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It took hitting rock bottom before Jeff Miller of DeForest, Wisconsin knew he had to change his ways — and his size.
“I looked happy on the outside, but I was miserable on the inside,” Jeff says. “In 2019, I reached my high of 474 pounds. I couldn’t walk a flight of stairs without feeling like I was going to die.”
Initially skeptical because he thought bariatric surgery was “the easy way out,” Jeff found hope after his first meeting with Dr. Michael Garren in August 2019.
“Jeff was struggling with a lot of medical issues aside from his weight,” Garren says. “He was taking medication to control high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. He also was using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, which is not an uncommon condition for our patients.”
A one-time UW Badgers football player (1987-91), Jeff remembers learning unhealthy eating habits as a child.
“You had to clean your plate before you got seconds or thirds. Over the years, I became less active, except when it came to beer and cheese curds.”
Once Jeff enrolled in the Bariatric Surgery program, he was all in. He lost 70 pounds before his surgery in June 2020. It wasn’t easy to begin an exercise regimen during the early days of COVID-19 but bicycling with his college-age daughter helped Jeff get started.
Now 2 ½ years after surgery, Jeff is down to 234 pounds — less than half of his personal high — and he actually looks forward to biking, weightlifting, playing pickleball, high-intensity workouts and, yes, running. He finished the 5K Madison Turkey Trot race on Thanksgiving Day 2022 in about 40 minutes and no longer needs the CPAP machine or medications he used to take for his heart condition.
“The motivation has to come from inside for this to work,” Jeff says. “My wife, Stephanie, whom I have been married to for almost 30 years, has been a saint through all of this. And the UW Health team is fantastic. When I see Dr. Garren again, that man is going to get a hug. He and his team changed my life. They saw me at my lowest point and gave me hope.”