Maybe you've seen Kent Osborne around town lately. Perhaps you didn't know it was him.
The recently-elected Vermillion City Council president has gone through some changes in the past 10 months – about 185 pounds of changes.
"When I campaigned this spring … there were people who didn't recognize me. I'd been in their ward. I'd been in their door before. I'd talked to them before. I'd know them, but they didn't recognize me – until they heard my voice," he said.
At his peak, Osborne weighed 476 pounds.
"I realized that it wasn't too long and I was going to be 500 (pounds)," he said. "It was just sort of a train that I couldn't stop. In a way, I had to admit defeat and do something … which is make serious changes to my body."
But it took Osborne years to get to the point he was psychologically ready and it was medically necessary to make a change. Because of his weight, Osborne was battling high blood pressure, cholesterol and pre-diabetes.
"I had to come to terms with a lot of things," he said. "In a way, I had been fighting weight all my life, from an early age to basically out of high school to college on. I had some successes, but always with that came a failure. I think I can count three times in my life that I've lost 100 pounds or more. And, every time I lost 100 pounds … I just gained it back and more."
In 1995, Osborne was in the hospital for some issues unrelated to his weight. His doctor took note of his size and recommended he look into gastric bypass surgery. Osborne found the comments "out of left field" and "radical." For the next nearly 15 years, he rarely brought up the idea of weight loss surgery to friends and family.
But the topic came up again when one of his coworkers at the Al Neuharth Media Center had a weight loss surgery.
"She was very successful and continues to be very successful in keeping the weight off," he said. "That's when I really got serious and said, 'You know, if this person can do it, so can I.'
"It was a big inspiration to me that it could be done; it could be successful," he added.
To make the first steps, Osborne and his wife, Cindy, attended educational seminars on weight loss surgeries. After some complications finding a surgeon, he met with Dr. Dennis Glatt at Sanford Clinic Surgical Associates in Sioux Falls in early September 2009.
Osborne underwent RNY gastric bypass surgery a few weeks later on September 21. The surgery took the very top of his stomach and made a pouch, which became his new stomach. While his whole stomach still remains in his body, food goes only to the pouch, not to his entire stomach. His intestines are connected to his new, smaller stomach.
The days and weeks after surgery were quite a challenge, Cindy said.
"That made a big adjustment in our planned meals," she said. "You know, making sure there was food in the house he could eat, that type of thing. So, it's really change the whole way I cook and look at things when I'm grocery shopping."
Because the surgery was only one step in Osborne's weight loss journey, he had to change his entire attitude about eating, which meant he had to reduce his portions dramatically.
"I'll eventually stretch out to where my little stomach will hold about a cup to a cup and a half of food, versus the 17 cups I could hold before that," he said. " … You really have to get your head around the fact that you're not going to go have that big prime rib dinner anymore, or that all-you-can-eat buffet that everybody likes to go to. You just can't eat that quantity. If they're passing around a big piece of birthday cake, you're just not going to have that. And you're not going to have that for the rest of your life."
While Osborne's experience has been successful and effective, he doesn't advocate it for everyone.
"Some people let their weight get a little bit out of control and they see this as a magic bullet. 'Oh, I'll just go have surgery and everything will be taken care of.' That is not the case," he said. "I would recommend this to somebody to feels like they've tried everything, nothing works and they really, because of other co-morbid conditions, need to do something radical, not just a quick fix."
Some people, Osborne said, are very private about their weight loss surgery. Following his surgery, however, Osborne sought support through online forums, like obesityhelps.com, and hospital-sponsored groups. He even tracks his weight loss through pictures posted on his Facebook page.
Being open about it makes it easier to keep going everyday, he said.
The hardest part of the entire process, however, was when Osborne had to give up his favorite pants – the second time. There was a point he got too big for the pants, but then a point when the pants got too big for him.
"It just killed me that they wouldn't fit me anymore," he said. "I just put them in the pile for the rummage sale. They're gone now."
But Osborne faces challenges everyday. Currently, his biggest obstacle is finding clothes small enough to fit him. Down eight pant sizes from a men's 58 to a 42, Osborne's quick fix includes shopping at area second-hand stores. Until he is at a stable weight, Osborne said, he will not go out and buy a new wardrobe.
"My wife keeps telling me that there's going to be a day that she can go out and buy me a whole new wardrobe. That I don't have to shop at Goodwill anymore. I don't have to go to the Salvation Army anymore," he said with a laugh.
These days, Osborne's size appears to be ever changing.
"I'm getting down to the sizes that are more common," he said. "I can go out and buy stuff off the rack now, which I could never do before … I guess you don't realize how huge that is, to be able to go to sales and actually find something in your size and buy it."
"If it's been a month or two since they've seen him and he's dropped 30 pounds, people don't know who I'm with," Cindy said. "It's kind of like being with a totally new person."
Today, Osborne is enjoying his weight loss of 185 pounds, putting him at 291 pounds. He hopes to still lose another 65 pounds, making his total weight lost 250 pounds. This September, Osborne celebrates the one-year anniversary of his surgery, or as he likes to call it, his "surg-iversary."
Cindy said she enjoys being more active as a couple and a family since her husband's weight loss surgery.
"We're doing some things we hadn't been doing for a while," she said. "It used to be that he'd come home from work and he'd be tired. Now we go out for walks and he plays catch with our son."
They have also spent more time together on their motorcycle.
"It's been a long trip, getting there," Osborne said. " … but I feel like I'm kind of into a common man's size again, and that feels really good."