Q&A with Family by the Ton’s Dr. Procter

posted: 02/12/18
by: TLCme

We heard you loud and clear. The Internet's new crush is Dr. Charles Procter, bariatric surgeon on the TLC show Family by the Ton. He's caring, he dishes out tough love, and sometimes, as shown in the clip above, he'll come to an appointment at your house if you're not well enough to make it to him. The doctor was kind enough to answer a few of your need-to-know questions before the season finale on Wednesday, February 14th! Take a look below!

What can you tell us about yourself that fans of the show may not know?

Dr. Procter: I was a late bloomer of sorts. In college, I had many aspirations, none of which had anything to do with medicine. I was vice-president of the pre-law society at Miami University of Ohio and help found the school's first mock trial team. Later, I thought I wanted to go into the foreign service and had a fascination with Russia. After living through a single cold winter in Moscow, I realized how much I would miss living in the US. It wasn't until I reenrolled at the University of Georgia in 1995 that I came to the realization that medicine, specifically surgery, was something I deeply wanted to pursue. I vividly remember lying in my apartment in Athens, GA the night before my first day of classes. I had already graduated from college once and had worked for a year. As I counted the years that would be required to complete another college degree, graduate from medical school and complete a surgical residency, I realized that I would be looking for my first job when all of the kids starting the first grade that fall were graduating from high school. I told myself that if I was going to succeed, that that was the last time that thought could ever cross my mind. Giving myself the permission to accept that journey not only brought me to where I am today, but it also led me to my beautiful wife and our three boys.

Your father was also a bariatric surgeon. Was that part of the reason you also wanted to become one? What are the other reasons?

Dr. Procter:
Initially, I did not want to go into medicine. Growing up with my father as a surgeon, I saw the long hours he worked and told myself I would never do that. I was eventually drawn to medicine, and the specialty of surgery. Towards the end of my training, I thought I wanted to become a trauma surgeon. It was my father, who talked to me out of that and actually trained me in bariatric surgery. After marrying my wife, that was the best decision I ever made. Bariatric surgery is a wonderful field because it is technically challenging and gives me the opportunity go on an amazing journey with my patients. To see someone's life make such a radical change in a positive direction over and over again is the best job in the world!

Chitoka was your first house call ever. What made her case so special for you that you were willing to travel to see her?

Dr. Procter:
Chitoka's story was compelling because of her circumstance. No one ever makes the decision to become morbidly obese or home bound. But here she was. She and Drew often will say that they feel they are prisoners in their own bodies. Despite her physical limitations, Chitoka cooked for herself and her mother who lived with her while in Hospice. She is young and vibrant and wants more than anything to rejoin the world outside of her apartment. I knew that if I did not make the trip to meet her for her initial consultation, the likelihood of her ever getting out to meet a bariatric surgeon and get the help she desperately needed was very slim. I truly felt that this was her last hope at regaining her health and her life.

What was the most gratifying part about helping this family get healthy together?

Dr. Procter: While I've been blessed to operate on many families, husbands and wives, children and their siblings, I've never had the opportunity to work with such large family who are all going through this journey together. It gave me an opportunity to see into their lives, hear from each them how the others are doing (and what they were sometimes doing that they shouldn't). Spending so much time with them, I saw their struggles, tragedies, and victories. The best part is that my relationship with them, like all my patients will extend far beyond the TV show. I will get to follow them see how their lives change over the years. I hope to see Beverly live a long life free of diabetes and hopefully spend time with her grandchildren. I hope to see Naomi get married and have the children she wants so badly. I'm so excited to see Drew follow in his brother's footsteps and literally become a new person who is more physically capable of taking care of his Mom. Finally, I want to see Chitoka have a life outside of her apartment and rejoin the world.

What is the biggest piece of advice you'd give to anyone considering a weight loss surgery?

Dr. Procter: Realize that bariatric surgery is not a magic potion. Anyone who has ever gone on this journey will tell you that it is NOT the easy way out. I counsel my patients that surgery will allow you to hit the "Reset" button on your weight but it is the complete change in your lifestyle that will be what maintains the weight loss after the effects of surgery have worn off. So deciding to have a weight loss procedure should NEVER be about the decision to have surgery. It should be about the much more daunting decision to make a permanent and lasting change in what you eat, how you eat, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

Everyone's very interested in the liquid diet you require before the surgery. Can you explain this a little more?

Dr. Procter: So the liquid diet is not really a magic formula. Most bariatric surgeons are going to place their patients on a liquid diet for two or more weeks prior to their scheduled surgery. While this will cause some weight loss, the more important thing it does is decrease the size of the liver which stores a LOT of fat. The left lobe of the liver lies directly over the stomach and shrinking it makes it easier to get around at the time of surgery. The diet I ask for mainly consists of 60-90 grams of protein in the form of smoothies or protein shakes/day, non-fat soups, low fat cottage cheese, oatmeal, and, occasionally, a single meal of baked fish, baked chicken and steamed vegetables. For patients with a BMI under 55, two weeks is generally enough to create a big difference in the size of the liver. For the larger patients like Drew and Chitoka, I'll often extend it to 6 to 8 weeks. The important thing is to make sure that they are still getting well-balanced nutrition during that time so I'll generally go ahead and start them on their bariatric vitamins as well. A liquid diet is really a "crash diet" and it is only intended to allow for some quick weight loss just before surgery. It should not be used as a long-term weight maintenance plan.

What exercise recommendations surprise your patients ?

Dr. Procter: Many of my patients are surprised to learn that I encourage resistance (weight) training over cardiovascular exercise. When you add lean muscle, you are adding tissue that must burn calories to survive. Added muscle, therefore, increases the number of calories your body burns throughout the day. It's kind of like putting money in the bank that earns interest.

You have many fans online! How has your life changed since the show premiered?

Dr. Procter:
My life hasn't really changed. I still go to work everyday and I am extremely lucky to work with the team you see on TV! My wife and I DVR the show (I'm usually tired after operating on Wednesdays and have to get up early to operate on Thursday as well). Even though we've recorded all the episodes, I don't think my kids have even watched the show yet. I'm grateful to TLC for raising awareness for bariatric surgery. Too many people don't realize just how unhealthy they are and that help can be just around the corner.

Watch Dr. Procter guide Chitoka, Drew, and Naomi through their weight loss transformations with full episodes of Family by the Ton on TLC GO!