Redefining herself – and her lifestyle

For years, no decades, Michelle Milliner walked through department stores and dress shops admiring the designer labels and their elegant styling. She looked but never for very long. She knew her size 30 body was not going to fit into any of those clothes.

“I have been overweight for the majority of my life,” says Michelle, who lives in Central Florida with her husband and children. “I was not only overweight, but I was very depressed. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to spend time even with my closest friends. I didn’t care about how I looked when I got up to get dressed for work.”

But mostly she didn’t feel very well. By her early 40s, Michelle had developed pre-diabetes and sleep apnea, and her joints ached from carrying 315 pounds.

“I’ve had family members who, because they were overweight or obese, had a variety of health-related issues,” says Michelle. “I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to make a change.”

Her growing list of health problems, coupled with her high body mass index (BMI) made her an ideal candidate for bariatric surgery.

“Typically the best patients for these procedures have a BMI of more than 35 and other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or sleep apnea,” says Muhammad Jawad, MD, a surgeon at Orlando Health Bariatric and Laparoscopy Center. “They also need to have been overweight for more than five years and have tried dieting with no long-lasting results.”

Since having bariatric surgery on April 1, 2015, Michelle has lost more than half of her original weight and is down to 148 pounds and a size 10 dress.

“My entire attitude has changed,” says Michelle. “I have so much more energy and more self-confidence. I’m not afraid to get out there and be with friends, or try things that I never thought I would try again or do again — like zip lining and horseback riding.”

Bariatric surgery is a tool to help patients change their lifestyle, says Andre Teixeira, MD, another surgeon at the Bariatric and Laparoscopy Center. “I tell prospective patients that if the only muscle they want to move after the surgery is their thumb on the remote control, then this isn’t going to work for them.”

Michelle has learned to balance her lifestyle choices through programs such as nutrition and diet counseling, and psychiatric support at the Bariatric and Laparoscopy Center.

“Making better meal choices is easier, quantity control is a lot easier, exercise comes a lot easier,” says Michelle. “As the weight comes off, I can do more and more, and I have a competitive nature so that drives me forward to a new goal.

“People have been very supportive of my surgery,” she adds. “One of the most exciting things that has happened was at an annual conference I attend. Some of those people I only see once a year, so they hadn’t seen me since my surgery.

“I walked up to a friend I’ve known for many years and said ‘hi’ and he said ‘hi,’ then walked away. Five minutes later he came running back and said, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize that was you. You look absolutely amazing.’

“You have no idea how good that feels. And I get that quite often.”

To learn more about Orlando Health Bariatric and Laparoscopy Center, its services and designation as a Center for Excellence from the American Society of Bariatric Surgery, go to