After her son was born in 2015, Hillary Liles realized that her weight was becoming a real issue. While Hillary has never considered herself “a thin person,” the responsibilities of raising a young child paired with managing a busy career as a counselor at a nearby university left no time to focus on her own health and weight management.
“Over the five to six years after my son was born, I reached my highest weight,” explained Hillary. “I was up to 250 pounds and would tire easily. My main motivation for losing weight was my son … I didn’t want to be an inactive, sideline mom anymore.”
Hillary explains her all-too-common weight loss struggles. “Throughout my life, I’ve tried many different diets, weight loss fads and gimmicks,” Hillary reflected. “I would lose some weight, but nothing lasted for very long. Weight loss surgery was always in the back of my mind, but I was scared of the potential risks.”
After a family trip to Disney World in early 2020, Hillary knew it was time to take action. During the trip, she was uncomfortable on the airplane ride, felt too large to enjoy the rides in the park, tired easily, and struggled with knee pain. “I spent much of that vacation holding everyone’s stuff while they got to experience the park. That’s no way to spend a Disney trip with your family, and I knew I wanted to make a change,” Hillary explains.
In July 2020, Hillary found herself joking around with some co-workers about the TikTok social media platform when she stumbled upon an interesting video about the endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) procedure. After doing some further online research, Hillary discovered Dr. Christopher McGowan, founder of True You Weight Loss and world-renowned gastroenterologist.
“I realized that ESG was a solution that fell in between dieting and weight loss surgery—less invasive but serious enough to be a really good tool,” said Hillary.
She contacted True You Weight Loss, scheduled her consultation, and by late August 2020, Hillary arrived at WakeMed Hospital in Cary, North Carolina, feeling nervous, but ready and excited for her ESG procedure. Because Hillary’s parents helped her finance the procedure, she felt a renewed sense of commitment to her weight loss journey.
“My parents were investing in this and investing in me because they believed in the procedure and believed I could be successful,” Hillary reflected. “It gave me even more motivation and accountability to make this work.”
After the procedure, Hillary traveled to her home about an hour away the same day. Aside from some gas pains that her nurse helped her through with simple stretches, Hillary felt ready to start her weight loss journey. She lost an impressive 19 pounds in the first week after her procedure.
“Even though one of the benefits of ESG is that you can still eat the foods you love in moderation, I knew that approach wouldn’t work for me,” explained Hillary. “I wanted to be really strict about the foods I ate, and I even wrote a list of my ‘trigger’ foods to eliminate entirely. It has been more psychological for me since food has always been my coping mechanism for dealing with frustrations or stress.”
The foods on Hillary’s no-no list includes potatoes, chips, French fries, nuts, crackers, popcorn, bread, candy, ice cream, and baked goods. Instead, she now maintains a diet that is full of fruit, dairy, whole foods, and a lot less junk food. She typically enjoys a protein bar for breakfast; a veggie, black bean or turkey burger for lunch and dinner; and, plenty of fruit in between.
By mid-September 2020, Hillary had lost 30 pounds and everything was going great. Because she had lost a lot of weight around her neck area, one day she noticed a lump she’d never felt before. She immediately contacted Dr. McGowan, and an ultrasound and biopsy were arranged. After these came back negative for cancer, Hillary consulted with her doctors who gave her the option to watch the tumor, or to have it removed. Luckily for Hillary, her gut instinct was the right one. After deciding to have her thyroid removed, the second biopsy revealed she indeed had Stage 1 thyroid cancer. Hillary soon had the other side of her thyroid removed and was scheduled for a radioactive iodine treatment to ensure all cancer was removed.
“Following my instinct has brought me to such a good place today,” reflected Hillary. “My gut told me to get the ESG procedure, that the lump in my neck was suspicious, and that I should have my thyroid removed. Without the weight loss from my ESG, which resulted in me losing a couple of my ‘chins,’ I never would have felt that lump and caught my cancer so early. My prognosis is really good, and I am looking forward to continuing to lose more weight.”
As for the team at True You Weight Loss and Dr. McGowan, Hillary says they’re like family. She continues to rely on the team for counsel and advice, and Hillary is comforted by the fact that they respond quickly to questions or concerns around-the-clock.
“I would recommend this procedure and the True You Weight Loss team to absolutely anyone. But, I always tell people that the results don’t come without hard work,” explained Hillary. “It’s really important to be realistic about the personal commitment you have to make. If you get into the right headspace, you really can reach your weight loss goals.”
After her thyroid surgery, Hillary received the “all-clear” to continue with her weight loss efforts once her medications were regulated and her thyroid levels were normal. Her goal was to lose 100 pounds by her one-year ESG procedure anniversary, and she was definitely on the right track. By March 2021, Hillary had already lost 87 pounds and was excited to enjoy working in her yard again without feeling “like she’s been hit by a truck,” as she explains it. She also overcame her prior sleep apnea diagnosis, sleeps better at night, and feels more rested during the day.
While Hillary admits she’s still in denial about her weight loss, she enjoys fitting into smaller clothes, crossing her legs comfortably, and recognizes it will take her some time to acknowledge that her weight loss is “real” this time. “I find that I’m still avoiding looking in the mirror. It’s like I still haven’t realized what a big deal this is, yet.”
First up on Hillary’s post-weight loss, post COVID-19 bucket list? Another trip to Disney World so she can experience the magic with her son and husband. Aside from that, she is so grateful to Dr. McGowan and True You Weight Loss not only for her weight loss, but also for making her early thyroid cancer diagnosis possible. “I feel like I need to thank Dr. McGowan for literally saving my life. I am so grateful for this experience and look forward to the continued journey ahead of me.”