What motivated Kim Bricolo to keep losing weight as she traveled the long road of losing 58 pounds a few ounces at a time?

Once she started gaining momentum, she taped a photo of herself at her heaviest to her bathroom mirror.

Other motivations? Knowing she had to lose weight to qualify for the two new knees she desperately needed. The journey started in March 2021 when the 5-foot-4 Bricolo was 240 pounds.

Embracing – literally – the support from Patricia Grimes Williams, a family nurse practitioner at Novant Health Yadkin Medical Associates in Yadkinville. “She’s a hugger,” Bricolo said. “We’re both huggers,” Williams explained.

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Appreciating that once she lost weight and got those two new knees, which she did in 2022, she could shed the physical and emotional pain that had kept her from being her best self.

Bricolo, 50, is a nurse at Novant Health Cancer Institute - Forsyth in Winston-Salem. She knows that being overweight with bad knees pales in comparison to leukemia and lymphoma, the focus of her professional attention.

But this she also knew: If she could scale the mountain she faced, her patients might be inspired to overcome whatever life puts in their way. Giving up a big breakfast when her night shift ends? It wasn’t a hardship, she said. It was an opportunity to help heal others by first healing herself.

“Your patients see you lose weight, it shows them, ‘We can do this. We can get through this,’” Bricolo said.

‘I had to do something’

Bricolo is a natural-born helper. She was working as a secretary at what was then known as North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem when that gene kicked in. She’d watch the helicopters land with patients aboard and say to herself, “I want to help take care of them.” And so she became a nurse.

She has worked as a nurse for 17 years, the last three with Novant Health. At the cancer institute, her duties include teaching patients about what to expect from chemotherapy and treatment and helping them navigate the unexpected turns that can come each day with cancer.

Dr. Charles Craven

All the while she was doing it with knees that hurt throughout her 10-hour shift. The pain was worsened by her weight. “It was bone on bone for both knees,” she said. That’s when Dr. Charles Craven, an orthopedic surgeon at Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Clemmons recommended knee replacements.

But first she had to lower her body mass index by losing weight. This would relieve the physical stress that increased the risk of complications from surgery and slowed post-surgery healing. The brave among us have gone online to calculate our BMI. Put in your height and weight and click “Calculate.” The accompanying chart will tell you whether you are underweight, normal, overweight or obese.

Too many Americans fall into the last two categories. According to National Institutes of Health, 1 in 3 U.S. adults are overweight and 2 in 5 are obese.

For Bricolo, the truth smacked her in the face the day she took her niece and nephew to Dollywood and couldn’t get on the rides because she couldn’t buckle the safety belt.

“I had to do something,” she said.

Gel injections eased the pain in her knees. Weight-loss medication (no opioids) helped. But what made a lasting impact on Bricolo’s body and soul was a determination to change her lifestyle. She set a limit, no more than 800 calories a day, not easy for a Southern girl who loves all things fried.

  • Out: fast food and sausage-and-eggs breakfasts.
  • In: salads, fruits, vegetables, chicken, hamburgers without buns and Lean Cuisine.
  • Guilty pleasure: Out went chocolate chip cookies. In came V8 peach mango energy drinks, 50 calories per can.

Medication, eating right, proper rest and adequate water intake were all factors in this success story. (She couldn’t exercise much due to the pain). So was emotional support. Each time Bricolo would go for a medical appointment, Williams, her nurse and kindred spirit would be there with an “ATTAGIRL!” no matter what the scale revealed. In Bricolo’s case, as with so many others, encouragement is a potent prescription.

Bricolo before and after

“I tried to give her hope, ‘We can do something about this,’” Williams said. “She was so easy to motivate. She was always in a great mood.”

Having lost 62 pounds, Bricolo underwent her first robotic-assisted knee replacement (left) at Novant Health’s Clemmons Medical Center in February 2022. She received the second (right) in July 2022. Bricolo is back to work after missing 12 weeks. She can climb steps. She speed-walks at Recreation Acres near their home in King. Everyone – including her husband, Anthony, their son, Cody, 25, and her patients – notices the new Kim. And not just her appearance.

“This has made me an even happier person and people see it,” Bricolo says. “It’s like you can live again.”

‘Our best self’

The journey isn’t over.

Bricolo has gone from 240 pounds before the knee replacements to her current 182. Her goal is 150. “It’s an everyday battle that you choose to fight,” she says. She’s had her ups and downs and gained back a bit of weight. Her philosophy? Give yourself permission to not be perfect. Know you might backslide. Pick yourself up and keep going.

It’s not just about new knees, Williams said. It’s about becoming a new you in every role that life presents. For Bricolo, that means becoming a better wife, mother, nurse and friend. “If we want to be our best self,” Williams said, “we have to put our best self out there.”

It’s also not just about what you see when you look in the mirror,” Bricolo said. “It’s about your inner self.”

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