Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita restaurant owner’s 218-pound weight loss was ‘life or death’

A year ago, When Pigs Fly owner Brian Choy, pictured here with his wife, Kendray, weighed almost 500 pounds and felt terrible, he said.
A year ago, When Pigs Fly owner Brian Choy, pictured here with his wife, Kendray, weighed almost 500 pounds and felt terrible, he said.

A year ago, When Pigs Fly Bar-B-Que Bar-B- owner Brian Choy was in trouble.

He weighed 498 pounds, and running his restaurant was becoming almost impossible. At the end of each day, he’d head straight for the couch with aching feet, heel spurs, hip and knee pain.

“A lot of things became a huge struggle – just bending over to pick stuff up off the floor,” he said.

Choy, 35, knew he needed to make a change. Though he’d always considered surgery “the cheap way out,” Choy was inspired by the success of a local pastor and friend who had gastric sleeve surgery, a procedure that reduces the stomach to 25 percent of its size. He and his wife, Kendra, who runs the restaurant with him, decided that might be the answer for him, too.

“I thought, ‘I’m 500 pounds. How much longer until they make a TV show out of me? I’ve got to do something,’” Choy said.

After losing 86 pounds through a strict low-carb diet, Choy had the surgery on Oct. 6, and today, he weighs 280 pounds, a 218-pound loss. He still is 40 pounds away from his goal.

It’s been a long and difficult year, he said, but he’s so much happier. He’s awake. He’s alert. His feet don’t hurt. His memory is better. “My energy level is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Choy’s line of work made weight loss a bit of a daunting prospect. Food is not just his career, it’s one of his favorite things. He loves pasta and pizza and the ribs, brisket and peach cobbler he sells out of his popular restaurant at 7011 W. Central.

“It’s kind of like being a bartender and trying to quit drinking,” he said. “I’m in an awkward position.”

But the fact that he runs a barbecue restaurant instead of a pasta or pizza restaurant was a good thing in the end, he said. His dietitian prescribed him a high-protein, low-carb diet, and Choy is surrounded by protein every day.

Choy said his diet is still strict, and it took him a while to get used to his new way of life. He finally can check his progress on his home scale – typical store-bought scales don’t measure above 400 pounds – and watching the weight fall off has been encouraging.

Now, he said, he has more energy for his job, which he still loves. But he also still loves food, he said with a smile.

“I don’t think I could have done this if it wasn’t a life-or-death thing for me. I want to be able to walk. I want to be able to get up and out of a chair,” he said. “I still love food. I still love flavor. But my desire to be around for my wife and be here for her is way stronger than that.”

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