Michael Piña Opens Up About His Weight Loss Journey and His Struggles to Get his Body in Shape

Growing up, Michael often cared for his two brothers and sister while their mother was at work. It was here where Michael first began to use food to cope with his situation.  Michael’s mother would prepare dinner for when they arrived home after school. Michael had to make sure his siblings ate and would have an extra serving for himself. This overeating was Michael’s way of coping. 

“Food has always been a coping mechanism for me. It has helped me fix a feeling with another feeling.”

Michael’s mother would try to get some walks with him whenever she had the chance. She would take Michael early in the morning to run some laps. Michael faced constant bullying because of his size, being a young man. Michael felt he was different from all the other kids because of his appearance. 

At 16,  Michael enrolled as a candidate for a Gastric Bypass, a relatively new procedure for younger patients. The doctors were choosing over 300+ candidates. Michael and the other candidates had to get informed, go to therapy, attend group counseling sessions, and lose 10% of their body weight to be eligible. 

“Being skinny was everything that I wanted.”

Michael met with many challenges but persevered, overcoming everything he was through. Michael wanted to be skinny more than anything, which was his main goal. Michael exceeded the doctors’ expectations and was one of the seven chosen candidates for a Gastric Bypass. 

“I absolutely crushed every challenge they put me through so that I would be one of the seven chosen candidates for this new study known as The Gastric Bypass.”

Michael was 17 when he had the Gastric Bypass; by this point, he weighed about 340 pounds during his senior year of high school—hitting this target weight made Michael eligible to get the surgery. But it wasn’t without its challenges; Michael had to follow a strict diet. However, Michael felt as if he was too young and naive and didn’t use the surgery as the tool to aid his weight loss journey as he thought he should have. 

“I remember how hard it was to be around my friends and family and not be able to eat the things they could.”

After high school and the Gastric Bypass, Michael maintained a steady weight and saw drastic results. During college, he held a stable weight in the lower 200s. But by the end of college, Michael had returned to eating snacks and food that didn’t carry any nutritional value. Michael would eat at varying times during the day and thus started gaining weight. 

After Michael finished college, he was still struggling with his eating habits. The stress due to daily activities took a toll on his relationships, job, and financial burdens. Food was a means to vent frustrations, and it made him happy when feeling sad, using food as a reward, thus surpassing the maximum weight before the Gastric Bypass. 

Michael began changing his eating habits and getting rid of junk food. He focused and started slowly introducing “treats” to train his self-control while at the same time practicing discipline. Michael wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. He dedicated time to fitness and his newfound hobby, dancing. This was Michael’s wake-up call if he wanted to do what he loved.

“This was a very physical and emotional process, changing behaviors and switching up what seemed to be comfortable for an opportunity to change my habits.” 

With cardio alone, Michael dropped to 310 pounds, so he began working with two trainers, which helped him learn the importance of weight and resistance training. He did what he loved to do, which was to dance. Michael found encouragement with his dancing group while at the same time facing the challenges of his excess weight. 

In January 2022, Michael had the chance to perform on stage with his team. With his confidence restored, Michael continued his journey as the pandemic hit. A bit of fear started to settle as Michael moved from Boston to Los Angeles, where he continued on hikes, made home workouts, and signed up for virtual classes during the pandemic. Through much hard work and consistency, around June 2021, he hit his target weight of 195.

Michael’s weight fluctuated a bit. As he lost the extra pounds, he noticed that he had saggy skin, to the point where wearing shorts showed the excess skin in his calf and inner thighs. Michael was proud of his achievements, but he felt they didn’t quite show all his work on his body. Michael started searching for a doctor, and he needed a surgeon to see the full picture of what his body needed. Michael broadened his search by browsing the web and on social media for a renowned and experienced surgeon. 

Michael found Dr. Carlos Castañeda. After seeing the results of his previous patients, Michael checked to see if the facility was safe and took the necessary precautions, as well as the ratings and reviews from patients. Dr. Castañeda laid out the whole process of his plan for him. Because Dr. Castañeda was so honest with everything, he helped Michael level his expectations. He truly felt Dr. Castañeda had the same vision for Michael as he did about his body. Doctor Castañeda gave Michael a reasonable quote, with all amenities included, compared to other clinics previously and doctors with whom he had consulted. Since Michael was now living in Los Angeles, he just had to travel across the border for his surgery.

Michael saw the safety, cleanliness, and care at VIDA Bariatrics in Tijuana, Mexico. He was set to have his surgery done at VIDA. Dr. Castañeda planned two procedures for Michael, the first on June 16, 2022, which would be an Arm Lift and an Extended Tummy Tuck. While the second procedure would be on August 11, 2022, covering a Thigh Lift and a Mastectomy. 

Michael kept in contact with Dr. Castañedas’s team and spoke out about his questions and concerns about the surgery. The team at VIDA offered to pick up Michael in San Diego and drive across the border on the day of the surgery. Michael was worried about his absence from work, but the VIDA team helped with all the paperwork so he could have some time off from work for the procedure. 

Michael arrived at VIDA and met with some Covid safety protocols on the day of the surgery. Afterward, he met with his patient’s care specialist, who helped set up everything before the surgery. Michael felt a certain ease when at VIDA despite the rush of emotions. After all, he had thoroughly researched the clinic and constantly communicated with the VIDA team since the beginning. 

“Waking up after a tummy tuck and arm lift, I thought, would be extremely painful. I was so wrong. The team really did a great job my pain was well managed without overdoing it.”

After the surgery, the nurses at VIDA took great care of Michael. They gave him further instructions on managing the pain following the procedure while at the recovery center inside VIDA, where Michael was brought in to rest. Michael stayed at the recovery boutique, where he had care and attention from the nursing team, as they never left Michael alone. When Michael could stand up by himself, there was a nurse to help him walk around. Michael had access to the clinic’s rooftop, where he made his walks and watched the sun fall. 

A nurse accompanied Michael during his walks, ensuring he didn’t overextend or go too far from his bed. Whenever Michael would feel dizzy, a nurse would help him stay calm and reassure him. What Michael appreciated was the team of nurses; their experience and care helped Michael feel comfortable while recovering from the procedure. Michael still has more to tell us about his story, as he has more to talk about the surgeries, his recovery, his second round of surgeries, and what he’s expecting in the near future.


Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez specializes in General and Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery. She brings to VIDA Wellness and Beauty a wealth of experience in bariatrics. Dr. Rodriguez is a founding associate of the Mexican College of General Surgeons. A world-class bariatric surgeon with double certification in the US and Mexico.