OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Hitting the gym can work for many people. For some, that's simply not enough. They need extra help to shed pounds and improve their health as well as their self-esteem. That's where surgery comes in.
Quentin Watkins, 33, is about to undergo gastric sleeve surgery. At 335 pounds, he knows it's time for a change for one primary reason.
"I tried, like most people, going to the gym. I tried personal training, and it helped, but I need a mental switch to my habits, my lifestyle," Watkins explained.
Something else needed to switch for him.
"Well, for me, health reasons. I'm currently on blood pressure medicine that I want to get off. One of my long-term goals is to actually buy something off the rack without paying extra for it."
People have made fun of Watkins since he was a kid. He said that's going to change now.
"As I lose weight, it boosts my morale, my confidence. It also boosts my longevity, being able to be around because I do have a son," Watkins said.
Dr. Pete Avara has performed hundreds of bariatric surgeries. He knows about pain.
"Patients have a great deal of guilt and a sense of poor self-esteem, and they have been shamed, and they felt bad. There are all these incidents that they've had in their lives, so they need the health benefits, but I think many people are driven by desire to not be ostracized by society because of their weight," Avara explained.
For the shamers, Avara has a message.
"To make them feel or try to make them feel even worse than they do is just inappropriate. It just shows a lack of understanding, and it's just mean."
Saving lives is the main goal for Avara.
"People who are morbidly obese have a host of medical problems, but diabetes and hypertension are the leading problems. But, they have joint disease, they have an increased risk for cancer," said Avara.
One person at risk was 34-year-old Randi Pope. At 265 pounds, she needed help from surgery.
"I was an athlete in high school, played sports as a kid, even in college, and still the weight wasn't coming off. So, I decided let's get some help and go this route," Pope recalled.
Again, her health was the underlying reason.
"In my family, we have heart disease, and, of course, obesity with some of my relatives, and I just didn't want to see myself with that future. Diabetes runs on my dad's side of the family," said Pope.
The results are stunning. She lost 120 pounds, but she gained a positive attitude.
"I feel really good about the way I look. I actually put in an effort every day now when I wake up. Doing my hair, doing my makeup. It makes a difference," Pope explained.
The old Randi is never far from her mind.
"Being overweight is like a target for everyone to hit. It's the easiest thing to make fun of people about," said Pope.
She also has a message for the body shamers.
"I think that people really need to stop and think about what they're saying to others, because it's really hateful, and it's very hurtful."
Watkins couldn't agree more.
"Now, with social media, people will just bully people. That's what it is, because you don't get to know them. You just automatically judge," said Watkins.
Looking back, was this the right choice for Pope?
"Zero regrets. I have no regrets at all."