'Little skinny guy from Maine' details impact of weight-loss surgery

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Two days after Christmas last year, Ann LePage followed through on “the single best decision that I have made in my life” — undergoing a weight-loss operation at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

“This surgery has literally given me my life back,” Maine’s first lady told a medical conference last month.

Gov. Paul LePage and his wife addressed a session of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in Washington, D.C., to tout the success of the sleeve gastrectomies each underwent in late 2016 to pare away excess pounds.

In a recording of their talk, the governor said the pair turned to Dr. Jamie Loggins, medical director of bariatric surgery at CMMC, after seeing the success of the operation on four people in his office.

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“We decided together to take the jump,” Gov. LePage said.

The governor said he went first after choosing Loggins — “one of the best in the country” — to perform the procedure “in my hometown of Lewiston. In fact, for security reasons and for privacy reasons, my alias when I went in for surgery was Lewis Town. It was really cool.”

A year later, the 69-year-old LePage was down 60 pounds to his former college weight while the first lady shed 70 pounds.

“We are now so comfortable in our skin because we got it done,” LePage said. “My energy level is way up. We are healthier now than we have been in a very, very long time. And I’ll tell you, look at my wife, isn’t she hot?”

The trimmed-down governor said that when he heads to the White House now, “the president calls me his ‘little skinny guy from Maine.’”

“I’m healthy and I’m around for the long haul,” LePage said.

He said that before the surgery, he was heading for a health crisis, struggling to stave off diabetes.

A former smoker with high blood pressure and sleep apnea, LePage said his back ached and his knees hurt.

“For years, I worked out, worked out, worked out, but I was putting too many calories in,” LePage said.

“Had to stop playing racquetball because I gained all kinds of weight,” he said. “My back would give out. Had to give up hockey. Had to give up skiing.”

He said he realized something had to change.

Because five of his 17 siblings came down with diabetes, he said he knew he had many risk factors for following suit. He recalled, with a catch in his throat, that his mother “lost her eyes, lost her legs” because of the disease.

Ann LePage’s family also had a history that gave him pause. Her father died at 69, the governor said, his own age.

LePage said some of his political foes wouldn’t mind seeing him gone “but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.”

“I want to be around for my children and my grandchildren — and who knows — there might be another election in my future,” LePage said.

So Maine’s first couple went under the scalpel last year.

LePage said he was “surprised and elated how quick we recovered” afterward.

Told to take it easy for a couple of weeks, he instead “cheated a little bit and went back to work” almost right away. Ann LePage also started “running around” cleaning and moving boxes during her recuperation period, the governor said.

When LePage trimmed down so suddenly, he said, “most of my political opponents thought I was sick and I was at the end of my rope.”

“Little did they know — and sorry to disappoint them,” the governor said.

LePage ultimately disclosed that he and his wife had undergone weight-loss surgery. He declared it’s important to talk openly about obesity.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to speak about what will kill us and we shouldn’t be afraid to treat it because my feeling is this: You’re dead for a long time,” he said.

LePage said he’s wearing clothing that hasn’t fit in decades and feeling as good as he did back in his student days at Husson College.

He said his wife told him that it’s OK to feel like he’s in college, “but I can’t act like it anymore.”

LePage said that when he and Ann went to their Florida home, they used to ride bicycles for 25 miles daily. Now, he said, they log 40 miles.

“It takes us about the same time that it did. It’s incredible. It’s just incredible,” LePage said.

“We’re very, very proud that our health is so much better.”

Ann LePage said she tried everything she could for decades to lose weight, from exercise to the latest fad diets. The extra pounds she carried were, she said, “the first and last thing that I thought about every day.”

Nothing worked, she said.

The first lady said she once considered weight-loss surgery “an easy way out,” an option that avoided the need to eat less and work out more. She changed her mind because she wanted “a longer life and a healthy lifestyle” that the operation could deliver.

She said the couple’s choice to have the surgery was “the best thing we’ve ever done.”

“I hope people find inspiration from our story,” she said, recognizing there is “nothing easy” about losing weight but pulling it off is “an affirmative step toward a healthier you.”

The governor said that dealing with obesity ought to be a key national policy.
“America needs to get fit because without being fit, we can’t be great,” LePage said.

Pleading for more attention to the issue, he said, “I am absolutely convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that obesity is the No. 1 killer in America.”

It’s also a serious problem in Maine, LePage said, where the obesity rate has nearly tripled since 1990. “Maine is the biggest and most obese state in New England,” the governor said.

LePage said he’s pleased that most private insurers in Maine consider bariatric surgery “safe and effective” and cover the tab for it. He said Medicaid and Medicare are “moving in that direction” as well.

“Every time I meet with the president and the vice president, we talk about how we need to reform America,” he said.

“And I’m considered one of the experts in the whole area of Medicaid, Medicare and health care, as well as reforming welfare. It’s a lifesaving program.

“I’m very, very proud that I can say that in Maine if you’re able to work, we are working with you and getting you back to work and we’re making you exercise. We’re making you work those pounds off.

“And whether or not you go through surgery or not, because there are many different ways, we as Americans have to go back and get America working again.”

LePage said that dealing with obesity is critical for everyone.

“Whether you do it through surgery, hard work and dieting, I don’t care how you do it. Just do it,” he said.

scollins@sunjournal.com

Dr. Jamie Loggins, left, medical director of bariatric surgery at Central Maine Medical Center, is on stage at a conference last month with two of his former patients: first lady Ann LePage and Gov. Paul LePage. Each underwent weight-loss surgery by Loggins at the Lewiston hospital last year. (Photo: American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery)

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  • Jon Mennealy

    While the governor says he couldn’t lose the weight himself, and had to resort to surgery, he is proud to say “We are working with you…making you exercise. We’re making you work those pounds off.” Very nice.

    • DIS2012

      I don’t think he understands that losing weight through surgery isn’t the same thing as being “fit.”

  • FrankE

    Must be nice. Elective surgery at the hands of one of the best bariatric surgeons in the country, why do I have this terrible knot in my gut? Maybe I should see the good doctor myself. Actually it’s the hypocritical behavior of LePage. Sure why not lavish him and the missus with elective surgery while many thousands of Mainers can’t even afford to see a doctor. Pretty cheap shot if you ask me, then again just about everything LePage pulls is a cheap shot.
    Hey Paul, try thinking of the less fortunate ones who only need a little help staying alive, How do you even look at yourself in the mirror after this little stunt. Oh I almost forgot, you look so healthy now.Do us all a favor and retire, maybe head down south and get a tan. Why not, we, the taxpayers are paying for it all…..

    • bstone04210

      Steve Collins writes a nice story and you counter with miserable rubbish. Thank you, Steve Collins, for an interesting piece.

      • FrankE

        I suppose you think flaunting his ability to partake in such glamorous elective surgery, while at the same time refusing to allow many, many Maine residents the ability to visit a doctor for life saving measures, is par for the course. It’s not, it’s disgusting, and LePage is disgusting. Until you’ve been on the losing end of Lepages delusional governing tactics, keep your derogatory comments to yourself.
        There’s a huge need for affordable health care for everyone in this state not just the select few who happen to have their health coverage paid for by the very residents he’s denying. I’m sorry if I ruined your idyllic picture of life in Maine, but just pay attention to the destruction Lepage is causing…………..

        • bstone04210

          Excuse me, but who are you to think that you are the only subscriber who can opine on a news story published by the Sun-Journal? Talk about an inflated sense of self-importance. Not all citizens share your opinion and I, for one, found the story informative. Just remember that every bit of the legislative sausage that comes out of Augusta is a creation of over 100 legislators plus a Governor. I guess if you are blinded with personal hate, it’s difficult to process facts.

          • FrankE

            It’s not personal hate pushing for a Governor to do something for the people for once. He has neglected a large segment of the population. Your living in a fantasy land if you think anything LePage does is the result of any kind of collaboration with over 100 Legislators. He’s a one man wrecking ball. I spend every day processing facts, my life depends on what little I have. When LePage starts taking from the poor to fund his pet projects, I take exception to that. He needs to concentrate on those who need help, who need affordable health care. The people have voted to expand Medicaid, he can mysteriously come up with funding for anything he wants, how about funding for Medicaid expansion? He could do it if he really cared enough.

  • MaineCWP

    Wonderful for the both of you!

  • itsnotaboutme

    I hope going forward he applies the same understanding to drug addicts as he does to food addicts and smokers like himself. Everyone deserves help. Just because drug addicts go back to using after being saved once or twice, or ten times, doesn’t make them less deserving of our compassion and of treatment. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get well. I hope the LePages enjoy their new lease on life and that their compassion and understanding of others in challenging situations grows in their remaining years.