Patient Testimonial: Alyson Mitchell

patient testimonial

 

If you feel as though your life is on hold because of your weight, you’ll want to read Alyson Mitchell’s weight loss journey. It may just inspire you to make the commitment to stop waiting for a better life and start living the life you deserve now.

Alyson’s Story

Prior to her gastric sleeve surgery with Dr. Dirk in July 2016, Alyson had been battling her weight since she was in high school. Later, as a wife and mother, she found that being overweight was negatively affecting her mood and keeping her from being outgoing with her husband and kids. “The best way to describe my life before surgery was it was on hold,” she says. “Looking back, I wasn’t myself — at least not to my full potential.”

Alyson also found that much of day-to-day life was a challenge. She was hindered by her constantly worries about what she should wear, how she looked and how she felt. Even the activities she loved — like going to the beach, swimming and shopping — became sources of stress rather than enjoyment.

Although Alyson had been able to lose weight on her own, it always managed to creep its way back, and then some. One of the last times she had lost the weight was after her dad passed away. Within about six months, she had gained at least 50 pounds or more. “I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I knew that I could try to lose it again, and that I would be able to, but I was just tired! Tired of gaining it all back.”

 

That was the turning point for Alyson. She talked to her husband and met with Dr. Dirk to schedule gastric sleeve surgery. She says the first week or so after surgery was extremely hard, but that she eventually began to feel better. Her biggest challenges following surgery have been learning her new limits regarding how much to eat, what to eat and how often to eat.

Now, she feels truly amazing and is thankful to Dr. Dirk for helping her to finally change her life and feel truly happy and confident. Prior to surgery, Alyson weighed 207 pounds. She currently weighs around 130 pounds.

“I am so happy that I chose to have this procedure done. I have energy, I feel happier and healthier. Going to the beach is way more fun, and my two girls and husband get the happy version of me back — the one that is not self-conscious about every little thing.”

Her advice to anyone considering weight loss surgery? “Do it for yourself, nobody else. Take the time to decide if it is right for you without telling everyone. If you do decide to do it, do it 100 percent. Follow the rules and guidelines, and you will have truly successful results!”

Read more inspirational success stories from Dr. Dirk’s patients here.


5 Essential questions to ask during your weight loss surgery consultation

essential questions

 

The decision to have weight loss surgery is a big one, and it can’t be taken lightly. You’ll need to change your habits and commit to a new, healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. Otherwise, you won’t see results after the surgery or be able to keep the weight off for good.

Because weight loss surgery is not a quick fix, you need to take control and learn as much as you can about the surgery as early as possible. It’s important to go into the first consultation with your weight loss surgeon with a prepared list of questions.

Here are five questions you’ll want to ask during your initial weight loss surgery appointment. It’s a good idea to write these questions down in a notebook and bring it with you so can refer to your questions and write down answers.

1. What is your experience?

Experience plays a big role in how skilled a person is at their job, and it’s no different for surgeons. This is a good question to start with, since it will help you better understand the surgeon’s background and skill set.

Of course, experience isn’t the only factor you need to consider. A surgeon who has performed a lot of surgeries isn’t always the most skilled. But a surgeon with more cases under their belt will often be a doctor you can be confident in.

2. Which weight loss procedures do you perform?

Many surgeons don’t perform every bariatric procedure that’s available, and there’s usually a reason why they don’t offer certain ones. Once you’ve found out which surgeries your surgeon offers, ask if there are any procedures they don’t perform and why. A lot of times you’ll find that, after offering a certain type of procedure, the surgeon found that too many patients weren’t seeing results, so they stopped offering it.

Usually, you’ll want to go with a surgeon who has enough options. If only one type of procedure is offered, do your research to see if that procedure is the best choice for you before moving forward. If not, it’s best to find someone who offers one that’s a better fit for your needs.

3. Which procedure would you recommend for me?

Any good, honest bariatric surgeon will tell you that there isn’t one procedure that will work for everyone. To answer this question, the surgeon will need ask you about your lifestyle, risk tolerances, exercise and dietary habits and medical history.

Your surgeon won’t choose a procedure for you — they will give their professional opinion about which procedure(s) will be most suitable for you and explain the benefits and risks of each procedure.

4. What kind of resources do you offer before and after surgery?

Weight loss surgery is a long process that you’ll need to be mentally and physically prepared for both before and after the surgery. The most successful weight loss surgery patients change their habits, take time to learn how to keep their weight off and have a good support system in place.

Your weight loss surgeon should be able to provide you with resources that will help you be successful over the long term. For example, does the surgeon provide a follow-up program after surgery to keep you accountable with sticking to the diet and other lifestyle changes that are critical to your success? Do they run support groups or recommend a good support group? Can the surgeon provide resources to help educate close friends and family members about how they can support you throughout this process?

5. What are your complication rates?

There’s no beating around the bush here. While complications vary depending on the specific procedure, they can and do happen. However, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of JAMA, serious complication rates during bariatric surgery are relatively low. Serious complication rates were listed at 3.6 percent for gastric bypass and 2.2 percent for gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy).

If your weight loss surgeon’s rates are around or lower these national averages, you’re in good hands.

Stay informed

The questions above will give you the information you need to make the best decision for you. Remember to continue to write down all your questions and the surgeon’s answers before and after surgery. You’ll find this helpful for keeping track of questions and concerns you have throughout the entire process.


Preparing yourself for surgery with 5 easy to follow steps

If you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming surgery, don’t worry — there are a few things you can do to get yourself ready for surgery and the recovery process. Going into surgery feeling relaxed and confident will help you have a better experience and an easier recovery.

5 helpful pre-surgery steps

Following the five steps below will help you prepare for surgery and the recovery process. Putting in this effort beforehand will be worth it when you’re feeling calm and prepared on the day of your surgery.

1. Learn about the surgery

As early you can, get good information about your surgery from reliable sources, including Dr. Dirk and his team. Make sure you understand the expected outcomes, success rates for the surgery, the risks that are involved and the average recovery time. The more you know about your surgery, the better you’ll feel going into it.

2. Get some exercise

People who are active tend to handle surgery better and are more likely to have less pain, fewer complications and a faster recovery.

Talk to Dr. Dirk to find out which specific activities you can do before surgery. Depending on your current health condition and activity level, Dr. Dirk may suggest activities like yoga, stretching or walking.

3. Eat the right foods

Talk with Dr. Dirk about which foods you should be eating as you get ready for surgery. You may need to stay away from certain foods or drinks before surgery. You may also need to fast (stop eating) for a certain number of hours before surgery.

For certain surgeries, including weight loss surgery, you will need to change to a healthy diet after surgery to get the best results.

4. Stock your pantry and freezer

Be sure to fill your home with plenty of healthy foods and drinks before the day of your surgery. Not only will this keep you from having to shop during your recovery, but it will also help you stick to your new healthy diet after surgery.

If you run out of time to do this step, don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help. They’ll be happy to pitch in, and you’ll feel good knowing you have people in your life you can rely on.

5. Arrange for help during your recovery

Whether or not you end up needing help stocking up on food before surgery, you’ll definitely want to line up family and/or friends to help get you through the recovery process.

Depending on the type of surgery you’ll be having, you may need a ride home or help doing daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. It can also be very helpful to have someone stay overnight with you on your first night home after surgery.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be surprised at how positive and in control you’ll feel on the day of your surgery.


Feeling nervous before surgery? Try these 6 tips

surgery anxiety

It’s totally normal to feel stressed or nervous before having weight loss surgery. If you’re feeling a little surgery anxiety — or if you want to prepare for potential anxiety about your upcoming weight loss surgery — the following tips may be helpful in the days and weeks before your surgery.

Here are six simple and effective ways to help ease some of the fear and anxiety you may feel as your weight loss surgery gets closer.

1. Do your research

Get lots of information about your surgery as early as possible. The more you know about what to expect, the better you’ll feel about it. Pay close attention to information about success rates and the steps you can take to make your experience more positive before, during and after surgery.

2. Talk to your doctor about your fears

Talking to your doctor about your fears is a great way to learn more about the surgery and get further details on anything you’ve come across in your research. This open communication will also increase your level of trust in your doctor and help ease your worries.

3. Take care of pre-surgery tasks

Focusing on what you need to do to prepare for your surgery will keep you productive and give you a more positive outlook about your surgery. Tasks can include packing your bag, arranging for rides to and from the surgery and making sure you have friends and family around to help with daily chores and activities as you recover.

4. Keep a written list of questions and fears

Sometimes just the simple act of putting your thoughts and fears on paper can help you feel better. Your mind will be free to focus on more positive thoughts and actions. Keeping a list also allows you to keep track of things you want to discuss with your doctor.

5. Get support

Remember, you’re not alone! You can find support from family, friends and co-workers. If you’re feeling especially anxious — or want to talk to someone who can relate more — it might be a good idea to talk to other people who have already gone through the surgery. Hearing about their experiences and getting tips from them can lessen your worries. If you don’t know anyone personally, see if your doctor knows of a local support group or a former patient who would be open to talking to you.

6. Find a calming activity

Spend time each day doing something that helps you to relax. This could be reading, walking, meditating, listening to music or something else. If you aren’t sure what works for you, try different activities until you find the one that suits you best. If possible, take some time doing this activity on the day of your surgery to help you feel as relaxed as possible.

Try these suggestions to combat surgery anxiety and feel more at peace on the day of your procedure. Before you know it, you’ll be on the other side and others will be asking you for support!


New AspireAssist obesity device pumps food out of your stomach: Is it a gimmick?

AspireAssist

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, there are plenty of lose-weight-fast fads and gimmicks out there that make big promises, but rarely deliver results.

Add to that list an unusual new device that pumps undigested food from your stomach and dumps it into a toilet. The AspireAssist weight loss system is offered in North Texas, but Dr. Dirk cautions against it.

Here’s why.

What is the AspireAssist device?

AspireAssist is an external pump that connects to a surgically placed tube, which allows a person to drain a portion of the food in his or her stomach after every meal. The process takes around 10 minutes and removes nearly 30 percent of undigested food from the stomach.

The device is advertised as a less invasive treatment option for people who are obese. It’s designed for obese patients who are 22 and older, and have a body mass index of 35 to 55.

What are the drawbacks of the AspireAssist system?

Because the AspireAssist is a new device — the FDA approved it about a year ago — there isn’t a lot of hard data on its effectiveness. However, it has already gotten a lot of criticism from doctors.

There are doubts about the safety of AspireAssist. Draining 30 percent of your stomach can lead to problems including dehydration, irritation of the stomach lining and a lack of electrolytes.

Others say that, in time, we may see problems with infections, leakage, lack of nutrient absorption and other real problems.

And to top it off, there have already been instances of food clogging the tube, because the pump is unable to break up large foods.

What is Dr. Dirk’s opinion on the AspireAssist?

Besides all the risks associated with the AspireAssist device, Dr. Dirk believes that it is bound to fail because of one key reason: It doesn’t ask the obese person to make changes to his or her lifestyle.

According to Dr. Dirk, lifestyle changes — such as eating a calorie-controlled, high-protein, low-carb diet and getting daily physical exercise — are crucial to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

The major issue with this device is that “it does not emphasize the need to change nutrition,” Dr. Dirk says. “Instead, what it says is, ‘I can eat whatever I want and just suck the stuff out!’”

Secondly, although the device claims to be less invasive, it is still “a surgical procedure that changes the stomach anatomy,” says Dr. Dirk. “This makes future surgery more difficult, and people will eventually need it when this device fails.”

And then there’s the “gross” factor.

“How cool is this?” says Dr. Dirk. “You get to walk around with a bag and tube sticking out of your stomach, so you can suck out food from your stomach after eating. What an exciting first date!”

Learn about weight loss procedures offered by Dr. Dirk here. 

 


Why does the lap band often involve multiple operations?

lap band revision
For more than a decade, lap band surgeries have been popular with people looking to slim down.

But a new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has found that people who undergo surgery to have lap bands placed around their stomachs often need one or more new operations to move or remove the device.

Here’s what you need to know about lap bands and Dr. Dirk’s expert opinion of them.

What are lap bands?

Laparoscopic gastric banding (also known as lap bands) work by placing a band around the upper part of the stomach, which a little pouch that holds about 1 ounce of food. The food from the small pouch then empties into the closed-off portion of the stomach and continues the normal digestive process.

The band limits the amount of food you can eat by making you feel full after eating a small amount of food. After the surgery, the band can be adjusted to make food pass more quickly or slowly through your stomach.

What are the findings of the new study?

The University of Michigan study found that one in five people who had a lap band procedure needed more surgery within five years of the procedure.

Lap bands can cause a variety of complications. They can erode into the stomach or slip down and cause a blockage. Problems can also happen if the stomach pouch gets bigger.

The study followed more than 25,000 people with lap bands and found that 18.5 percent of patients (4,636 patients) needed at least one more surgery to fix problems.

Those 4,636 patients required more than 17,500 surgeries for their lap bands. That’s an average of nearly four additional surgeries per patient!

Doctors have known about these risks for a few years, which is why lap bands have grown less and less popular in recent years.

What is Dr. Dirk’s professional opinion of lap bands?

“This study shows what we have known for almost 10 years,” Dr. Dirk says. “The adjustable gastric band is not the fantastic solution everyone thought it was going to be.”

According to Dr. Dirk, the fact that lap bands can have as high as an 80 percent failure rate, plus the new data about multiple follow-up operations, means that lap bands are a not a good idea.

“Lap bands involve placing an artificial device right next to the stomach,” says Dr. Dirk. “The stomach moves hundreds of times a day, so the device moves with it. Add to that coughing, sneezing, lifting and getting in and out of the car, and the band is constantly moving about.”

That’s where the problem happens. Bands end up slipping, and this is the most common cause of re-operation.

While less invasive procedures like this may seem like a good idea, Dr. Dirk says the lap band has had a long track record of failure.

“Don’t be swayed by gimmicks or fancy advertising promising a ‘less invasive’ option,” says Dr. Dirk. “In the long run, they don’t work.”

Instead, he recommends making real lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and exercising every day. If these solutions don’t help, weight loss surgery — not the lap band — can be an effective solution.

 


The dangers of opioid use after surgery

dangers of opioid use after surgery

The American opioid epidemic is a very serious problem. About 2.1 million Americans suffer from substance abuse related to prescription opioid pain relievers.

A new University of Michigan Medical School study has even found that people who have minor surgery are nearly as likely to abuse opioid drugs as people who undergo major operations.

The study finds that 5.9 percent of people who undergo minor procedures develop a chronic opioid habit in the three to six months after the procedure. For people who’ve had a major operation, that figure is 6.5 percent.

These numbers show that the type of surgery a person has doesn’t have much of an effect on the likelihood that they will develop a chronic opioid use problem.

In fact, patients continue to use opioids after their surgery for reasons other than the pain from the surgery, according to one of study authors.

A better predictor of a person’s risk for chronic opioid use after having surgery is their prior history of chronic pain. Also, if a person has a history of substance abuse, such as with alcohol or tobacco, he or she is more likely to become a regular user of opioid drugs after surgery.

So what does this mean for your weight loss surgery? 

Dr. Dirk understands the risk of opioid addiction. He rarely prescribes opioids after operations, and he watches his patients carefully after their weight loss procedures.

During and after surgery, Dr. Dirk uses various medications to provide pain relief for his patients. Research shows that this approach reduces pain and makes the need for opioids less necessary.

While opioids have an important role to play for surgery patients, it’s very important to make sure that patients don’t become dependent on these drugs. If you’re worried about the risk of opioid use during or after your weight loss surgery, Dr. Dirk is here to help. Contact his office today to schedule a consultation.

 


The FDA’s New Gastric Balloon Warning: What Does It Mean?

Gastric Balloon Warning

While there are many different procedures and treatments for obesity, some can less safe and effective than others. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning about fluid-filled gastric balloon treatments.

What are intragastric balloons?

Intragastric balloons are a relatively new weight loss procedure. A balloon or balloons are placed in an overweight or obese patient’s stomach in order to take up stomach space. The balloon limits how much a patient can eat and helps them feel fuller faster.

There are two types of intragastric balloons: fluid-filled balloons and air-filled balloons.

What does the FDA warning say?

In February 2017, the FDA issued a warning about the Orbera and ReShape fluid-filled intragastric balloon systems. Based on multiple incidents, the FDA reported two problems associated with fluid-filled intragastric balloons.

The first problem involves intragastric balloons over-inflating with air or with more fluid while in a patient’s stomach, requiring early removal of the balloon system.

The second problem is the development of acute pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This problem also requires premature removal of the device.

What are Dr. Dirk’s thoughts?

According to Dr. Dirk, The FDA approves a medical device after a sample group of patients are observed for a period of time only to determine whether the device is safe.

FDA approval is based largely on the statistical probability of safety, not an absolute certainty. In other words, the FDA essentially makes an educated guess about safety of a treatment.

But despite the best efforts of regulators like the FDA, medical science takes time and many cases in order to discover what problems can crop up.

“The takeaway message here is is that the balloon is not a cure-all,” Dr. Dirk says. “Like any other medical device placed in the human body, it must be watched not only by the patient, but also by the doctors who placed the device in the patient.”

For more information about the intragastric balloon or other weight loss procedures offered by Dr. Dirk, schedule a consultation or call us to learn more 214-DRDIRK-1.


What To Eat After Your Weight Loss Procedure

bariatric eating

Weight loss surgery is just the beginning of your health journey, not the end of it. After you have weight loss surgery, it’s important for you to commit to living a healthy lifestyle in order to keep the weight off.

The two components of a healthy lifestyle are a good diet and plenty of aerobic physical activity. In other words, you’ll need to consume small, healthy meals and burn calories through daily exercise.

In this post, we’ll focus on what a good post-weight loss surgery diet looks like. Here are the foods you should add to your grocery list:

Proteins

After a weight loss procedure, Dr. Dirk recommends that his patients consume a high-protein, low-carb diet.

Proteins leave you feeling more satisfied than carbs and fats because they take longer for your stomach to digest. Therefore, foods with protein remain in your stomach longer, reducing your hunger.

Down the line, a high-protein diet can result in higher cholesterol levels. That is why it is important to select lean proteins, such as wild salmon, instead of fattier proteins, such as red meat.

Here are some good proteins to add to your grocery list:

  • Fish, especially salmon, tuna and cod
  • White-meat poultry
  • Dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
  • Peanut butter or almond butter
  • Tofu

Carbs

While Dr. Dirk recommends reducing your carbohydrate intake following weight loss surgery, the right carbs are an essential part of your diet. Carbs are your body’s primary energy source and are a part of a healthy diet.

What are the “right carbs”? Always choose complex carbs, such as whole grains, instead of simple, refined or processed carbs, such as white breads.

Complex carbs are better for you because they take longer for your body to break down. They keep you full longer and contain a good mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Consider these complex carbs when shopping for groceries:

  • Steel-cut oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils

Vitamins

Finally, consuming vitamins is a vital part of your diet after weight loss surgery. Vitamins keep your body systems functioning well.

While vitamin supplements are an option, Dr. Dirk recommends getting your vitamins through a variety of natural, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables.

Here are some fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your diet:

  • Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, watercress and collard greens
  • Green vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  • A range of colorful vegetables, such as bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits
  • Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes

Diet is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle, especially after weight loss surgery. That’s why Dr. Dirk provides his patients with detailed nutrition information following weight loss surgery.

To learn more about Dr. Dirk’s nutrition recommendations, set up a consultation today.


How to Support a Loved One After Weight Loss Surgery

Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo obesity surgery every year, and awareness of these procedures is becoming more and more widespread.

Is your loved one considering weight loss surgery?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo obesity surgery every year, and awareness of these procedures is becoming more and more widespread. Just look at the popular TV show “This Is Us,” in which actress Chrissy Metz’s character decides to have weight loss surgery.

As a friend or family member of someone contemplating weight loss surgery, you have an important part to play. Patients need the support of the people closest to them in order to commit to a healthy lifestyle post-surgery.

Here’s how you can support your loved one during this process.

Emotional Support

Making the decision to have obesity surgery and sticking to a diet and exercise regimen after surgery can be emotionally grueling. The single most important thing you can do is to be there for your loved one. Let them know that you are on this journey with them.

You can do that by:

  • Being a cheerleader, not a coach. Don’t nitpick your loved one for their mistakes. Instead, applaud the things he or she is doing right. Even if they miss a weight loss target, show them love and support for trying.
  • Celebrate with your loved one. If your loved one achieves a goal, plan a fun activity to celebrate, such as going to a movie or a concert. Let them know that you’re just as excited about their achievements as they are.
  • Be interested in more than losing weight. Talk about things besides weight loss. Show your interest and concern in your loved one’s life beyond the issue of dieting and weight.
  • Be positive. Don’t judge your loved one for a bad day. Help them to get back on track by focusing on the future, not the past.
  • Support them in their decision about obesity surgery. While weight loss surgery is a choice, it may be the only option to treat severe weight problems. Ask your loved one what they know about the surgery, seek out information together and keep an open mind.
  • Join them at appointments, classes and support groups. If your loved one needs someone to go along with them to meetings with doctors, for example, offer to join them. It can help relieve your loved one’s nervousness. Plus, you can help ask questions and get more information.
  • Be thoughtful about what you say after surgery. It’s important to be sensitive about how your loved one feels after surgery. Try to avoid making comments about weight after surgery. Be careful about how you congratulate your loved one on their progress.

Dietary Support

Diet and exercise are the pillars of weight loss. Even after weight loss surgery, maintaining a good diet is key to keeping weight off and staying healthy. For you, that means supporting your loved one by helping them eat a good diet.

If you live with your loved one, try to get rid of any tempting foods, like chips, cookies and sodas. By removing unhealthy foods and drinks from your home, you’ll make it easier for your loved one to stick to their diet.

You can also help out with meal planning and food prep. Cooking at home is always preferable to eating out because you can keep track of the ingredients in your food and control the amount of oil and salt you use.

On your days off, plan meals for the week ahead with your loved one’s diet guidelines in mind. Prepare your ingredients in advance so they’re easier to cook after a long day of work. For instance, marinate skinless chicken breasts and chop up vegetables ahead of time so your ingredients are ready to go.

Exercise

The second pillar of weight loss and a post-surgery lifestyle is a regular physical activity.

Participating in exercise is an easy way to support your loved one. Here are some examples of exercise that you can do together.

  • Evening walks. Discussing your day at work? Do it on a nice walk instead of on the couch.
  • Workouts. Whether you’re lifting weights, going to Zumba classes or jogging on the treadmill, it’s always easier to get motivated when you have someone to exercise with.
  • Sports. Get a group of friends together for a weekly game of basketball or volleyball.
  • Home exercises. Even on days when you can’t make time for a full-fledged workout, join your loved one for a shorter home workout with simple jumping jacks, squats and lunges.

For overweight and obese individuals, successful weight loss depends upon the support of the people around them. By supporting your loved one on this journey, you can make weight loss surgery feel less overwhelming.