LAS VEGAS -- Obesity is on the rise in America and many people are desperate to lose weight. One solution is surgery, and there's a new type available in Las Vegas.
The "sleeve" adds to a range of weight loss surgeries that are becoming very popular. 8 News NOW met a local surgeon and his patient, who says the operations changed not only her body, but her life.
Miriam Gonzalez isn't just embracing life, she's giving it a big bear hug! Since having the gastric sleeve operation in March, she has lost 50 pounds.
"It's changed my whole personality. It's changed my outlook on life," said Gonzalez.
The sleeve procedure is done laparoscopically, through tiny video cameras and tools. The method makes it less risky for the severely obese. The surgeon creates a tube, or "sleeve", basically reducing the stomach to the size of a banana. Dr. James Atkinson explains, that severe obesity is not a lack of willpower.
"There's a malfunction, if you will, of the signal that goes from the stomach to the brain that says they're full. All three operations reduce the size of the stomach so a smaller portion size sends a signal to the brain they feel full sooner," said Dr. Atkinson.
Gonzalez cannot eat more than four ounces at a time. It hasn't been a problem, except one especially bad day at work.
"I went home and tried to make a big huge hamburger and I realized I wouldn't be able to eat it. I was a little upset but then I got happy, because it's not a psychological need anymore," Gonzalez said.
She now enjoys exercise and her prescription co-pays have been reduced by $200 a month. She's even spending less on food.
"The money that I'm saving on prescriptions I'm spending on clothes," she said.
Gonzalez was taking several medications for diabetes and asthma before the gastric sleeve operation.