Better diet and getting exercise are the top resolutions for 2018.

But for those with a lot of weight to lose, and health problems that come with it, medical intervention is changing their lives and futures.

One by one, they got up in front of an understanding audience with emotional testimonies on Wednesday. They spoke of their highest weight, the embarrassment, the severe physical limitations, their battle with medical insurance companies and their fear of dying young. There were tears and there were cheers.

"I've lost 205 pounds. Since then, my life has completely changed. Now I'm in a happy relationship. We bought a house together. I've got, I've certified scuba diver," said Michelle Laegel, 41, who had the gastric sleeve surgery two and a half years ago.

A few dozen people, from teens to seniors who know the pain of being obese, celebrated their success at a reunion with their bariatric surgeons at West Jefferson Medical Center. They credit surgery with saving their lives and getting them off of the diet roller coaster.

"I wanted to live longer, you know. I didn't want to be on medicine for the rest of my life, you know. I have two kids, I want to grow, I want to see grow up," said Sgt. Darryl Person, 43, with the Orleans Constable's Office.

He just had his surgery in April and has gone from 405 pounds to 265 and is working to lose 30 more. He shed tears explaining how his father will not know of his success because of limitations from a recent stroke.

A young man in the group lost 205 pounds.

"My junior year in high school, I got so big I was kind of embarrassed to be around people, so I actually got home schooled for a year in high school," remembers 20-year-old Nickolas Wilcox, who had his surgery when he was 16-years-old.

Repeatedly, people at the reunion said they would do it all over again, for health reasons, not cosmetics.

"I was scared that my children were going to have to be worried about me dying," said Holly Guillory, who remembers being scared at a young age, seeing her father in the ICU after a heart attack.

She used to be in a size 30 pants. Her husband, Silas, used to be on two heart medications. They had the surgery a year apart.

Antoinette Perrilliat told the crowd she is down 150 pounds.

"I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be healthy," said Antoinette Perrilliat, 33, who was always emotionally content with her body at her maximum weight.

Yanetsy Capote no longer has severe sleep apnea.

"The sleeve is a tool. It doesn't do it for you. It helps you," Yanetsy Capote, 41, explained. She is also the office manager at the Surgical Clinic of Louisiana.

While the gastric sleeve may be a tool, making the stomach smaller so it can't hold as much food, there is emerging science that could mean it's doing a lot more for this very complicated, genetic, multi organ, metabolic condition. First, by changing the powerful hunger hormones.

"This is the first operation that we've had, ever, that removes the ghrelin production cells, so this is a powerful appetite stimulant. The ghrelin goes to your brain. It tells you when you're hungry and you know how easy it is to diet when you're not hungry," explained Surgeon Dr. David Treen, Jr. of the Surgical Clinic of Louisiana.

And second, by possibly lowering your metabolic set point, making it easier for your body to get to your target weight. Studies show bariatric surgery is better than diet and exercise for keeping weight off long term and treating serious conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Studies also show only five to 10 percent of people on a medically supervised diet and exercise program keep the weight off long term.

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