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 Darryl Filban at Belle Isle.

Darryl Filban at Belle Isle.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health

Farmington Hills man sheds over 200 lbs, gains a new lease on life

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published March 3, 2020

 Filban prepares a meal at home.

Filban prepares a meal at home.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health

 Filban, prior to losing more than 200 pounds, married his wife in March 2017.

Filban, prior to losing more than 200 pounds, married his wife in March 2017.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health


FARMINGTON HILLS — Prior to 2018, all 45-year-old Farmington Hills resident Darryl Filban has known throughout his life were the aches and pains of being overweight.

Stress on his bones and joints, high blood pressure and being pre-diabetic were part of his everyday life.

Not being able to walk around town, get up off the floor on his own, find clothes that fit or find a bike that could hold his previously 485-pound body limited his activities.

All of that began to change, however, when Filban decided to regain control of his weight three years ago after being told by his doctor he might not be alive much longer if he didn’t.

Wed in March 2017, Filban didn’t want his marriage to be short lived. He knew he needed to change.

That’s when he began his weight-loss journey with staffers at Beaumont’s Weight Control Center. Filban underwent a gastric sleeve bariatric surgery, which helped him lose a majority of his weight, but the surgery wasn’t the end-all fix to his weight issues.

Filban said he’s had to change his whole lifestyle and mentality to achieve the weight he is now — 211 pounds at press time.

A gastric sleeve is a procedure in which about 85% of a patient’s stomach is removed so that the stomach takes the shape of a tube or a sleeve.

“I thought it was going to be a quick fix. It definitely was not. Even though the weight started falling off instantly … I’m not used to having to change what I eat,” Filban said. “I found it out right after, not being able to even drink a cup of water right away or being able to eat anything solid.”

Dr. Kerstyn Zalesin — the medical director of bariatric medicine at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Weight Control Center, who worked closely with Filban during his journey — said that after the surgery, there is a six-week period when Filban had to re-teach his stomach how to properly process food. He had to graduate from a purely liquid diet to a soft diet before being able to eat normally again.

Through that process, Filban said, his taste buds were “chopped in half,” but with the help of his daughter, he has learned to love foods he never had before. Once a lover of chicken salads, Filban has now found a new affinity for hummus, avocados and other hearty vegetables. He’s replaced the rum cake he used to make for friends and family with sugar-free Jolly Ranchers.

Filban decided to leave his job as a professional chef and step away from the temptations of food to become a limo and truck driver, which he said is much easier on his back and feet.

While Filban never thought a transition of this capacity would be possible, Zalesin said that, as soon as she met him, she was optimistic he would achieve a successful outcome.

“He understood from the get-go that he really needed to make some lifestyle changes. He openly embraced it,” she said. “He was super easy to mentor. Plus, he had a fire in his belly. He was determined to not only get through this, but be successful. … He told me from the get-go he was going to be my poster child, and you know, he was right.”

With his newfound lease on life, Filban shed more than 200 pounds and regained a sense of confidence in himself and an ability to do things he now cherishes.

“My ankles don’t hurt. I don’t have blisters on my feet. I’m not tearing down the shoes that I wear. When I used to go shopping, I shopped for something that would basically wrap around me or drape on me, versus the stuff I wear now,” he said. “I feel sexy. I feel strong. I feel better.”

Filban, who has been known by his peers as “Big,” said that although that nickname is still with him, it now has a different connotation.

“Big means a lot of things in my life. … It was always positive, but it most definitely fit back then. The name Big now just references my presence. I’ve got a big heart. People that know me know that I love them. They know they can always depend on me.”

He can now run a mile around the block without breaking a sweat. He can take a stroll with friends at the Detroit riverfront without feeling aches and pains. He finally purchased a bike that can support him.

He knows his weight loss journey isn’t over yet.

“I had to put in work to get where I am now, and I’m still not done. I still have skin I have to get off, so that means I’m still hitting the gym,” he said. “It’s still a mental process to know I’m going to be great; greater than I am right now.”

The longer Filban works to maintain the changes he’s made in his life after surgery, the easier the journey will eventually get for him, Zalesin said.