Alixandra Moyer stands in a dressing room door, smiling, with her head tilted to the right. She is wearing a short-sleeved dress with a belt and a necklace. Her hair is long and curly.

From childhood taunts – when she weighed 99 pounds at age 7 – to grown-up judgmental stares, Alixandra Moyer has packed more humiliation into 31 years than many people feel in a lifetime.

“I love to shop, but when I walked into a store, I could tell by the way the clerk looked at me that she thought the only thing I could buy was jewelry,” said Moyer, a successful marketing and communications specialist from Middletown.

She carried her weight with self-confidence and says she didn’t feel as heavy as the scale read at 354 pounds – except when she realized she didn’t fit in a roller coaster seat anymore or she had to ask for a seatbelt extender on an airplane.

“Even walking up a flight of stairs or bending over to tie my shoe was a challenge,” said Moyer, who was borderline prediabetic and had high blood pressure. “When I couldn’t keep up with my friends on a simple nature walk, I realized I had to do something more than yo-yo dieting.” 

Making the healthy choice

With her decision made, Moyer didn’t look anywhere other than the Surgical Weight Loss Program at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center because it came highly recommended by her brother and sister-in-law, who both had weight-loss surgery with Dr. Ann Rogers.

In 2018, Moyer had gastric sleeve surgery at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to remove a large part of her stomach and shape the rest into a much smaller, tube-shaped stomach.

“I dropped 111 pounds, 10 pant sizes and 12 dress sizes in the first year,” she said. “My blood pressure medications – gone. I have much more energy, and I can walk long distances without taking a break.”

She can shop happily in any store now – a fact that she quips is dangerous for her wallet.

“I have much more energy and can walk long distances without taking a break.” 

Alixandra Moyer, Middletown, lost 111 pounds after weight loss surgery at Penn State Health

Alixandra Moyer stands on an escalator at a shopping mall holding two shopping bags out to the side. She is smiling and wearing a short-sleeved dress with a belt and a necklace. Her hair is long and curly.

Staying committed to change

Weight-loss surgery, however, was the easy part of the solution, Moyer discovered. Maintaining and managing her healthier lifestyle is the true challenge.

“The surgery isn’t a magic wand you wave – it takes a long-term plan and a commitment,” said Moyer, who dropped to 249 pounds but has gained 30 pounds back.

She’s realistic about the challenge but adamant about the difference it makes to get support from Surgical Weight Loss Program staff.

“You can tap into their resources anytime you need them – the support groups and weight check-ins, meeting with the dietician and nutritionist or working with the exercise physiologist,” she said. 

Her family cheers her on too, she said. In foster care from infancy and adopted at age 6, Moyer credits her adoptive parents with sowing self-respect and love into her life. 

“It comes down to what you value,” Moyer said. “I really want to live a long, healthy life.”