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Keith Attributes Success to Strong Support Network

Published on Monday, April 03, 2017

   At over 500 pounds, Keith Wilson could not imagine himself taking a trip on an airplane, riding a roller coaster, or even having the chance to go deer hunting with friends. Five years later, through his own desire to change, surgical weight loss, and finding an extraordinary group to support him on his journey, he is now able to experience all of these things and is enjoying a richer life.

In 2011 at 43 years old, Wilson was facing several chronic health conditions which severely limited his quality of life. In addition to being morbidly obese, he suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, joint pain, sleep apnea, and depression - taking as many as 14 different medications daily. For much of his teen and adult years, he didn’t socialize, and was caught in a cycle that was damaging his physical and emotional health.

Slowly, that began to change. He talked to Gary Holloway, DO, his primary care doctor in Lake Orion, about his weight problem. Ultimately, it was a conversation on a bus with a woman who had bariatric surgery that inspired him to contact the McLaren Bariatric and Metabolic Institute in Clarkston. Choosing to have surgery went against his family’s wishes, and without their support he felt alone in his effort to get healthy.

In November 2011, McLaren surgeon Michael Kia, DO, performed a roux-en-y gastric bypass on Wilson. In this surgical weight loss procedure the surgeon creates a small stomach pouch, roughly the size of an egg, from the existing stomach, and then constructs a "bypass" for food.

Wilson recalls the staff at the McLaren Bariatric and Metabolic Institute as being very friendly and supportive.

“Most of my appointments before and after the surgery were with the other members at the office. Kristi, Dr. Franklin and Kelly were wonderful. They really stressed that the surgery isn’t the fix for the weight problem. It is a tool. The work is forever; you have to keep moving.”

He kept moving after surgery by walking through his hometown of Oxford. Several times, he walked past Anytime Fitness on Washington Avenue and was tempted to stop in but wasn’t sure if he would feel out of place. One year after his surgery, he seemed to be stuck at 300 pounds. He knew he needed to do something more. In January 2013, he participated in the New Year’s Day Resolution Race in Lake Orion. Even though he only completed half of the 5K route, he was proud of this milestone. Wilson framed his race tag and presented it to Dr. Holloway in gratitude of his ongoing support.

Later that month he decided to walk inside Anytime Fitness instead of walking by again. And to Wilson, that is when his life took another turn in a wonderfully unexpected way.

Gradually, he came to know all of the staff at the gym, and he was especially impressed with the owner, Kelly. She took the time to show him how to use all of the equipment and took an interest in his personal goals.

“I wanted to be a success for them as well as for myself,” said Wilson. “I started taking classes at the gym in addition to working out on my own. Carol, a trainer, wanted me to do well but made sure I was being safe. When I wanted to take her kettle bell class, she wouldn’t let me until I had a note from my doctor. When I would skip an appointment, she wouldn’t let me off easy. They not only wanted me to succeed, they made sure I succeeded. I believe that there should be someone in everyone’s life that says, ‘shut up and get moving’, in a caring way of course.”

Wilson soon realized their support extended beyond the gym. They encouraged him to tackle the list of other obstacles that were holding him back. 

“I lost my mom when I was 13 and there were a lot of things I never learned. Kelly, her husband Ted, their family, and others at the gym helped me to become a man, and take care of myself. They have become my family. I’ve been lucky enough to fly to Las Vegas with one of the guys, and I’ve gone deer hunting, which I never thought I would do. We are planning a trip to Cedar Point this summer, and I’ll be able to ride any roller coaster I want.”

“My life has completely changed. Now I only take one medication and some vitamins. I am a very happy person now. I am so grateful for who I am now and for those that have helped me to get to where I am.”