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.


Can you be obese and still be healthy?

obese and healthy

Obesity is a widespread condition in the U.S. About 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are obese, meaning that their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher.

In recent years, some people have said that it’s possible to be healthy and obese at the same time. The reasoning for this is that certain obese people don’t show the metabolism changes that usually come with obesity.

According to a new study from the University of Birmingham, however, the idea that a person can be both obese and healthy is a dangerous myth.

“Healthy” obesity is a myth

In the past, doctors relied on measurements like blood pressure and cholesterol levels to say whether someone was healthy or not. Some obese people don’t have the elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels that you might expect for someone of their weight.

But the University of Birmingham study, which followed the health records of 3.5 million people for 20 years, shows that these seemingly healthy numbers don’t mean that these people are actually healthy.

Obesity increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Contrary to claims of “healthy obesity,” this University of Birmingham study showed that obese people are greater risk for certain diseases.

Compared to people with a normal weight and a healthy metabolism, obese people are at a 49 percent increased risk of heart disease and a whopping 96 percent increased risk of heart failure.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, the health effects of obesity go beyond heart disease. Obesity has also been linked to cancer, liver failure, spine pain and even mental disorders, such as depression.

According to Dr. Dirk, this study is very important because it ends the myth that a person can be obese and still be healthy. “Obesity is a real medical condition in which which your body is not working effectively for you,” says Dr. Dirk.

The best solution is to tackle the core problem of weight. Making changes to your lifestyle, particularly changes in diet and physical activity, can do the trick. However, for some people, obesity surgery is the best and most realistic option.

“Surgery helps make good nutrition and exercise work better for you. It’s all about making you a healthy person,” Dr. Dirk says.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards living a healthy life, schedule an appointment with Dr. Dirk today.

 


5 Tricks for curbing your cravings

food cravings
Your weight loss journey is a long and challenging one. One of the biggest speed bumps along the way are your cravings for unhealthy foods and drinks.

So how do you deal with cravings and stay on track with your new healthy lifestyle?

First, think about whether your hunger is physical or emotional.

Is your stomach growling? Has a good amount of time passed since your last meal? Do you feel low-energy? These are signs that you’re physically hungry, meaning it’s OK to have a healthy meal or snack.

However, if you’re craving a specific food (like chips or ice cream), or if only a little time has passed since your last meal or snack, you may be experiencing emotional hunger, which can lead to unhealthy food binges.

If you feel a craving coming on, use these tips to combat it.

Distract yourself

One good way to curb your cravings is to distract yourself. There is lots of research that suggests that when you focus on the food you’re craving, your craving will get stronger.

Instead, outsmart yourself. Get out of the kitchen and go for a walk, take a nap or watch a movie. Do anything healthy and safe to get your mind off that chocolate bar you desperately want to nibble on.

Don’t keep unhealthy foods lying around

Don’t make it easy for yourself to give into temptation. Don’t keep candy, cookies or other unhealthy snacks in your pantry or fridge. Instead, keep healthy snacks like fruit nearby to put roadblocks in the way of your cravings.

Eat breakfast

Believe it or not, eating breakfast can go a long way towards keeping your cravings at bay. Start the day with a filling, nutritious meal — with items like steel-cut oatmeal, eggs and fruit — and you’ll be less likely to give into cravings.

Eat often

Don’t go more than three or four hours without eating. Getting too hungry can cause you to make poor eating decisions and make you more likely to give into those bad cravings you want to avoid.

Give in (a little bit)

It’s not realistic to expect that your diet will be 100 percent healthy every day. It’s OK to treat yourself once in a while, but be smart about giving into cravings. Include just one or two unhealthy items you absolutely love in your diet and allow yourself only those — and have them occasionally, not all the time.

Cravings can sabotage your journey to a healthier you. By using the smart strategies above, you can ensure that your cravings won’t derail your weight loss journey.


Healthy ways to satisfy your sweet tooth

sugar cravings

Few things are as addictive as sweets, and giving into your sugar cravings can have a huge negative impact on your weight loss efforts.

Fortunately, there are smart ways to satisfy your sweet tooth or avoid sweets altogether. Consider the following strategies to have your cake and stick to your diet, too:

Eat fruit

Yes, it’s obvious. But nature’s candy can provide a satisfying hit of sweetness while also delivering the nutrients, vitamins and fiber your body need.s

In particular, berries (especially blueberries, blackberries and strawberries) are an excellent source of natural antioxidants, which help reduce the “oxidative damage” that leads to a range of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Quality over quantity

Controlling your sugar intake doesn’t have to mean giving up sweets forever. Instead of gorging on a pack of cheap candy or a devouring a half-pint of generic ice cream, treat yourself to smaller but higher-quality desserts in moderation.

Whether it’s a fresh, from-scratch cookie, a gourmet chocolate bonbon or a decadent macaron, savor a small, quality treat occasionally rather than eating low-quality packaged treats every day.

If you have a weakness for chocolate, try dark chocolate, which has a range of positive health benefits when eaten in moderation. The key is to buy real (not processed and sweetened) dark chocolate. That means a cocoa content of 60 percent or more.

Don’t waste your sugar

It takes some planning, but consuming sugar wisely can make the difference between reaching your weight loss goals and giving in to your worst impulses.

A simple way to regulate your sugar intake is to make trade-offs. Do you love the occasional soda? Fine, but be sure to take a pass on dessert. Or if you have a craving for dessert, try to forego soda for water.

But remember to avoid making soda a regular habit. They may seem harmless, but sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

Sodas and other sweetened beverages, including juices, are packed with sugar and calories. Naturally, if you drink sugary beverages, you won’t feel as full as if you’d eaten the same calories in the form of solid food.

Distract yourself

Cravings are all about psychology. The more you focus on a food you crave, the stronger and more undeniable that craving gets.

So to avoid giving into a sugar craving, consider distracting yourself. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Strike up a conversation with someone. Anything to get your mind off of that sugary sweet lurking around the corner.

You can also remove yourself from environments that keep dangerous sweets top of mind. For instance, instead of working at a coffee shop with a display full of decadent pastries, try spending time at a food-free coffee shop.

Find a healthy way to make what you love

Here’s a secret: You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite desserts. You just have to get creative with how you make them.

There are countless ways to reinvent your favorite desserts, replacing empty-calorie, high-fat, sugar-loaded ingredients with comparatively healthy alternatives.

Some of our favorite healthy desserts include:

You deserve a sweet every now and then. Using these strategies, you can treat yourself on occasion or find ways to avoid indulging when you know you shouldn’t. All it takes is a little planning and a little strategy, and you can have your dessert while sticking to your weight loss plan.


Parents can’t recognize childhood obesity for these reasons

childhood obesityWeight loss and obesity can be tough subjects to approach, since health and body image can carry significant emotional baggage for many of us. This is especially true when it comes to parents of obese children.

According to a recent study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health, the vast majority of parents underestimate the extent of their child’s obesity and are unable to recognize the need for intervention. Because parents are so likely to misperceive the weight of their children, it’s important to safeguard against these tendencies with an honest assessment of your child’s health.

“This is a very difficult and highly emotional topic for parents to face, much less discuss with a health care professional,” says Dr. Dirk. Still, he urges parents to address such issues objectively.

“When it comes to your child’s current and future health, it is important to put aside feelings and face facts. Parents may think their child’s obesity is a personal failure. It is best to approach the situation as a concerned parent providing the best care for their child.”

While weight loss isn’t all about numbers, the figures published in this study don’t lie. About one-third of parents featured in the study underestimated their children’s body mass index (BMI) in a simple classification that categorized kids as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. While a total of 369 children studied were properly classified as obese, only four parents were able to recognize their own kids as such.

The problem, Dr. Dirk explains, is that childhood obesity often sets kids up for a lifetime of weight-loss and weight-related health struggles.

“Obese children go on to become obese teenagers and then become obese adults,” Dr. Dirk says. “Obesity in teenage years threatens obese adults with major medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea,” he cautions.

Obesity increases emotional and psychological risks, as well. “We can not ignore the difficulties of unkind social interactions between teenagers,” Dr. Dirk says. “It is well known that obese teenagers can be isolated and bullied to the point of exclusion.”

So what can we do to combat childhood obesity? First, parents must remember that obesity is a treatable condition and by no means represents a failure on their part.

“It is very important is for the parents to stay involved and view obesity as a medical condition that must be treated,” Dallas Bariatric Surgeon, Dr. Dirk, advises.

That means starting by taking the child to a doctor for a thorough physical examination and, possibly, blood tests and X-rays. Then the doctor will make recommendations, which may include nutrition counseling with a dietitian, therapy sessions with a nutrition counselor and possibly a referral to a specialist.

While broaching the subject of child obesity can seem daunting, the health benefits and overall improvement in quality of life for children struggling with weight-related issues are well worth the tough discussion. After all, kids should be kids—healthy and free to participate fully in the activities they love.


Studies Show Obesity Causes a Range of Problems for Your Body — Even Your Brain

obesity and brain health

 

It’s a well-known fact that obesity can have a wide range of health impacts. We’ve discussed many of these issues on this blog, including how obesity can reduce your lifespan, increase your risk of cancer and cause cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems.

But did you know that obesity also affects your brain? There is a small but growing body of evidence that shows that obesity can have detrimental effects on your most vital organ.

The Link Between Obesity and Brain-Related Problems

In recent years, scientists across the world have conducted studies to determine how obesity affects the brain. Their emerging conclusion is that obesity can cause a range of problems for the brain.

These include:

  • Memory deficits
  • Age-related brain degeneration, including the development of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease

Memory Deficits

Studies show that obesity is linked to brain shrinkage and memory deficits. In a University of Cambridge study, researchers found that a higher a participant’s BMI (body mass index) was, the lower they performed on memory tasks.

This could be because obesity may actually affect the structure of the brain. A Boston University School of Medicine study found that individuals with excess fat tend to exhibit lower overall brain volume.

Brain Degeneration

Besides memory deficits, obesity could also have an effect on brain aging. Another study, which utilized brain scanning, showed that being overweight or obese corresponds with a greater degree of age-related brain degeneration.

Our brains change during the natural aging process. As we become older, the brain loses white matter and shrinks. Studies have shown that obese people have less white matter in their brains compared to normal-weight individuals.

The Relationship Between Obesity and the Brain

The changes that obesity prompts the brain to undergo may also fuel obesity in turn.

Dopamine is a chemical that occurs in the brain and causes us to feel pleasure. One study found that individuals with higher BMIs have a lower concentration of dopamine receptors. In other words, the brain is unable to process the chemical that tells it to feel happy.

That means that people who are obese may not feel pleasure after eating meals of normal proportions, causing them to overeat to feel satisfied.

Past studies have also shown a link between memory and eating habits. Put simply, if someone doesn’t remember eating, they’re more likely to eat. Because obesity may have a detrimental effect on memory, scientists hypothesize that memory deficits can result in overeating among people who are already obese.

Because obesity and brain function are highly complex phenomena, scientists are still determining the precise relationship between obesity and brain problems.

While many questions still remain, Dr. Dirk says, “There is no question that obesity accelerates and worsens various medical conditions and thus can be considered an ‘age accelerator.'”

What Can You Do To Fight Obesity?

While the science is still unsettled, it is very likely that obesity has a negative effect on the brain, and it is certain that obesity causes a range of other problems for the body.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. According to Dr. Dirk, “The simplest way deal with obesity is to prevent it. But if you’re already overweight or obese, you should actively work to reverse it with good nutrition and exercise. If nutrition and exercise fail to produce meaningful results within one year, it’s time to consider your obesity surgery options.”


How Preventing Childhood Obesity Can Help Curb Depression

childhood obesity and depression

More than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are obese or overweight. There are many health risks that accompany childhood obesity, including cardiovascular disease and prediabetes, but one sometimes-overlooked consequence of obesity is depression.

What is the relationship between childhood obesity and depression, and what steps can you take to treat depression caused by obesity? Here’s what you need to know.

The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Depression

In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children (ages 6 to 11) and more than quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12 to 19).

Studies show that children and adolescents who are overweight and obese are at greater risk for social and psychological problems, such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Obese and overweight teens are also more likely to perform poorly in school. Children and adolescents are uniquely susceptible to such problems.

Weight issues aside, adolescence is already a period of vulnerability to the development of psychiatric disorders, including eating disorders, depression and alcohol abuse. Factors such as peer pressure and bullying can contribute to increased stress.

While it is true that findings directly linking obesity and depression are not clear, studies have found that obesity can indirectly lead to depression. Stressful life events like weight-based teasing and victimization can be a significant factor of depression in obese or overweight youth.

And the relationship between depression and weight is mutual. Studies have also overwhelmingly shown that mental health problems such as depression can lead to poor health habits, which can lead to obesity.

Feelings of emptiness prompted by depression or weight can make children or adolescents want to consume sweetened beverages and junk food, which stimulate the release of chemicals that can make them feel better.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

The key to preventing obesity is to implement healthy lifestyle habits starting in childhood. That includes smart nutrition and physical activity, which lower the risk of obesity and developing related diseases.

The dietary behaviors of children and adolescents depend upon many factors, especially the home and schools. To help your child or adolescent eat healthy, consider these simple guidelines.

  1. Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods.

That means fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats, fish, eggs and grains that have not been processed. When shopping at the grocery store, try to buy ingredients that have not been cooked, prepared or altered in any way.

Of course, there are foods, such as oil or pasta, that you can’t easily make yourself. When it comes to lightly processed foods, aim to eat them less often. Eat heavily processed foods (such as bread, chips, cookies and cereals) rarely, if at all.

  1. Eat home-cooked food as much as possible.

By eating at home, you can avoid processed ingredients more easily (and save a pretty penny). Eating at home makes it more likely that you will eat less.

Do you find it difficult to prepare home-cooked meals? Consider the time-saving technique of meal prepping.

  1. Use salt and fats only as needed in cooking.

Salt and fat aren’t the enemy — you need them in order to prepare delicious food. But the key rule is moderation. Add just enough to bring out the taste, but don’t go overboard.

  1. Be smart about eating out.

We’ve previously discussed tips for making smart decisions when eating out. In addition to strategizing, you should try to eat at restaurants which follow the same rules as above. Try to avoid restaurants with heavily processed, calorie-heavy foods.

  1. Drink mostly water.

Teens often consume high quantities of sugar- and calorie-laden soft drinks, juice drinks and beverages. You can’t do better than drinking water, which keeps your calorie intake much lower and provides numerous other health benefits.

Physical activity and exercise is the second prong of a healthy lifestyle. We have discussed a range of exercises that are appropriate for obese individuals. These include low-impact cardio, such as walking and swimming or water aerobics, and strength training.

By addressing childhood obesity through diet, exercise and, when necessary, surgical procedures, it is possible to avoid the wide variety of health risks that accompany obesity, including depression.


Exercises for Obesity to Jump-Start Your Fitness Routine

exercises for obesity

The go-to mantra of weight loss is to eat healthy and exercise. But what if you physically can’t? For people who are obese, standard recommendations for working out just don’t cut it.

Trying to work out when you’re obese is tough. It already takes a lot of motivation and courage just to get off the couch and walk into the gym, but once you’ve made it that far, then what?

Here are some exercises for obesity to try that won’t break your spirit—or your back.

Walking

This low-impact cardio is often the easiest way to start exercising, whether at a gym or around the block. If you’re looking for more motivation on your daily stroll, try a pedometer. Turning exercise into a game can be great for your health.

Swimming or water aerobics

Swimming offers another opportunity for low-impact cardio. It’s easy on joints but also considered one of the most calorie-burning workouts out there. Being consistent with aquatic workouts can ease you onto the path to losing the weight.

Personal training

If your trying to avoid the various bariatric surgeries, you might try a personal trainer. This is the best option for someone who might have gotten off the couch but still feels intimidated when it comes to working out in public. A personal trainer, whether live in a studio or online, will offer workouts that work for your body type and level of ability.

Strength training

Strength and resistance training can be a good way to jump-start your fitness. Start on the machines that cause the least impact to your joints and then move up from there as you develop more muscle. Free weights and resistance bands are also effective for working your muscles.

Being active in other parts of your life

The more active you are outside of the gym, the easier it will be once you’re in it. This includes things such as housework, gardening, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from the door and other small daily tasks that add up to a lot more activity during the course of a day or week.

If you’ve tried to get into exercise but find your weight won’t allow it, it may be time to get in touch with Dr. Dirk.


Why does obesity often go untreated?

obesity treatment

Some diseases and health problems, like tumors or blood clots, lurk below the surface, but obesity isn’t one of them. While obesity’s effects — like diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems — can be detrimental, a new study shows that it is woefully undertreated.

Obesity isn’t a difficult diagnosis, so why are so many doctors hesitant to intervene?

“My takeaway from this study,” Dr. Dirk says,” is that many family practice physicians, primary caregivers and even specialists do not fully understand obesity as a medical condition and do not understand how prescription medications are different from weight loss surgery procedures.”

Of the 1500 doctors surveyed in the study, only 13 percent said they referred patients for bariatric surgery.

This is a problem because bariatric surgery can be a cure not only for obesity, but for all the health problems that come with it. Many patients see heart problems, diabetes and joint pain disappear after weight loss surgery.

The study concluded that doctors need more education to realize the impact obesity can have — and the impact they can have if they treat patients for it the same as they would any other disease or health problem.

The word that comes up the most in the article linked above is “frustrated.” Doctors are frustrated when patients have trouble following nutrition plans or gain weight back. It’s also frustrating for both the patient and the doctor to have to deal with insurance companies, the majority of which won’t cover obesity surgery or treatment at all.

“Don’t let your doctor or insurance company keep you from the treatment you deserve,” Dr. Dirk says.  “If you need obesity surgery, my office staff and I can help you get there.”

If you’d like to take the next step toward a healthier you, it may be time to consider contacting Dallas Bariatric Surgeon, Dr. Dirk Rodriguez,  and begin your new life with the help of Dr. Dirk.


Why parents should aim to prevent childhood obesity as early as 2 years old

childhood obesity

Most people can remember when they first tried losing weight. Maybe it was after they gained the “freshman 15” or gave birth to a child, but a glance in the mirror or the number on the scale said it was time to take it seriously. For many, however, the weight gain starts much earlier. In fact, doctors say parents should be looking out for their children’s weight as early as two years old.

A recent policy brief from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut makes it clear that watching infant weight is the best way to curb childhood obesity.

The Institute recommends avoiding “screen time,” providing day care centers with nutritional guidelines and encouraging children to be active, something Dr. Dirk wholeheartedly agrees with. He recommends activities as simple as tag or hide and go seek to keep kids moving throughout the day.

“It is important for parents to be aware of their children’s food intake and physical activity,” Dr. Dirk says.

The hope is that helping children make healthy choices at a young age will keep them on the right track. The Institute says childhood obesity leads to teen obesity and so on, resulting in heart disease, diabetes and all the other negative effects that come with being overweight.

Dr. Dirk sees this play out every day.

“I perform obesity surgery on teenagers,” Dr. Dirk says. “I see the enormous negative impact obesity has on teenagers’ lives and health.”

His tips for keeping children at a healthy weight sound a lot like his recommendations for adults: eat freshly prepared foods, increase physical activity and avoid anything processed or sugary. For children, an easy culprit to eliminate is juice.

“Commercially prepared 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice is not healthy.” Dr. Dirk says. “It is concentrated sugar — that’s why it tastes so good.”

Teaching children about health and nutrition as early as possible is also a great way to prevent them from becoming picky eaters. So maybe when they see the cafeteria in their freshman dorm, they’ll head for the salad bar instead of the pizza station… at least once a week.

Learn more about the different types of Dallas weight loss surgical procedures we offer.