Teacher sets goal to be half the man he used to be

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Jeff Winkler’s goal is 162.5 pounds.

“That way, I’m half the man I used to be,” Winkler said.

Winkler is a second-year teacher at Denton High School, who, after his daughter was born, made the life-changing decision to fix his weight problem.

“I started having some health issues,” Winkler said. “I wound up walking down a hallway at Lewisville High School, and all of a sudden, I collapsed. I had what was called a TIA, it’s kind of a mini-stroke.”

A decision like that doesn’t come without a little inspiration.

“Two years ago, the journalism teacher at Lewisville, Corey Hale, and I both decided that we were going to get the surgery together,” Winkler said. “But real life got in the way, and I couldn’t do mine that summer.”

Hale went ahead and had bariatric surgery. There were severe complications, and he was placed under a medically induced coma for three weeks.

“He came out of this with a mass amount of medical bills,” Winkler said. “I went and saw him in the hospital, and weeks after the surgery he still couldn’t get out of bed.”

Six months later, Hale had lost 200 pounds. He says if he had to do it all again, he would.

“When he told me that I thought, ‘If you can go through a medically induced coma and come out of this dealing with the mass amount of medical bills afterward and you would still have the surgery, there’s something to this,’” Winkler said. “And that’s when I decided to do it.”

A year ago March 21, Winkler went to go see his doctor to be evaluated. He needed to have two medical conditions to qualify for the surgery and he did — high blood pressure and sleep apnea, the doctor said.

The next step was to see a psychologist to make sure he didn’t have an eating disorder of some sort. Then, finally, he was qualified for the surgery.

“There are actually a very limited amount of hospitals that will do the surgery and cover my insurance,” Winkler said. “So I wound up having to go down to Oak Cliff.”

On June 7, the last day of school, he got the surgery.

“I wound up with some complications as well,” Winkler said. “And ended up back in the hospital for another week.”

He suffered from massive dehydration, so much so that they couldn’t draw blood from his veins.

“I won’t go into graphic details,” Winkler said. “But it wasn’t pretty.”

The surgery is designed to cut your stomach into the shape of a banana and takes out the part of your stomach that produces the enzyme that makes you hungry.

“My stomach is the size of three-quarters of a banana and holds 4 ounces at a time,” Winkler said. “I don’t get hungry that often; when I actually feel hungry, I am really hungry. Most the time I actually have to remind myself to eat.”

After the first year, your body adjusts and you don’t get the weight loss you want, he said.

“At this moment I’m in what they call the honeymoon period,” Winkler said. “That’s the first year after your surgery because that’s the best time to lose weight.”

He consumes about 600-800 calories a day; most people eat more than 3,000 calories per day.

“My main nutritional goal is to get an abundance of protein,” Winkler said. “Everything I eat has to revolve around protein. I have to consume 60-80 grams of protein per day.”

Once he hits his goal weight, he can eat anything he wants, just not as much.

“I just feel really weird,” Winkler said. “The last time I weighed this amount was 1992. I breathe better. I don’t snore, and I’m off my blood pressure medication. I feel healthier, and my endurance is way up.”

Every morning he goes to LA Fitness and swims as his daily workout.

“I have this thing I do every day before I leave,” Winkler said. “I dive forward holding my breath and see how far down the pool I can go without having to come up for breath.”

When he first started doing this he could only get about one-fourth of the way across. Now he can get about three-fourths of the way. His goal is to eventually get all the way to the end.

“I have no clothing to wear; I’ve gone from a size 52 waist to a 34,” Winkler said. “I made the mistake of buying pants thinking I wouldn’t get any smaller, and then I did.”

Just like anything though, the surgery has side effects.

“My taste changed,” Winkler said. “I hate water; there are only certain brands of water that actually taste good to me. The rest of it just tastes bleh.”

The surgery should be a last resort, when all else fails, he said.

“Everyone hits that magical point where you realize that there’s no way you’re going to lose the weight you have,” Winkler said. “I was eating less and still gaining weight.”

With all the flaws of the surgery, he would still get it again.

“If I had the chance to go back and decide to do the surgery again, I would do it,” Winker said.

Shelby DuPont is a sophomore at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” program for student journalists.

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