The Central Valley has the highest rate of obesity in California.
And Fresno is home to a world-renowned hospital that's trying to combat the disease... one patient at a time.
For the first time ever, weight loss surgery is on the rise.
CBS47's Lemor Abrams has more on the fight against obesity with bariatric surgery.
Doctors remove part of a woman's stomach, leaving her with a tube connected to the intestines for food to pass through. The procedure is called sleeve gastrectomy and it's the latest weapon against one of the valley's largest problems... Obesity.
Lemor talked to Salina Garcia, a patient who had the procedure. "I was just disgusted with myself because I was so heavy," said Salina. At 280 pounds, Salina's self esteem fell to a new low. "I didn't like to go shopping for clothes or anything like that, because I couldn't fit into most of the clothes, so I didn't like doing anything, really," said Salina.
She worried about getting diabetes and high blood pressure, which runs in her family.
A year after her surgery, Salina is 125 pounds lighter. "Now I'm more active. Now we go bike riding and walk and we just did that zombie run. Before I would never do anything like that," said Salina.
Salina had the surgery at the second busiest weight loss centers in California: Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital. Doctors say they're performing more weight loss surgeries than ever. They're running a statewide radio and tv campaign called "this time will be different."
Dr. Saber Ghiassi, a bariatric doctor at Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital said, "We've had patients come from as far as Alaska to get surgery here. We've had physicians come from other parts of the country to actually have the surgery themselves."
But the majority of patients are local, and Dr. Ghiassi attributes it to the Valley's growing rate of obesity. "At least one out of every four adults in California are obese and the majority of the burden of that disease falls in the Central Valley of California," said Dr. Ghiassi.
Doctors say there are risks associated with any operation, and some patients can end up right where they started- battling with weight loss. But they say they have an answer to that too.
Nine years ago, David Hill weighed over 330 pounds, and suffered from liver problems. He didn't think twice about having gastric bypass. "After I had surgery, my liver healed in 9 months. I was like, yes, I'm finished. I'm done. I did what I wanted to do. But what I didn't realize was, this is a life-long journey," said David.
After losing 125 pounds, he suddenly fell into a state of shock and dealt with it by eating. David had what doctors call relapse and regained the weight. "I've never been thin before. I'd always been obese, so for me, it was like... 'How do I deal with it? I didn't know how to deal with it,'" said David.
Sharon Osbourne, wife of rock star Ozzy Osbourne, went through the same struggle after her lap band surgery. She writes about losing 125 pounds, and then gaining 25, and then 40 and the yo-yo cycle continued until she began sensible dieting.
Unfortunately, while the surgery may change your body, it doesn't change how you feel about yourself.
Fresno psychologist Dawn Keller encourages people to ask themselves a few questions before surgery. "How do I think about myself? What are they things I'm doing? And is it adding or contributing to my overall well being or am I letting things slide? Am I making choices that don't fit my goals?"
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently opened up about having lap band surgery and successfully shedding forty pounds in a matter of months.
David Hill is inspired by success stories like that and is making progress in the hospital's "back on track" program. "I take responsibility but it's not always easy. I need a shoulder to cry on every once in a while and say, 'I need help,'" said David.
David is dropping pounds with portion-control and daily exercise, two methods that work well for Salina, who is not trying to lose any more weight. Her stomach is the size of a medium banana, so she must keep her portions small. "It’s just a tool, and if you don’t use it right, you go right back to where you were," said Salina.
Some health insurance covers weight loss surgery because of it's benefits to your future health. Salina says she only had to pay about $1,000 out of pocket.
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