Detra Fullmer lacing sneakers
Detra Fullmer celebrated her 40th birthday by completing a marathon. Fullmer was a patient of UC Davis Medical Center's bariatric surgery program, designated a center of excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Like most surgeries, bariatric (weight loss) surgery has its risks. One is that, if healthy lifestyle changes are not made, patients can regain some or all of that lost weight.

Detra Fullmer is an example of when the surgery — and, more importantly, recovery — goes gloriously well.

Detra — “always a husky girl,” she says — had never been seriously overweight until a car accident and the resulting back pain added 100 pounds within one year.

“Once you put that amount of weight on, it’s difficult to get it off,” she says.

Detra began researching bariatric surgery after seeing a friend’s results. When she moved to Northern California from Washington state, she asked her former doctor, “Who’s the best bariatric doctor in Northern California?”

He steered her toward Mohamed R. Ali, a specialist in bariatric surgery and one of many expert bariatric surgeons at UC Davis Medical Center. The program has been designated a Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Thorough consultations with the UC Davis program coordinator helped ease her mind and make the final decision.

“I weighed all the possible complications and lifestyle changes,” she says, “and I decided it was my best option.”

40 pounds in first month

Detra Fullmer before bariatric surgery
Detra weighed 301.5 pounds at the time of her surgery.

Detra weighed 301.5 pounds at the time of her surgery.

The day after surgery, Detra got up to do slow laps around the nurse’s ward, dragging her IV pole alongside her. The gentle exercise continued once she got home, and increased as she became stronger.

She lost 40 pounds that first month.

“It wasn’t easy — believe me!” she laughs. “One of my most vivid memories was watching live broadcasts of the Asparagus Festival in Stockton [and thinking] ‘That looks SO good!’ It was like torture.”

Over the next 14 months, Detra lost a total of 140 pounds — reaching 100 percent of her weight loss goal.

100 percent of goal

Detra Fullmer after recovery
Detra Fullmer today after recovery. She enjoys regular running and yoga classes.

Today, she maintains a healthy, strong body, even after a pregnancy.

She admits that making good lifestyle choices is a daily struggle — for example, hitting the treadmill if she also hit the In-N-Out Burger — but “everything in moderation” is her philosophy.

“Could my stomach allow me to eat more than three meals a day? Yes,” she says. “Do I? No. That’s how people that have had gastric bypass gain the weight back. I want this to be a success.”

She laughs. “I don’t want to go back to the doctor and admit to my mistakes!”

The doctors and staff at UC Davis helped her avoid many mistakes, Detra adds, through education, encouragement, and recommended therapy, both prior to and after the surgery. Depression is common when a person loses a lot of weight and has to reestablish a relationship with food.

“We can feel like we’ve lost our best friend,” she says. “But therapy helps your head catch up with your body.”

Running and yoga

“When I was overweight, I was exercising because I had to. Now I’m doing it (not just for exercise) but because it clears my brain.” 
— Detra Fullmer

Exercise is where Detra finds her stride. She keeps her weight off thanks to regular running and yoga classes. She confides that she doesn't like running, but does it because she is determined to maintain her weight loss and overall health.

Detra celebrated her 40th birthday weekend last December by completing a marathon in Las Vegas, and she’s looking forward to a few half-marathons. “It gets me out to see places I probably wouldn’t have seen at 300 pounds,” she says. “When I was overweight, I was exercising because I had to. Now I’m doing it (not just for exercise) but because it clears my brain.”

The feeling of being held captive — both physically and mentally — by her weight is gone, and she enjoys life much more. Best of all, her young son has a role model.

Going out with the jogging stroller “was our time together,” she says. “He’s 4 now and still wants goes out with me. We’ll make it a six-mile loop and end with a treat for him and I’ll have coffee. It’s an event!”