The Mazzas Lost 238 Pounds and Gained a Much Healthier Family

The Mazza Family with Virtua Bariatric Surgeon Emeka Acholonu MDNicole Mazza knew another diet plan was not going to be the answer. After years of struggling with her weight and yoyoing back and forth, she was beginning to become mentally drained. She was also worried that the unhealthy lifestyle that she and her husband Jonathan were living was having a negative impact on the couple’s two children, Angie and J.J. Then Mazza hit a breaking point while on a family vacation.

“We were on vacation and we were going on a ride and the safety bar wouldn’t go down, so I had to do the walk of shame out. I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to my child or have them not be able to do something because of me,” Mazza says.

That led her to meet Dr. Emeka Acholonu, a bariatric surgeon with Virtua who was recommended to her as she explored the possibility of gastric bypass surgery. While Jonathan was weary about this path, Mazza moved forward with the procedure in December 2015. After seeing her success, Jonathan followed suit six months later. To date the couple has lost a combined 238 pounds. And they have not only changed their lives, but their children’s as well in a group effort to become healthier as a family. When it’s time for dinner, there is portion control and they’ve cut out carbs. When other kids are having candy, their kids opt for a piece of fruit.

“I don’t think we would be as successful if we didn’t do this as a family and implemented our new lifestyle with our children,” Mazza says.

Since the surgeries the entire Mazza family has become more active, exercising regularly both at the gym and at home. Nicole has even gone from assisting her daughter’s softball team to coaching and Jonathan can be found after the game playing with the kids and running the bases. “That’s something we would have never been able to do, or would have been embarrassed to do before the surgery,” says Nicole.

Of course, the surgery is not a magical fix, there is a lot of hard work and a level of commitment that needs to take place too. “If you are not committed, you can absolutely revert back,” Acholonu says, adding that some patients may also experience a plateau where the weight is no longer coming off and they can become discouraged.

“We know the surgery works, but sometimes there are other things that are happening in your body. Sometimes there is a false plateau, you are exercising and losing weight, but you step on the scale and it may remain constant, but actually that is a good thing,” says Acholonu. “I tell them, ‘Keep doing what you are doing, it is good, you are getting toned, building muscle.’”

For the entire Mazza family, this new outlook on life has given them a renewed spirit and the bond they have formed with Acholonu is evident in their interactions.

“There’s a bond with this type of surgery, it goes beyond the doctor/patient relationship,” says Acholonu.

“I’ve told the doc this numerous times, if he didn’t prolong my life, he saved my life. … I don’t think saying ‘thank you’ is enough,” Jonathan adds.

Published with permission from South Jersey Magazine (September 2017)

Updated December 29, 2017

Nicole Wright, RN, BNC - Virtua’s digestive health clinical navigator

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