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Set in motion: Determined local man sheds nearly 300 pounds with bariatric surgery and lifestyle change

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When Romeo Benavidez finally decided to address the additional weight he had carried most of his life, he knew getting healthy wouldn’t be easy or fast.

“I went into it with my eyes wide open,” said the then 43-year-old Bakersfield native as he contemplated the bariatric surgery.

At his heaviest, the 5’6” Benavidez weighed 487 pounds.

“That’s what I weighed when I started the program,” he said, referring to the 6 months of appointments, weigh-ins, and psychological evaluations that his doctor, Hormuz Irani, MD, required before performing bariatric surgery.

“Dr. Irani wanted me to lose 20-30 pounds first.”

However, midway through the program, Benavidez was sidelined by a previous spider bite that had diminished the circulation in his leg. His primary physician, Dr. Nadim Sarkies, MD, determined that Benavidez would need to address the problem with his leg before considering bariatric surgery.

So, technically, he has been through the program twice, but the ever-optimistic Benavidez said the delay allowed him to lose even more weight.

“I got down to 415 pounds before bariatric surgery, so I lost 70 pounds all by myself,” he said. “I surprised Dr. Irani. I was very motivated.”

Learning how much weight he lost without assistance, family members and friends discouraged Benavidez from having the bariatric surgery and said he should lose the weight on his own.

“I told them no,” he said. “I have my foot in the door now, I’m going to do it.”

Pictured above: Romeo with his wife before his surgery.

Dedicating his life to change

In the 14 months since the November 2019 surgery, Benavidez has lost a tremendous 203 pounds and a total of 275 pounds since joining the team at Adventist Health to begin his weight loss journey. He weighs 212 today but is inching closer to reaching his 190-pound weight goal.

He did it, he said, with his family in mind.

“I was 43 years old and almost 500 pounds. My daughters were in college, weren’t married yet, and didn’t have children. I want to be here when they get married and have my grandkids,” he said. “That was my drive.”

Besides the surgery, Benavidez credits changes he made to daily living—his new active lifestyle—to his success.

“I take all my vitamins and protein every day. When I get home, I do yardwork. I don’t sit down. I stay active all day. I clean the pool, feed my chickens, wash the dogs—anything to keep me moving and not sitting down to snack.”

Benavidez reports that his energy is at an all-time high and that he out paces his wife and daughters now when they walk.

“I look like a completely different man,” he said. “I can’t believe that was me; I can’t believe I let myself get that big.”

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