• Retired Nurse Goes “All In” for Weight Loss, Sheds Pounds, Gains Energy and Passion

SunnyJohnson805It's tempting to describe Sonya "Sunny" Johnson, a retired Mayo Clinic nurse, as a poster child for successful weight loss surgery. Cliché or not, she readily accepts the moniker as a point of pride.

In fact, these days, when Sunny passes a mirror, she asks herself, "Who is that?"

Her ambitious journey to weight loss began in December 2010. This time, she vowed, she was ready. Like many dieters, Sunny had endured her share of stops and starts with popular weight loss plans. "My weight went up and down, and again up and down," she says. "But when I retired, my excuses were used up. I thought, okay, this is my turn to take care of me." At that point, she says, the scale read 254 pounds.

Sunny was approved for gastric bypass surgery at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, but she didn't sign on just for the surgery. She was all-in, attending nutrition classes and support groups leading up to the surgery, and preparing, both physically and mentally, for the challenge.

"There were eight classes we went through, learning about reading labels, understanding what we are eating, and about how the body metabolizes sugar. Mayo has an amazing program," she says, adding, "The support groups are essential, and a major reason for my success."

The surgery took place on Jan. 30, 2013, and Sunny's resolve to recuperate began as soon as she opened her eyes. She began keeping copious notes, charting her progress, and mapping out her meal plans. Every morsel of food is accounted for in her daily logs. She never misses a day.  That's true even when she dines out with friends who are enjoying the foods at one time she would have readily ordered. "I just can't eat what they eat," she says. "I am happy to have soup or yogurt."

Sunny's resolve to succeed was part sheer grit and part a focus on the prize -- weight loss and a significantly changed lifestyle. The rest was heart and soul.

Sunny Johnson with her husband, Jeff, before and after surgery.
Sunny Johnson with her husband, Jeff, before and after her weight-loss surgery and lifestyle changes.

A pivotal moment in Sunny's decision to deal with her weight came soon after her beloved mother-in-law passed away. Sunny says she had a sense her mother-in-law was sending her a message that it was "time to take control and have the surgery." And she was ready.

"I am so happy with my weight loss and how good I feel in general," Sunny says. "I wish I had done it 40 years ago."

A key element in the success of her journey is the support of her husband, Jeff Johnson. He radiates with pride when he talks about what Sunny has accomplished. "For me, what Sunny did, it's just been wonderful," he says. "We can do more things together. She has lots more energy. Her grandkids love her because she can do things with them. So for from a husband's standpoint, this was a wonderful decision for her."

Today, at 132 pounds and sporting size six jeans, Sunny proudly wears the fashions she always coveted. She has new-found energy and a passion for travel.

Sunny believes she has a calling now to help educate others about how, with the right program and support, it can be done. Importantly, she never judges others with weight issues, but instead tells her story and reaches out to partner with them on their journey.

What's next for her? "All I can do is go forward and be as happy and healthy as I can be for the future," she says.



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