Strength in Numbers

October 24, 2019
Mary and Brien Siemantel at the gym

To truly understand the amazing weight-loss journeys that Mary and Brien Siemantel are on, you must first understand just how much family means to them.

In 2013, Mary Siemantel was a thirty-something mother of three who was more than 100 pounds overweight. While she was taking medicine to control her blood pressure and her cholesterol, Mary was growing increasingly worried about her health. Mainly, she fretted about the impact her poor health could have on her kids. Her own mother had died at a young age and she didn’t want her children to ever feel the pain she felt at that loss. She was ready to do anything to keep that from happening.

“I did all the things people do to lose weight,” she says, “but nothing seemed to stick.” Mary is a clinical quality analyst at Palmdale Regional and she saw the success some of her coworkers had with bariatric surgery. “Nobody really wants to have surgery because they’re overweight,” she says, “but I decided it was a tool I needed and that’s just how I had to look at it.” After months of preparation, Mary had gastric sleeve surgery with John Yadegar, MD, in December 2013.

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There is a common misconception that weight-loss surgery is a quick fix but, in reality, much of the hard work begins after surgery. Mary was adjusting to her new normal but it wasn’t always easy. In fact, watching her struggle helped inspire her husband, Brien, to begin a weight-loss journey of his own.

Brien can pinpoint the exact moment his new path began. The whole family was enjoying a meal out, but Mary’s habits had changed completely. Brien was eating foods that were no longer an option for her when he looked up and saw the pain on his wife’s face. “I realized I was sabotaging her,” he says. “At that moment, I understood that if I didn’t change, too, she was going to be totally alone on this journey,” he says. “I couldn’t let that happen. If I could have scheduled my surgery right then and there I would have.”

In March 2015, at the time of his gastric sleeve surgery with Dr. Yadegar, Brien weighed approximately 280 pounds.

Both Mary and Brien are candid about the challenges they faced after surgery and how their approaches to post-surgical life differ. They each handle meal prep, food tracking and even exercise in different ways. “Mary and I are polar opposites, but we bring out the best in each other,” Brien says. What’s most important is that they are there to support one another. “If Mary is having a rough day, I can reassure her that she’s got this. If she’s having a great day and I’m having a rough day, her success helps power me through.”

Their individual approaches have paid off. Mary now weighs 135 pounds and has become a Certified Personal Trainer. “She’s the most impressive individual I know,” Brien says proudly. “It’s not in her DNA to promote herself, but she’s an inspiration to people.”

As for Brien, he now weighs nearly 100 pounds less than he did when his journey began. “My life is not the same,” he says. “It’s absolutely amazing to feel like this – to feel so energized. It’s a completely different life.”

Both Mary and Brien never lost sight of what motivated them to begin with. “This journey has given me peace of mind,” Mary says. “My family is the reason I do what I do every day,” she adds. “To be around for them and to do everything I can to stay around for them, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Bariatric Surgeon John Yadegar, MD, says it’s not uncommon for couples to pursue weight-loss surgery together. “We help them navigate the practicalities of taking this journey together,” he says. “We want to help tailor the experience so that it fits their specific needs.” He adds that couples often schedule their surgeries several weeks apart. “That gives the first patient time to adapt to life after surgery,” he says. “They can then help their partner catch up very quickly.” As for the Siemantels, Dr. Yadegar couldn’t be more pleased with their success. “They are a terrific couple,” he says. “I really want to say wholeheartedly that they are an excellent example of how successful weight-loss surgery can be. They really are an inspiration. Every time I see them it warms my heart.”