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Saturday, Apr 14 2012 02:31 PM

Real Success Stories: Triumphant and inspiring stories from local people

Finding the New ‘You’

Experiencing similar stories of overeating, depression and obesity, local residents Marcus Johnson and Victoria Champion took control of their lives, becoming an inspiration to others. After battling a depressing weight gain, these two decided to start new lives and lost more than 400 pounds combined.

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Meet Marcus Johnson

For Marcus Johnson, operations manager for Star Struck Entertainment, his weight gain began in college and after marriage. It only became worse when, like so many others, Johnson was laid off after the economy dropped in 2008. Johnson, 40, described his overeating as a means of self-medi- cating from depression.

After hitting an all-time high of 469 pounds, he decided to get help and undergo gastric bypass surgery in April 2011. Today, he weighs 227 pounds. After losing so much weight, he is still getting use to the new him. “You know, it’s you, but you don’t know you like that. You have days where you’re like, ‘Is this really me? Am I really still Marcus?’” said Johnson.

His journey was not traveled alone; along- side him were his wife and daughter who have continuously supported him. “It’s a journey for the family members as well, especially for the spouse, because you’re changing in front of them. What use to be this wide hug is now a smaller hug. It’s exciting, but it takes getting use to this new erson,” said Johnson.

Meet Victoria Champion

For Victoria Champion, director of the Mcnair Scholars Program at CSub, having problems with weight gain was new to her. From an early age, the 35-year-old was extremely active in sports like softball and cheerleading. Her weight gain began about 11 years ago when she was going to college and dealing with an extremely hectic lifestyle.

“What I suffered from was depression. I was a full-time student, full-time wife, full-time employee here at CSub and something had to give. It was my health,” said Champion.

“I was 306 pounds. It took everything out of me to stand all day at a college fair. Then suddenly my feet were going numb. And then I got really scared,” said Champion. "This is what I weighed the morning I was rolled into the operating room for my gastric bypass surgery, which was on december 27, 2007. I had one foot in the grave due to my obesity, and the person I was on the outside did not match the person I was on the inside."

The Adjustment

Aside from the physical transformation, there needs to be a change in lifestyle. For Johnson, everything seemed to revolve around food, including social gatherings. Johnson says prior to his surgery, “I was eating until I got tired. I never stopped eating because I was full.”

Through the process, Johnson and Champion have found that their identities have changed. While they are still themselves on the inside, their appearances have changed which, in turn, has helped build their confidence. Johnson describes his biggest change in identity as, “I am no longer the fat dad my kids have always known me to be.”

Support Groups

For those who are considering gastric bypass surgery, it’s important to think it completely through. "don’t be afraid to talk to people who have experienced the surgery," said Johnson, "They can share some of the physical and mental changes with you. "Support systems including friends and family, will be key as well.

One thing Johnson wishes he had done prior to the surgery was attend support groups. “You can prepare yourself physically from what the doctor tells you, but you have no idea how to mentally prepare yourself. Not only do you physically change, but there are many emotions and feelings that are associated in the process,” he says.

Support groups will help an individual stay focused and avoid temptations of old habits or replacement of addictions such as gambling or smoking. There have been times when Johnson has heard folks in his support groups’ talk about finding ways to cheat the system. "one has to reprogram their mind to not fall back into their old habits," he said.

Today

Champion has now become an independent Team beach body coach and is part of online support groups where she is a counselor for individuals who may be struggling with weight gain. It’s been two years since the surgery and she now weighs in at 145 pounds, having lost more than half of her previous weight.

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