James Aldredge Jr

James Aldredge--beforeWhen people see old pictures of James Aldredge Jr., they can't believe their eyes. He looks completely different from the person they would have seen three years ago.

James was always big as a child and continued to gain weight as he aged. He would walk in a room and think that everyone was staring at him. At 25 years old, he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. At 30, he became borderline diabetic and had to control his diabetes with twice-daily insulin shots and oral medication. By his late 30s, James weighed 425 pounds. The more weight he gained, the more his health deteriorated. He suffered from sleep apnea and joint pain. "When my doctor wanted to ‘up' my insulin dosage, I knew I had to do something drastic," James said.

It was NBC's "Today Show" weatherman Al Roker who first introduced the idea of gastric bypass to James—Roker had lost 100 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass. When James heard Roker discuss his experience on television, he began to research the procedure for himself. He asked his endocrinologist for a recommendation and was referred to Dr. Joseph Afram. James said Dr. Afram was very "straightforward" with him about gastric bypass, thoroughly explaining the procedure and what to expect after the surgery. James decided that gastric bypass was a good choice for him. "Dr. Afram's office was one-stop shopping," Mr. Aldredge said. "Everything was set up for me—a nutritionist, pulmonary specialist and support groups. I didn't have to search around for what I needed; Dr. Afram's office arranged it for me."

James Aldredge--afterJames entered surgery with the support of his family and a determination to be successful. "I knew it would be challenging, but I made up my mind that I was going to do this," James said. The work paid off. James has lost 200 pounds since he underwent open gastric bypass in May of 2003. He never gets tired of hearing how fabulous he looks. At 41-years-old, he has more energy than he's had in his whole life and he's adjusted well to the change in eating habits. Instead of eating one big unhealthy meal a day, he eats 4-5 small meals. James claims that eating wiser is the key—eating less and eating slower. "You can't completely deny yourself," James said. "But you have to manage your meals." The first Thanksgiving after surgery was hard for James. He is used to a large family feast where overeating is the center of the celebration. To join in the fun and eat wisely, he used a smaller plate and took one spoonful of everything on the table. "You can have what you want, if you eat in moderation," James said.

James has inspired others as well. Due to his success, he's had three coworkers undergo gastric bypass surgery. His advice to those contemplating the surgery is to realize that gastric bypass is a tool for weight loss. If individuals want to be successful, they have to follow the diet and exercise recommendations to the tee, and they have to know why they are doing it. He cautions that there will always be critics, but to James, it doesn't matter what other people think. "What matters is I'm not on insulin anymore and I have reduced my medications. I can walk upstairs—that's what matters."

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