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Published on June 26, 2019

Dave Neilan

Celebrating Every Little Weight-Loss Win

In high school, Dave Neilan was an avid athlete participating in all kinds of offered sports. However, when he went to college, his level of activity decreased and his weight increased. Unfortunately, he found himself in a relatable story of yo-yo dieting.

“In the summer, I’d eat right and lose 40 to 50 pounds, only to gain 80 or 90 more back,” said Neilan. “The swing in numbers became greater and greater over the years.”

He never felt horrible about himself, but felt a growing frustration as he compared his actions to others. It seemed like people around him could eat whatever they wanted and still maintain their weight.

“I tried every diet and exercise in the book, and nothing would stick,” he said. “Choosing to try sleeve gastrectomy was the next step.”

Sleeve gastrectomy surgery is a minimally invasive resection of the stomach by separating the greater stomach from the smaller part of the stomach. The opening between the stomach and the small intestine, known as the pylorus, remains intact, leaving behind a stomach in the shape of a tube or sleeve.

By keeping the stomach and pylorus intact, the stomach works normally, but the volume is drastically reduced. In addition, the hunger hormone ghrelin also decreases.

Weight-loss surgery isn’t just a trip to the operating room and then two days in the hospital. The team at the Avera Bariatric Institute works with patients for a couple of months before surgery to prepare for the lifestyle changes that bring a lifetime of weight management success.

During the pre-surgery stage, Dave lost 30 pounds. To date, he’s proudly shed 232 pounds and 22 pant sizes.

“At first, I thought all the appointments before my weight-loss surgery was a bit of overkill,” remembered Dave. “But every single one proved important as my team prepared me for success.”

One of Dave’s biggest concerns was whether the team could help him change his mindset toward food and exercise. To his surprise, it did!

“If you would set a hamburger and fries from a fast food place in front of me, there’s not a chance I’d eat it,” he said. “Avera helped me change my food intake and I’ve come too far to take a step backward.”

Eating the right food at the right time has become second nature to Dave, so he focuses on staying active as much as possible during the day — especially since he works a desk job. Besides normal exercise, some of his strategies include walking while on the phone at work as well as hiking up and down the stairs at home during commercial breaks.

Not only has Dave’s life changed, but the lives of his whole family as well. His wife of 16 years cooks nutritious meals that include all the vitamins and minerals his body needs to avoid malnutrition. If his son and daughter are having mac 'n' cheese, she makes sure Dave has chicken breast and cottage cheese for supper. They also exercise together, which increases family bonding.

“They are 100% supportive,” he said. “Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have been successful without my spouse.”

Dave recommends weight-loss surgery to anyone who is eligible. He enjoys telling his story to others and encouraging people walking along that same journey. In fact, when he was sitting in the Avera Bariatric Institute waiting room for a follow-up appointment, he sparked a conversation with a woman contemplating surgery — and inching away from it. His reassurance boosted her confidence to take a leap of faith.

“It’s a lifetime commitment, but I’ve gained my life back,” said Dave. “From wearing two airplane seat belts to now one, and shopping at plus-size shops to normal clothing stores, I’m celebrating every little win along the way.”

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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