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.


How to Avoid the New Year’s Slump to Reach Your Goals

reach goals

 

At this point in January, you may find that you’ve lost motivation and have gotten off track in sticking with the health resolutions you set for this year. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. You are far from alone! According to U.S. News, 80 percent of goal-setters drop their New Year’s resolutions by February.

So how do you pick yourself back up and stop yourself from throwing in the towel completely? Below are five tips to get you back on track so you can feel good about accomplishing your goals come December.

1. Revisit your “why”

There will be plenty of days when you don’t feel like doing what it takes to get healthy. The couch may be calling you to stay cozy instead of lacing up your sneakers and getting outside for a walk in the cold. When this happens, you need to know your “why” — the true, deep reason you want to achieve your goal.

For example, are you looking to lose weight? While looking better and being able to wear certain clothes are certainly good benefits of losing weight, they may not be strong enough reasons for you to commit to healthy eating and exercise over the long term. Getting healthy so you can be around to enjoy your grandchildren or to have the energy to give back to a cause you truly care about are some deeper reasons that may pull you off the couch time and again.

In a nutshell, when you have a strong connection to the reason for your goal, you are much more likely to be successful in reaching it.

2. Be realistic

Make sure your goals are attainable and avoid an “all or nothing” mentality. For example, don’t resolve to NEVER eat ice cream or French fries again. Instead, avoid these foods most of the time but allow yourself to mindfully indulge (and enjoy doing so without guilt) from time to time.

3. Break down big goals into small steps

Set small, attainable goals to work on each week that will help you work toward your larger goals. For each goal, write down every possible action you can think of that you will need to take to reach that goal. Then put the first few actions, or steps, on your calendar. Once those are done, add the next few steps and so on.

4. Track your progress

Keep track of and celebrate each small success to help you stay motivated. If your end goal is to lose 25 pounds, focus on 5 pounds at a time. Each time you lose 5 pounds, acknowledge and celebrate this smaller step toward your larger goal. Some ideas to celebrate might be going to the movies with a friend or buying yourself some new fitness gear.

One great way to track your progress is by keeping a food and/or exercise journal. You’ll be able to look back in your journal to remind yourself of all your hard work and see how far you’ve come. This is a great tool to keep you moving forward whenever you feel you’re losing steam or getting frustrated.

5. Enlist help

Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip your workout or grab a few cookies before dinner. Think about what works best for helping you to stay on track.

It may be as simple as reminding yourself of your “why” and thinking about how giving into temptation will derail you from the better future you want to create for yourself. If you need outside support and accountability, have a trusted friend or family member who you know you can call to help you when you’re facing temptation. Have a friend who is also working toward health resolutions? Propose that you’ll be each other’s accountability partners!

The key is to not let yourself get down when you occasionally get off track — life happens! Take it one day at a time and do the best you can each day. Remember, you still have 11 months to work toward your goals. Apply these tips and you’ll find yourself making great progress in no time.


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.


Spices with health benefits

spices with health benefits

Do you use spices regularly in your cooking? If not, you should start. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Using Spices

Not only do spices add a ton of flavor to your food, but they offer great health benefits. Here are a few ways spices are good for your health:

1. Aid Weight Loss

Spices can help to increase your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. For example, studies have shown that capsaicin (found in chili peppers), may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.

2. Improve Heart Health

Research has shown cultures that eat spicy foods have a lower rate of heart attack and stroke. This may be because chili peppers can reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, the capsaicin in chili peppers may fight inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Protect Against Cancer

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin has the ability to kill some cancer and leukemic cells. Also, turmeric (a spice found in curry powder and some mustards) may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors.

4. Protect Against Diabetes

Inflammation and high blood sugar levels both largely contribute to diabetes. Spices can improve blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, helping to prevent or improve diabetes.

5. Improve Your Mood

Spicy foods increase your body’s production of “happy” hormones, like serotonin, which can help lessen stress and mild depression.

How to Get Spices into Your Diet

Small amounts of both dried and fresh spices can provide health benefits, so don’t worry if you’re not a spicy food person!

Below are some easy and delicious ideas for using spices in your cooking:

  • Put some slices of ginger or a pinch of cumin in a cup of hot tea
  • Add chopped chili peppers to soups, stews and chili
  • Coat shrimp in cumin and coriander and then sauté
  • Grate fresh ginger into vinaigrette
  • Add red pepper flakes or chopped ginger to stir-fry dishes
  • Make chicken curry
  • Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots
  • Add cumin to brown rice or red lentils
  • Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce or add to quick bread batters
  • Sprinkle turmeric* on egg salad, add to a chicken or seafood casserole or add to water when cooking rice

*To absorb 2,000 percent more turmeric, pair it with black pepper

Start with the suggestions above and then let them inspire you to experiment with your own ideas. In no time, you’ll be a pro at using spices in cooking and will enjoy the great taste of your food, as well as the added health benefits.


How to Lose Weight Fast, But Safely

lose weight fast

If you’re considering embarking upon a weight loss plan, health should always be your top goal. Health and safety go hand in hand to make a plan successful.

The general rule for weight loss is that it’s unsafe to lose more than three pounds per week. If this sounds like it’s not enough, be careful. It’s far better to lose 10 pounds in a month than lose five pounds in a week, hit a wall and give up, gain it all back and be at square one in a month.

Think of your long-term goals for a healthier lifestyle — being able to run and jump, having the stamina to play in the yard with your kids, or getting to shop in regular department stores — rather than how many pounds you need to lose by a strict deadline.

Once you’re in that mindset, go all in on the classic recipe for weight loss: nutritional eating and aerobic exercise.

On the nutritional side, eat several small meals per day as opposed to just a couple of large ones. Drink plenty of water, and skip the sugary beverages. In fact, take a day to get all the junk food out of your home entirely so it won’t even be a temptation. Keeping a food journal can be a great way to monitor your calorie count, and just the act of writing down what you eat can cause you to eat less.

For exercise, a blend of cardio and strength training works best. If you haven’t exercised in a while or feel like you may not be able to, check with your doctor to develop a plan. The key is taking it slow at first and building up to a regular routine; Dr. Dirk recommends one hour of aerobic exercise every single day.

Between food intake and calories burned, you should be at a deficit of about 500 calories each day. Any more than that can become dangerous. Be realistic and know that you have to consume food to be able to exercise and build muscle.

Don’t give up and stick to your goals, and in the long term, whether it be a month or a year, you will see the return on your investment.


Want to live a longer life? Get more exercise!

exerciseIt’s no secret that exercise has numerous health benefits ranging from reducing the risk of diabetes to easing symptoms of depression. At a time when obesity has become a nationwide epidemic, the importance of exercise is more crucial than ever. While experts agree that exercise is a necessity for a healthy lifestyle, the question remains: How much exercise do we really need?

Government health organizations recommend about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which averages out to just over 20 minutes per day, seven days a week. However, more strenuous and prolonged workout sessions may prove more beneficial.

Recent studies conducted by researchers with the National Cancer Institute and Harvard University pooled information from six large health surveys about people’s exercise habits and compared that info against 14 years of death records for the group.

As expected, those adults featured in the research who did not exercise at all carried the highest risk of premature death. They were followed not-so-closely by those adults who achieved less than the recommended exercise, yet still reduced their risk of premature death by 20 percent. The group that consistently met the recommended 150 minutes per week reduced their risk of early mortality by 31 percent.

But the benefits of exercise don’t stop there. Those who tripled the recommended amount exercise to reach a total of 450 minutes per week enjoyed a 39 percent drop in likelihood of an early death versus those who did not exercise at all. Beyond that, the study showed that longevity benefits plateaued.

These recent studies support Dr. Dirk’s long-held beliefs on daily exercise.

“I have espoused this idea for years,” Dr. Dirk says. “The old ‘20 minutes of exercise three times a week’ is worthless. The human body needs the beneficial stress of exercise to stimulate the immune system to repair. More importantly, it forces our heart and other organs to work efficiently.”

The moral of the story? The recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week is certainly better than nothing, but building upon that number for longer and more challenging workouts is likely to deliver greater benefits over time.

“To all my weight loss surgery patients: get on board!” Dr. Dirk encourages. “Start or resume your exercise routine. Slowly but surely work up to performing one continuous hour of exercise five or six times a week. (Don’t hurt yourself!) This regimen will help you get healthy, live a longer life—oh yeah, and lose a ton of weight!”