team is more like a family. “They’ve had my back, encouraged me, and let me cry,” she says.
Dr. Kukreja says he’s found LaRhonda’s mindset inspiring.
“Whenever I see her, I just see her energy,” he says. “She’s doing all the work, and she had the right surgery to be successful.”
After knowing what it’s like to struggle and finally succeed with weight loss, LaRhonda advises others considering bariatric surgery to start with finding the root of their issues with food.
“You have to get to the reason you’re overweight first,” she says. “Then weight-loss surgery is a great tool.”
START LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE
Could you benefit from weight loss? Consult with a primary care doctor or bariatric surgeon (214-444-7303).