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.


Obesity: A Major Contributor to Rising Death Rates

rising death rates

After years of decline, mortality rates among middle-aged Americans throughout the United States have begun to increase. Additionally, in some parts of the country, life expectancy is falling.

What are the factors contributing to this rise in death rates? A recent article in the Denver Post highlighted the findings of a new study that sheds some light on this important issue.

Obesity a major contributor to rising death rates

Ryan Masters, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Behavioral Science and the lead author of this study, concluded that there are two main drivers of this trend in rising death rates: drug overdoses and obesity.

Masters and his research team identified the opioid epidemic as the bigger problem of these two drivers. According to the study, drug-related deaths of middle-aged white men have increased dramatically since 1980.

Obesity was also identified as a main factor in mortality. “We are just starting to see the real health consequences of the obesity epidemic,” Masters wrote. The study found that decades-long progress in fighting heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases has slowed, contributing to the rising death rates.

Dr. Dirk’s opinion

Dr. Dirk agrees with the study’s conclusion that obesity is killing a lot of people. He also believes that, while the drug epidemic is dramatic, obesity affects far more people. There are many more obese people in the US than drug users, and more people die as a result of obesity because of the wide array of health issues it leads to, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Dr. Dirk believes the drug epidemic is important and must be addressed. However, he feels that obesity is a more pressing issue with a simpler solution. It is high time to make being healthy financially and physically possible for everyone.


Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.


Which vitamins and minerals does your body need?

vitamins and minerals

We all know that one of the most important parts of any weight loss program is diet. Eating healthy, whole foods in the right amounts is crucial to weight loss.

It’s very important to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly and stay healthy. Below are the top vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is extremely important to the health of your eyes, as well as red blood cell production, immune function, skin health and embryonic development.

Vitamin A can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots.

B vitamins

B vitamins include B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid. These vitamins play a critical role in your body’s ability to create and release energy. B vitamins are also responsible for creating red blood cells, which allow oxygen to move throughout your body.

B vitamins can be found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is particularly important when your body is under stress, including the type of stress that can often come with dieting: food deprivation, calorie reduction and cravings. Vitamin C helps your body maintain a healthy immune system and correct any damage done to your body by stress. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, red and green peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps maintain the tissues in your body, such as your liver, skin and eyes. It also prevents the pollution in the air from causing damage to your lungs and works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells.

Vitamin E can be found in egg yolks, sardines, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, almonds, peanut butter and some oils.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health. As a matter of fact, 99 percent of its role is to keep your bones and teeth strong, supporting skeletal structure and function. Calcium is also important for cell signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and some fish (like sardines, salmon and rainbow trout).

Magnesium

Magnesium helps develop and maintain bones, maintain normal nerve and muscle function, support a healthy immune system and maintain a steady heartbeat. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein.

Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, milk, bananas, dried apricots, avocados, halibut and other fish.

Potassium

Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce the effects of salt and maintain regular digestive and muscular functioning. It may also reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and possibly decrease bone loss.

Potassium can be found in tomato paste and puree, white beans, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, soybeans, bananas, potatoes and fish (such as flounder, sardines, cod and salmon).

Regardless of what type of diet you’re following, be sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of these vitamins and minerals every day to avoid deficiency and keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.

If your specific diet doesn’t allow some of the food sources mentioned for a specific vitamin or mineral, talk about taking supplements with your doctor.


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.


Universal diet: Why there is no diet that works for everyone

v

Have you tried diet after diet, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t lead to the weight loss and better health you hoped for?

You are not alone. Most people have felt discouraged when the latest fad diet didn’t deliver on its promises. While there are many theories about which diet plan is the best, there is no one diet that works for every single person. Put simply, a universal diet just doesn’t exist.

Why one diet doesn’t fit all

Why can some people eat nuts or dairy products without any issues, while others need to avoid them due to allergies or other problems? It’s because genetically, every person’s body is different and we all react to food differently.

The same is true for diets. While one diet may work great for one person, it could be a complete flop for the next person. Don’t beat yourself up if your friend is seeing results on a certain diet plan and you’re not. Your bodies are different and don’t respond the same way to the same foods.

Supporting research   

study done by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science found that even if people all eat the same exact meal, the way their bodies end up processing the meal is different from person to person.

The study found huge differences in the rise of blood sugar levels of different people who ate identical meals. Eran Segal, a co-author of the study, says that these research findings show why “personalized eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice.”

Basically, what works for one person won’t work the same way (or at all) for another person.

So which diet is right for you?

Now that you know why diets you’ve tried in the past haven’t worked, how can you figure out which diet plan is right for you?

There isn’t one quick and easy way to find out. You can try one (or a combination) of these options:

Trial and error: You will need to experiment to find the right diet for you. Try starting with a high-protein, low-carb diet option, since this type of diet tends to have higher success rates for more people than some other types of diets.

However you decide to start, it’s best to stick with one type of diet plan for at least six weeks to find out whether it’s working or not. A shorter period of time isn’t long enough for your body to adjust to the new diet.

Consultation with a doctor: The number of calories you should eat is very personal and unique to you. A doctor can help you create a personalized diet plan for you based on this number, as well as other information like your medical history and current health status.

Work with a nutritionist: A nutritionist can also work with you to develop a personalized diet plan and coach you through the process, providing guidance and support.

Whichever path you choose, be sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling along the way and write down as much as you can in a log book or journal. A doctor or nutritionist can help you start one and show you what type of information you should track.

Don’t give up

You will learn a ton of information during this process. You’ll get to know your body and learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

Just remember that, no matter which type of diet you follow, it needs to be sustainable for the long-term for any changes to last. Don’t think of healthy eating as a temporary diet, but as a permanent lifestyle.

Keep at it and don’t give up!


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. 

 


Patient Testimonial: Callie Cunningham

patient testimonial

Being overweight can have real consequences not only for your physical health, but also for your quality of life. Just ask Callie Cunningham.

Before meeting Dr. Dirk and undergoing a gastric sleeve procedure in May 2016, Callie, a phlebotomist, had long struggled with weight problems. She was constantly depressed or angry, and she had little desire to go anywhere or do anything. Back then, Callie weighed 333 pounds.

After her mother and her children gave her the motivation to change her life, Callie decided to undergo a weight loss procedure with the help of Dr. Dirk.

Thanks to the gastric sleeve and Callie’s commitment to changing her lifestyle, she was able to lose 81 pounds and counting. She realized how big an accomplishment her weight loss was when she discovered she could wear her teenage daughter’s clothes.

patient testimonial

Now, Callie eats smaller portions and lives a more active lifestyle, including walking and spending more time with her children. “I feel better about myself and my appearance,” Callie says.

She’s also enjoying the responses she gets about her weight loss. “I wasn’t used to receiving compliments!”

Callie says that Dr. Dirk’s guidance and advice was crucial to her weight loss journey. “He was amazing, but also blunt,” Callie says. “He told it like it is, with no sugar-coating.”

Above all, Callie’s experience has taught her that the key to weight loss is being motivated to change yourself and your life. “I tell my friends that the sleeve is a tool to help you, but the real tool is yourself. You have to want to change and to be healthy.”

Find more inspiring success stories from Dr. Dirk’s patients here.


Patient Testimonial: Vicki Steidley

gastric sleeve surgery

When full-time RN Vicki Steidley began exploring weight loss surgery options to treat her constant back pain, she was told that back surgery would be impossible due to her obesity. But she was determined to stop her pain, and her neurosurgeon told her that losing weight would allow her to have back surgery or even reduce her need for surgery altogether.

Now, after a receiving a gastric sleeve at the tender age of 64 and losing 78 pounds, Vicki is more energetic, happier and healthier than ever. We spoke to Vicki about her weight loss journey and her experience with Dr. Dirk.

What was life like for you before the procedure? Did you have any health issues and were they resolved by the surgery?

I had no quality of life prior to my gastric sleeve surgery and was unable to do the things I enjoyed, like going to flea markets, digging in the dirt and fishing. I became short of breath easily and had back pain 24/7.

What motivated you to get weight loss surgery?

My neurosurgeon suggested weight loss surgery and said that I may not need back surgery if I lost weight. I have battled my weight all my life and never won the battle. As a nurse, I knew I was a high risk for heart attack and/or stroke. Now, I can do all the things I enjoy without back pain. I have never had this much energy or felt this good.

How did Dr. Dirk help you throughout the process?

Dr. Dirk and his staff were so helpful and supportive. He was available to me 24 hours a day. He thoroughly explained everything and really cared about me. I understood that the diet and exercise program was a lifelong commitment, but knew if I wanted any kind of life, this is what I needed to do.

How has your life changed since? 

Everything I had tried in the past just didn’t work. I have the most wonderful life now, and my co-workers are always talking about how good I look. I always have a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

How have you changed your diet and exercise?

I do stick to the diet, which hasn’t been difficult as I no longer feel hungry. I no longer crave the bad foods I ate in the past, and I always make sure to take in the appropriate amount of protein daily. I go to the gym 5 days a week and I enjoy the way I feel after my workout; challenge myself each time I go. I know the diet and exercise are what make me feel so wonderful and full of energy.

Do you have new outlook on life? 

I have a whole new outlook on life. I wake up every day feeling good and full of energy. My weight loss immediately after surgery was slow, but once the weight started dropping and I started making progress in the gym, I knew I had made the right decision. 

What has been the response from friends and family?

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while yesterday, and he didn’t even recognize me at first. I am constantly telling people how I lost the weight and I recommend Dr. Dirk highly. One of my co-workers went to him for surgery and is also losing weight. My son is also planning on having the surgery after hearing all I have said about Dr. Dirk and his support.

What is your favorite thing to do now that you have lost weight?

My favorite thing to do now is to challenge myself to do more. I am planning on running a 5K next spring. I can’t say enough that it is never too late to make changes that will improve your outlook on life.

Find more inspiring success stories from Dr. Dirk’s patients here.


Study: Women Struggle to Know When They’re Full

obese women

While it’s easy to feel a little guilty when you overeat, what happens if you never actually realize you’re overeating? That may be the case for some obese women.

A recent study by UT Southwestern Medical Center studied the brain activity of 15 obese women with a BMI (body mass index) over 35. The results showed that the women simply never received the bodily cues that tell them they should stop eating when they’re full.

The study compared the obese women to women with a BMI below 25, and the leaner women’s brains reacted to food more negatively after reporting they were full, while the obese women continued to find the food appealing even after reporting the same levels of satiety.

Each of the obese women in the study was a candidate for bariatric surgery. Surgery might be the best way to help these women, because it becomes almost physically impossible to overeat after weight loss surgery.

At the end of the day, obesity will always have a negative overall effect on your health.

“If your BMI is 30 or greater, you are in the obese category,” Dr. Dirk says. “There is no arguing with that number. If your BMI is 30 or greater, it’s time to make a change.”

Dr. Dirk recommends that obese people begin by living a healthier lifestyle that incorporates a meal plan of small portions of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and dairy throughout the day. For people who struggle with recognizing bodily cues that they’re full, this lifestyle change may take a lot of effort, but identifying the problem is the first step to improving your life.

If you’ve tried eating healthfully and exercising and still aren’t seeing results, it may be time to take the next step. Bariatric surgery can help cure diabetes, prevent heart disease, and teach your body how to eat properly. If you’re looking for the new lease on life that a healthy weight can give you, it’s time to contact Dr. Dirk.