Losing Weight with the South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center

John Cuttino operates his family’s 700-acre timber farm in Orangeburg County. These days, life on the farm is better than ever. That’s because John has lost nearly 200 pounds after having weight-loss surgery at South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center at Lexington Medical Center. At age 25, John says he finally feels healthy.

John’s weight crept up in his early 20s. 

“I had a career where I spent the majority of my time either behind a desk or behind the wheel of a car. It was a sedentary and fast-food driven lifestyle,” he said. “Ultimately, I weighed 400 pounds in the blink of an eye.”

John’s weight impacted his life greatly.

“In my early 20s, my friends went to Carowinds, but I couldn’t go because I was way over the weight limit for the rides. I also couldn’t waterski because the boat wasn’t strong enough to pull me. Emotionally, it added up,” John said.

The turning point was when John went to the doctor for a checkup.

“They told me I was prediabetic. I said, ‘We’re not going down this road. I will find a way to lose this weight and keep it off.’”

After a lot of research, John visited South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center in West Columbia. He met the team there, which included a dietitian, psychologist, and physicians. 

“They were extremely interested in everything about me, what got me to this point, and what I could feasibly change in my life,” he said. “They were a team dedicated to helping me figure out every part of the new lifestyle I needed to create and make it a reality.”

The clinicians gave John a full nutrition plan, then discussed surgery as an additional option.

“I was trying to get the weight off on my own. I lost 60 pounds, but the rest wasn’t going anywhere. And I was still prediabetic. That’s when I decided to go with surgery.”

John underwent a sleeve gastrectomy at Lexington Medical Center in May 2020. During that procedure, surgeons reduce the stomach to about 15 percent of its original size.

After surgery, John continued to meet with the team at the South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center. They redefined his perspective on food, taught him to eat a high-protein diet, and become more active by walking a few miles a day.

“With farming, I have to make sure that every time I eat, it’s centered around protein. I also drink a gallon of water a day.”

John sets a timer on his phone to remind him when he needs to drink more water.

“Before the surgery, when I ate way too much fast food, I was still hungry all of the time – and I kept eating. I now know that’s because my body craved nutrients, not food. I did a lot of re-learning about what food actually is.”

Eighteen months after the surgery, John weighed 210 pounds. He lost nearly half of his body weight. And he’s no longer prediabetic.

“When I wake up now, my knees and back don’t hurt. I’m no longer out of breath trying to do what should be simple, routine things,” he said. “And I have overall energy now that I’ve never had before. I feel my age – 25. I used to feel 60.”

Importantly, John points out that bariatric surgery is just a tool to change your life. The rest of the work is up to him. He needs to maintain a healthy diet to not regain the weight back.

“If you’ve ever felt your weight was an obstacle to your happiness and quality of life, and if you want to make a change, go talk to them. It’s been an easy and painless journey. And I’m thankful for that.”

John’s Daily Menu
~1 cup of decaffeinated coffee. (Why decaf? Caffeine dehydrates the body and makes it more difficult to maintain water intake.)
~1 sunny-side-up egg
~2 slices of bacon

~Tuna fish with lettuce, cranberries, cracked black pepper and olive oil on flatbread

~Fruit and nut bar
~Trail mix
~Beef jerky

~1/2 large chicken breast
~Steamed broccoli or Brussels sprouts

For more information about South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center, visit You can learn more about weight-loss procedures and watch an online webinar.

The Skinny on Healthy Living in the New Year

You might be heading into 2022 trying to lose the pounds we’ve gained over the last two years. Kay MacKinnis, RDN, LD, dietician and diabetes care and education specialist at Lexington Medical Center, offers five tips for success.

  1. Set realistic goals. We often set the bar high for weight loss. Instead, make your goals “SMART:” Specific, Measurable, Achievable or Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Once you reach a goal, set a new one. 

  2. Practice moderation. Don’t change everything at once. Focus on healthy food choices such as more colorful options, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, dried beans and legumes, and lean protein. Eat less processed food. Keep foods as close to the real thing as possible. Begin a plant-based diet.

  3. Add water. Drink water between meals and avoid sugared or artificially sweetened beverages.

  4. Use your plate as a map. Fill half of the plate with colorful vegetables, a quarter of the plate with lean protein, and a quarter of the plate with healthy carbohydrates.

  5. Build exercise into each day. The more routine it becomes, the easier it will be.

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