Megan’s Story: Losing Weight, Gaining Life

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

She was only 26 years old. Yet, passing medications to her patients on the Advanced Care Unit of Atrium Medical Center left nurse Megan Kovach exhausted.

“By the time I'd see my fifth patient, I'd have to sit down. That's what made me realize I needed to change something in my life,” she says.

That was in the summer of 2016, when she weighed 358 pounds.

“I was miserable. I had untreated high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and acid reflux – things that a normal 26-year-old shouldn't have to deal with. I didn't want to go out with my friends. People would stare at me. I would have trouble fitting in booths.

“I just wasn't living my life.”

And as a nurse, she constantly saw warnings of what she might face if she didn’t do something.

“I saw what can happen when things get out of control. You have diseases like diabetes, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart failure, and I knew that that was going to be in my future unless I did something.”

Doing Something About It

As her first step, Megan made an appointment with her primary care physician, Matthew Stone, DO, of Middletown Family Practice.

“Dr. Stone is wonderful. He took the time to give me advice on what I can do. And one of the things that he gave me was a flyer for Dr. Northup’s seminars.” She’s referring to a free seminar on weight loss options provided by C. Joe Northup, MD, FACS, of Premier Weight Loss Solutions.

“I signed up for the seminar, and the rest is history.”

The seminar covers the latest advancements in weight loss surgery. “They discuss the risks, the benefits, what that's going to mean for you in the long-term, what type of vitamins that you're going to need to be on. It was extremely informative,” Megan says.

After the seminar, Megan made an appointment with Dr. Northup to discuss her options – and he made Megan an appointment for a sleep study. “That's when I found out that I had quite severe sleep apnea that was affecting my life. I wasn't getting any sleep because I wasn't breathing at night, and I was so tired during the day. Then I had to start wearing the CPAP mask.”

Choosing Gastric Sleeve Surgery

After their discussion about weight loss options, Megan chose to have gastric sleeve surgery, also called sleeve gastrectomy.

Dr. Northup performed Megan’s surgery at Miami Valley Hospital. The procedure involves removing about two-thirds of the stomach and creating a tubular stomach about the size and shape of a banana.

Because sleeve gastrectomy doesn’t bypass the intestine, it allows normal digestion and absorption of food. And it results in feeling fuller faster, leading to decreased food consumption – but with few dietary restrictions.

The procedure also reduces appetite because the portion of stomach that is removed is responsible for producing the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.

Following surgery, Megan took about six weeks off of work. “It honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she recalls. “There's some pain, a little bit of nausea, but I recovered very well. Between four and six weeks is when I felt normal again.”

‘I’m Finally Able To Live My Life’

But it wasn’t the “normal” that Megan knew pre-surgery.

“I was able to stop taking my blood pressure meds because I don't have hypertension anymore, and I don't have to use my CPAP anymore because my sleep apnea has gone away,” Megan says with relief. “I still have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), but it's not nearly anywhere as severe as it used to be.”

Plus, she adds, “I've lost a total of 160 pounds. I feel amazing. I feel like I'm finally able to live my life. I'm not afraid to go out like I used to. I spend as much time as I can with my friends and my family. I feel like I'm a better nurse.”

Surgery’s Just Part Of Megan’s Treatment

“Dr. Northup and his team have been amazing,” Megan says. “They’re 100 percent supportive. They care about you and your long-term success.”

To help assure her continued success, Dr. Northup’s treatment plan for Megan goes beyond surgery alone. Psychological counseling, nutrition counseling, meditation, journaling, and exercise are key to turning Megan’s life around.

Thanks at least in part to meditation, she says, “I feel more confident as a nurse, as a nurse leader. My life has just improved 100 percent.”

Counseling, she says, has helped her address struggles with eating triggered by stress. “It’s very important to me to be very conscious of how I'm feeling and how that makes me want to eat certain foods. That's why I meditate and journal.”

She adds, “When you have issues with emotional eating, you eat something bad and then you feel bad about yourself, and so then you want to eat more, and you get into this cycle.”

She traces this back to adolescence. “I was bullied pretty severely in middle school and in high school for my weight, and it's affected me my whole life. You know, you have this self-worth that you create, and it follows you throughout adulthood.”

Controlling Stress

Meditation also helps Megan control her stress and emotional eating. “When I meditate, I have my yoga mat. I try to find somewhere that's quiet and where I won't be disturbed (even at work during her lunch break). I just sit, and I start with relaxing my body. I start from my feet and work my way up. Then once my body is relaxed, I can relax my mind and just enjoy the quiet. Just try to blank things out. It helps a lot with my stress, absolutely.”

Journaling, she says, helps her sort through feelings. “It helps a lot with the stress eating because I'm thinking about how I'm feeling when I'm having those cravings. Is it because I'm hungry? Is it because I'm upset about something?”

She adds, “I see a dietitian pretty frequently with Dr. Northup and his team. When I started having the troubles with stress eating coming back into my life, they were actually very wonderful, and they've allowed me to have more frequent appointments than you typically do post-op to help with accountability.”

Exercise was not a part of Megan’s life before surgery. Now, however, “I go to the Y three days a week. I go to strength training classes, do cardio. It's just really important to stay active.”

But, she adds, “It can be really challenging keeping up with exercise, especially in the long term. That's why I keep pictures of myself, from when I was at my heaviest and pictures of myself now – so that I never forget how far I've come and how I don't want to get back to that place when I was unhappy.”

Savoring Good Nutrition

Cooking continues to be a favorite part of Megan’s life. Now she’s focused on finding foods that excite her taste buds, “but are also nutritious. I'm always looking for new recipes. I love salmon, I love salads, and those are all really great things.”

To add a little extra spice to good nutrition, Megan has started a cooking show on the Snapchat app. “Mostly just for my friends, just to be silly, so I can share some of these recipes with them and also just make cooking fun.”

‘You’re Worthy’

Megan’s advice to others looking for weight loss options: “Do your research. Find a program that works for you, and always remember that you are worthy of better, and to love yourself. You're worthy of good nutrition, and you deserve to be healthy and happy.”