We’ve all had a similar thought as we cruise down the snack aisle in the grocery store: If I buy low-fat cookies, chips and crackers, I can eat more of them. But that mentality may not serve you in the end.
Lexy Hovermann has undergone an amazing transformation – from "I was always tired" to “Zumba in the park.” And she accomplished this in less than a year. This dramatic change in well-being was powered by determination, a strong support system and the work of a skilled bariatric surgery team.
"I didn't want to go places because I was overweight. I have a son and daughter who are active, and I was always tired. I didn't want to be that person."
It was that realization that led Lexy to make an appointment with Dr. Nauveed Iqbal in early January 2019. The Inspira Health surgeon has performed thousands of bariatric procedures since 1985. Lexy, an Inspira Health employee, was ready to commit to a healthier and more active lifestyle.
She had done her homework before meeting with Dr. Iqbal. She educated herself about the procedure by talking to people who had had it and by reading articles on trusted websites. When she met with him, he confirmed what she had learned on her own, and agreed she was a good candidate for a Sleeve Gastrectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that has been popular for nearly a decade.
But finding a surgeon with experience and clinical expertise was not enough. Lexy knew it was important to find a surgeon with whom she felt comfortable. Fortunately, Dr. Iqbal met that criteria, describing him as "pleasant, sweet and kind.”
Lexy's next steps included three monthly education classes, meeting with an Inspira dietitian, and a behavioral health screening. Each step ensured that she fully understood the procedure, what to expect before and after surgery, and how only a permanent change in her eating habits would assure long-term success.
In the weeks leading up to her procedure, Lexy conscientiously followed the instructions provided by members of the care team, which included keeping a food journal and carefully reading the binder of information that all Inspira bariatric surgery patients receive. She jokingly referred to the binder as her bible as she prepared for surgery and the new lifestyle she would adopt.
It was January 16, 2019, when Lexy went in for her procedure. Within a year, she achieved her goal weight – losing more than 100 pounds. She has now maintained her goal weight for more than a year. Her unwavering commitment to a healthy lifestyle has been the cornerstone of Lexy's success. Meal prepping and working out six days a week are now habits that keep her on track.
Lexy admits that at first it was a major adjustment to eat well, every day.
"You have to mentally prepare for the small portions that you will be able to eat. You have to know you are done with the cookies, or chips. You are changing your life – most of the time you are not going to eat those foods. If you are not going to make that change, don’t bother.”
Lexy is proud that she hasn't had a soda or carbonated beverage since her surgery, and that she can cut a serving of food in half before she starts eating, sometimes sharing it with a friend. Her commitment to working out, sometimes as early as 5 a.m., has remained an almost daily ritual since she was given the okay to exercise after surgery. Prior to COVID-19, Lexy was an early morning regular at the Fitness Connection in Vineland, often working with a personal trainer. When the pandemic closed gyms across the state, “It was horrible.” But she adapted, working out at home and finding COVID-safe outdoor pop-up exercise classes at parks. Zumba in the Park sessions are particularly memorable.
"It's a total mindset, you have to know this is what you want," says Lexy.
In the first two months after surgery, Dr. Iqbal scheduled six follow-up appointments with Lexy. Now, more than two years later, she will see the doctor every two years. Regular follow up, especially in the first year after surgery, is a critical component of long-term success.
Today, Lexy continues to draw support from her exercise and food prep partner who also happens to be her fiancé. She also receives, and shares, encouragement from two friends who had bariatric surgery before she did. And she remains focused on healthy living and maintaining the lifestyle changes that have enriched her life.
“I’m more social, more active, definitely not as tired – despite getting up at 4 a.m. And I'm much happier.”