By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
While celebrity DJ Kutmaster Spaz has always been upbeat during his gigs, as well as on his OC16 TV show, "Dis-n-Dat," in real life, his weight was getting him down. At 337 pounds, he was considered morbidly obese.
Spaz (his last name is Bulatao, but he doesn't use it professionally) has a long history of yo-yo dieting.
"I've always had a problem with weight," he said. "I'd lose it and stay down for about a year, and it would shoot back up. I lost 50 pounds in late '99 and gained 80 back in 2001. I lost 80 pounds in 2003 and gained back 110 in 2004. I lost 110, but by 2007 I gained 137."
Spaz suffered from back pain, sore knees, and swollen ankles and feet. He was taking medicines for high blood pressure, water retention and muscle relaxation.
The popular DJ's wakeup call came when he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition that can be life-threatening. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. He decided he had to find a permanent solution for his obesity.
For Spaz, "It wasn't about being skinny or anything to do with appearance. It was about my health." It was about being there for his wife, Patti Bulatao, and children: Victoria, 18; Jazlyn, 10; and Josiah, 5.
Spaz said he watched his obese father die a slow, painful death from complications of diabetes at the age of 52, and he did not want to do that to his children.
"I looked at Josiah and thought, I won't be around for him to grad high school," he said. "Hey, I want to be there for my kids. I'm cheating them and I'm cheating myself out of life with my family."
Spaz took himself to Castle Medical Center, where he met with Dr. Steven Fowler, medical director of the Surgical Weight Loss Institute, who recommended bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is not the right approach for every obese patient. However, if the patient is struggling with life-threatening health risks and is unable to lose weight through dieting, medication, behavior therapy, exercise and other medical treatments, bariatric surgery may be recommended.
The DJ "needed to be involved in a comprehensive program in terms of behavioral issues, dietary support and exercise" to make it work, Fowler said.
Castle's weight-loss team includes a psychologist, physical therapist, registered dietician, fitness specialist and nurse coordinator, in addition to the surgeon. The institute recently was nationally recognized as a center of excellence for weight-loss surgery.
"At first I thought, 'No, that's the easy way out,' and I don't like to take the easy way out. But it really isn't. It's a tool to help you, and it's a lot of work mentally and physically. It's not reversible," Spaz said.
To show the surgical team he was serious, he lost 19 pounds before the surgery. Since his surgery in March, he has lost another 125 pounds; he now weighs 185 pounds — 10 pounds short of his goal weight of 175, but he said he feels healthy at 185, so he's not stressing about the last 10 pounds.
The DJ has had to change his eating habits drastically since the surgery.
"I can eat pretty much what I want," he said, but in tiny portions. He refers to his routine as grazing, eating tiny meals throughout the day.
"In the past, I was always hungry," he said. "The operation tricks my body to not release the endorphins that make me hungry."
Spaz's diet is now heavy on lean protein and light on fats and starches. He said he has nearly lost his craving for sugary foods.
Spaz makes every effort to be active with his kids, swimming, running, walking, playing ball and going to the beach. "It's a privilege for me, because a year ago I could barely get out of bed, and playing with the kids was out of the question."