Bariatric Surgery Patient Stories


UAB Instructor Fights Food Addiction to Lose 125 Pounds


A medical scare and the desire to turn her life around helped Veronique Zimmerman-Brown, PhD, an instructor in the UAB School of Education, make the decision to seek help and lose nearly 130 pounds. She shared her story at the 2012 Fresh Beginnings Fashion Show in November, presented by the Fresh Beginnings Support Group .

The Beginning of the Battle
“I was overweight most of my life since childhood,” says Veronique. “Eating was how I dealt with my depression and feelings of rejection.” In grade school, Veronique went above and beyond, participating in clubs and societies, always working hard to make good grades. “There was a pressure to look a certain way in school, and I compensated for my looks by being president of this and that and working hard.”

In college, her addiction to food continued. “My mom had a stroke while I was in high school, so I didn’t feel comfortable going to a school far away, and the money we would have used for tuition went to medical bills,” she says. Feeling unfulfilled in her school choice and working long hours to cover her tuition left Veronique tired and unhappy. She continued to turn to food to lift her mood.

“At that time, clothes were like protective armor to me. I was always a snazzy dresser and got my hair done and thought, ‘If I invest in keeping my hair and my clothes together, people won’t pay attention to the fact that I’m huge,’” she says. Her romantic relationships also suffered. “It was always me feeling like I wasn’t good enough and like the guys I dated didn’t want to show me off. It may not have been that way in their minds, but that’s how it felt to me.”

When she met her husband Reginald Brown, she’d found someone who loved her no matter what. “He loved me for me, through it all, and has always been a strong support,” Veronique says.

Warning Signs on the Wall
By age 34, Veronique was on four blood pressure medications and had to use a sleep apnea machine at night. During a routine eye exam, her doctor told her that the blood vessels behind her eyes demonstrated early signs of stroke. “Knowing that my dad had died from blood pressure-related illness, and because of my mom’s stroke, the warning signs were written all over the wall for me.”

After several months of deliberation and research, Veronique made the decision to get help from the UAB Bariatric Surgery Program. On April 20, 2010, she underwent gastric bypass surgery under the care of Jayleen Grams, MD, PhD. She was back at work a week after her surgery and began walking for fitness immediately. She also began going to the gym, and the weight started coming off. Now, two years later, Veronique is living proof that change—for her a 125-pound weight loss—is possible with hard work and determination.