During the summer of 2016, Robert Toledo was on a trip to Washington, D.C. As he toured the city’s historical sites, he realized that he was having a particularly hard time walking. He grew fatigued quickly; even tying his shoes was challenging.

“It was my second year of college and I gained a lot weight from the stress of school,” Toledo said. “I had to Uber everywhere in D.C. because I would quickly feel lethargic.”

Toledo had been overweight his entire life, but by that summer, his six-foot-tall frame had reached 297 pounds. Making matters worse, at just 20 years old, he was pre-diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure.

“I was supposed to be living my best years and I knew I was not looking my best,” he said. “I knew I could do better.”

The Hialeah resident was becoming impatient as he had to prioritize work, school, and sleep over the gym. He was starting to lose hope.

Toledo allowed himself to regain faith in having a chance to reset his life when his neighbor’s granddaughter told him about her experience with bariatric surgeon Moises Jacobs, MD, from Jackson South Medical Center. Toledo met with Dr. Jacobs shortly after returning from his vacation in Washington.

During his appointment, he learned that he was a great candidate for gastric sleeve surgery.

“I was immediately convinced that Dr. Jacobs was the right person to do the surgery,” Toledo said. “I appreciated his humility, and he conveyed a confidence that made me comfortable to have this second chance.”

As he prepared for his weight-loss surgery, his determination led him to slowly change his lifestyle. He stopped eating out, prepared his own meals, and became more physically active. Toledo came to understand that surgery would help with his weight loss, but the lifestyle change was entirely up to him.

“There’s a stigma that might make people my age embarrassed, but it’s more embarrassing to display yourself as overweight,” he said. “When you are at a point of no return, it’s very beneficial – it changed my life 100 percent for the positive.”

In December of 2016, Toledo underwent successful bariatric surgery. The very same day, he was walking around the hospital surrounded by his supportive family.

“I had a positive experience with the staff at Jackson South,” Toledo said. “The hospital amenities made me feel like I was in a hotel with top-quality care.”

Now, a little more than a year after his surgery, Toledo, has more confidence and energy. He works out in the gym three to four times a week, and has been able to enjoy outdoor activities, such as biking and hiking, which he couldn’t participate in before due to his weight.

“I started seeing the benefits of weight loss, which fueled my self-esteem and overall lifestyle,” Toledo said. “Small, everyday tasks like tying my shoes became easier.”

More than one-third of American adults are obese, as determined by an individual’s body mass index (BMI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bariatric surgery helps people change their physical appearance by shedding pounds, but it also has shown to help them mentally.

“The younger they are, the easier it is that it changes their life psychologically – it’s incredible,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Robert was shy, and now he comes here more confident.”

Toledo graduated from Florida International University with an undergraduate degree in chemistry and is currently applying to medical schools. In the meantime, he’s shadowing the doctor he now idolizes: Dr. Jacobs.

“I shadow Dr. Jacobs now to learn more about bariatric surgeries,” Toledo said. “He is in the business of changing lives; I hope to be half as successful as him.”

To date, Toledo has lost about 120 pounds. He’s been able to maintain a weight of 180 pounds – a first for him as he has never been able to keep a weight loss resolution.

For his part, Dr. Jacobs enjoys seeing patients like Toledo living their best lives after having weight-loss surgery.

“This is the most gratifying surgery that exists in the world,” Dr. Jacobs said. “It brings people happiness and health.”