Mike Cianciullo hated the stares.
Whenever his family went out to eat, strangers’ eyes would follow — gawking at the sizes of father and son, judging the food on their plates. At 5 feet 7 inches, Cianciullo weighed 321 pounds. His son, Matt, was 5 feet 3 inches and weighed 333 pounds.
“It’s like they’d never seen a fat person before,” Cianciullo recalls.
For Mike, the decision to go through with weight loss surgery was about stopping those stares, getting in shape and, most importantly, saving his son’s life.
When his dad first approached him about going to a weight loss clinic, 17-year-old Matt Cianciullo was hesitant. Unlike many children who are bullied because of their weight, Matt had a lot of friends and didn’t really see his size as an issue.
Matt was more concerned about his dad’s health. Mike was on medication for acid reflux disease, hypertension and high cholesterol.
“To think that, that young, I might lose him before I was 20 — it’s not something you want,” Matt says. “And I always thought if I kept going down the same path, I would be like him or worse.”
Still, Matt was nervous. Surgery seemed dangerous. Maybe, he thought, I’ll just try dieting again.
Fear stops many people from getting weight loss procedures done, says Dr. Carson Liu, the Cianciullo’s doctor and a bariatric surgeon in Los Angeles. But often the biggest obstacle is denial — they don’t want to admit they can’t do it on their own.
“The hardest thing for patients to do is pick up the phone and go see a doctor,” Liu says. “They see it as a kind of defeat.”