News From Fort Sanders Regional Medical

It takes extra effort to go to the movies when you’re a 336-pound woman. Just ask Kerrie Merz.  Merz dealt with knee pain every step of the way from her car to the door of the theater. Then there was the challenge of fitting into a seat.

Kerrie believes in bariatric surgery so much that she now volunteers at Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery.

“I would squeeze myself into that chair – literally get into it and have my body overflowing out of it,” Merz says. “I was always very embarrassed and nervous because if it wasn’t a family member or friend sitting next to me, somebody else would have to be touching my rolls.”

Merz had to take a lot of things like that into consideration before her weight loss procedure at Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery in Knoxville. She even sized up doorways before she walked through them. Overweight since third grade, she had become accustomed to not fitting in.

“By the time I was in middle school I was shopping in the women’s section,” Merz recalls. High school fashion trends were off limits because they weren’t made in her size.

Trying to fit in

It wasn’t that Merz didn’t want to lose weight. She certainly tried. “I did medically supervised diets, multiple medications, the liquid diet; I’ve seen countless nutritionists and dietitians from the time I was in third grade,” Merz says. “I’ve done it all.”

The results were always pretty much the same. Merz would lose some weight for a while, but then no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get her weight to budge a single ounce further.

“It’s very common,” bariatric surgeon Mark Colquitt, MD, of Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons says of Merz’s predicament. “Diets fail about 90 percent of the time.” Dr. Colquitt explains that the hormone ghrelin picks up on weight loss and tries to stop it. He says ghrelin is a built-in survival mechanism against hunger.

Before bariatric surgery, Kerrie tried countless diets and medications to lose weight.

But in today’s affluent society, when a person like Merz is trying to lose weight by eating less, her body thinks she’s starving and hangs on to fat. Merz was stuck trying to fit into a world where she was too big – until she met Dr. Colquitt.

Finding the right fit

Merz shared her medical history with Dr. Colquitt and asked plenty of questions. He believed a loop duodenal switch (Loop DS) at Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery would be a good fit.

In this procedure, the size of the stomach is reduced and part of the small intestine is bypassed. Part of the lower small bowel is looped to the stomach is reduced and part of the small intestine is bypassed. Part of the lower small bowel is looped to the stomach. In December 2016, Merz underwent Loop DS.

Two years later and more than 100 pounds lighter, it is a decision Merz doesn’t regret. It’s not just about the way she looks, either. She’s excited about all the changes, big and small, inside and out.

“I can sit with my legs crossed,” Merz says. “I couldn’t do that before. I can bend over easily. I can go up and down stairs without huffing and puffing.”

Room to spare

Merz says bariatric surgery isn’t an easy way out. She’s had to change her habits, her mindset and the way she approaches eating.

“Just a few months after my surgery I took the kids to the movies,” Merz says. “I sat down and I had room on either side of me. That had never happened before. It actually brought me to tears.”

Today Merz works as a volunteer at Fort Sanders Regional with the Bariatric Center, offering encouragement to new bariatric patients. Through support groups in person and online, she helps men and women know that there is hope for better health. She’s making sure they know that everyone deserves a chance to fit in.

Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery is accredited as a Comprehensive Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement
Program. The procedures offered are safe, effective, and covered by some insurance plans.

If you are struggling to lose weight, bariatric surgery may be an option that can also provide benefits to overall health. For more information or to register for a free bariatric seminar, call Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons at  865-984-3413 or view our seminar on line at