Inspired by dad, local teen undergoes life-changing weight-loss surgery

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Most medical experts and nutritionists tell their patients that if they want to lose weight and keep it off as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle, they need to exercise on a regular basis and eat balanced meals. Many of their patients will respond that making a lifelong commitment to those goals has been a lifelong challenge for them. One local father and daughter have made similar choices on their journey to controlling their eating habits and weight rather than being controlled by them.

Caroline Titus is pictured after her surgery at a recent DJ gig.

Caroline Titus is pictured after her surgery at a recent DJ gig.

Caroline Titus has been overweight for most of her life. A tall and athletic young woman, she weighed about 250 pounds by the time she was 14 years old. She attended Blue Hills Regional Technical School and enrolled in the culinary arts program, where she learned to prepare a variety of foods, but also ate cake scraps and leftover frosting from pastries that she baked.

“I always ate excessively,” Titus said, “and I feel like I snacked a lot. My mom was always really conscious of having good food for us. I never really cared about what I ate. It didn’t seem like an issue to me.”

She ate cereal bars and ice cream at lunch every day, along with vending machine snacks. Now 19, Titus weighed 320 pounds when she underwent a gastric sleeve procedure last December. She now weighs 203 pounds.

Gary Titus, Caroline’s father and a popular local DJ, has had his own weight control battles. He was in his early 50s when he had gastric bypass surgery in 2009 and wrote about that life-changing experience in his blog, gtgastricbypass.blogspot.com. He estimates that he has gained and lost 1,000 pounds over the course of his life.

His heaviest weight was 320 pounds, exactly what his daughter weighed at her heaviest.

“I know my bad habits,” Gary said. “The more unbalanced your diet, the more your body wants to eat.”

Caroline said that she was almost never a victim of bullying because of her weight and therefore was not motivated to get in shape to change others’ perceptions of her. “Very rarely,” she said. “None of my friends ever, no guys I ever dated. I thought, ‘Okay, well, my friends don’t care, so it’s not that big of a deal.’”

In the meantime, her father had his surgery, followed by six weeks of recovery, which included growing accustomed to eating smaller portions and learning to be more mindful of what he ate, how much and when. His experience also strengthened his resolve to help his teenage daughter.

“I call Caroline my twin,” Gary said. “I had the surgery when I was 52. I was concerned that if I could stay healthy, I could save her 30 years of pain.”

Caroline talked with her parents about having the surgery, but was more nervous about the anesthesia than the actual procedure. Still, she went ahead and spoke with health professionals at Tufts Medical Center.

“I think once I was reassured, I knew that it was the best choice,” she said. She needed to lose 10 to 15 pounds before the operation and reduced her weight to 304 pounds. After a two-week recovery, she started to lose more weight.

“The first amount came from the fact that I was eating less,” Caroline said. “Once you add exercise, it stated falling off.”

Caroline and Gary follow guidelines to maintain their weight and health. They base their meals around proteins, such as eggs for breakfast. A typical lunch is turkey on an Arnold Sandwich Round, a food that is popular in their home. Dinner consists of chicken or steak with rice and vegetables. They both take a number of vitamin supplements.

Caroline Titus is pictured above with her dad, local DJ Gary Titus, before and after her surgery.

Caroline Titus is pictured above with her dad, local DJ Gary Titus, before and after her surgery.

“It’s not a cure-all,” Gary said of the surgery and his new eating habits. “I can get lazy. Both of us can.”

His lowest post-surgery weight was 185 pounds, but he has seen the numbers creep up if he doesn’t watch what and how he eats. He estimated that he needs to lose about 10 pounds.

Caroline, who also works as a DJ for her father, would like to get to her goal weight of 175 pounds, but is going to reevaluate when she reaches 185 pounds.

“I feel good,” she said, “and I like the way I look. I definitely changed as a person. I’ve matured a lot. Surgery was the start of this.” She has cut her long hair and now wears it in a very becoming close-cropped style with a curl on the top of her head.

“I think that Caroline is going to see the benefits of this later in life,” her father said. “She’s got a better life. When she gets to be about 30, she’ll think about what she’s done.”

Caroline agreed, especially when she saw a photo of herself as a basketball player at Blue Hills, carrying extra weight and with long hair.

“That wasn’t me,” she said of her younger self. “That shocks me. I think [surgery] was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my 19 years on this earth.”

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