If you were to see J Lee Bernard today, you wouldn't think that last year she weighed 372 pounds.
"I had got to a point in my life where just living was difficult," she began.
Bernard had tried working out and eating healthy, but when results didn't last, she did her research, ultimately deciding after two years of research that gastric bypass surgery was the best option for her.
"With anything that we try as far as diet and exercise, there's always a failure rate," said bariatric nurse navigator Hang Mai. "There's some people who can do it, there's some who can't because of medical reasons."
Gastric bypass involves cutting out part of the stomach and bypassing the large intestines, surgically connecting the small intestines to the new, smaller stomach. It's one of two procedures performed in Bay County. The other is lap band surgery, where the surgeon places a band around the stomach to make it smaller. The third method of bariatric surgery is called the sleeve. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts off the left side of the stomach, reducing it to the size of a banana.
Despite the three different procedures, doctors say that all three of the new stomach sizes hold a very close overall volume of food.
All three surgeries are considered a last resort and are anything but a quick fix and requires a change in the patient's life.
"The biggest change is really knowing what I'm putting into my body," Bernard says. "Reading the labels, the choices of what's healthy."
But even with all the extra time that may go into grocery shopping, Bernard has no regrets - especially after losing more than 170 pounds.
"I'm living now. I'm happy. I have no more diabetes, no more high blood pressure, I can walk and not hurt."