Why Giving Up Diet Soda Should be Your New Year’s Resolution



With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. While it can be tempting to commit to as many positive changes to your lifestyle as you can imagine, it can be overwhelming to try and address too many areas of concern all at once. Instead, set manageable goals, stay focused and take one resolution at a time. Doing so will be of benefit whether you’re someone who gets excited by the idea of making resolutions — or someone who lowered your New Year’s expectations a long time ago.

A Great Resolution to Get Started

If getting healthy is one of your main goals for 2018, we suggest starting with a New Year’s resolution to give up soda — specifically, diet soda. While diet soda may appear to be a healthy choice on the surface, it’s actually quite the opposite. Below are some of the main reasons you should remove diet sodas from your diet.

Artificial Sweeteners Have Negative Effects on the Body

Artificial sweeteners possess a greater intensity of flavor than real sugar. Consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, can gradually dull our senses. The result? Naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and vegetables, stop tasting as appetizing.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar. Like sugar, these artificial sweeteners trigger the release of insulin, sending your body into fat storage mode and leading to weight gain.

Drinking Diet Soda Can Lead to Weight Gain

Just because diet soda is calorie-free doesn’t mean it will help you in your weight loss efforts. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas found that, over a 10-year period, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. Even worse, study participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced a whopping waist circumference increase of over 500 percent.

Drinking Diet Soda is Associated with an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36 percent. Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a group of conditions — including high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels — that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diet Soda Has Zero Nutritional Value

In addition to not consuming any calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not putting any nutrients into your body. And your body needs nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and function optimally. Replace diet soda with beverages that offer actual health benefits, such as antioxidant-rich green tea and mineral water.

Conventional wisdom to the contrary, there’s nothing healthy about diet sodas. Stop relying on their empty promise to help you slim down and stay fit. Make avoiding diet sodas your number one New Year’s resolution. You’ll begin feeling better before you know it. And, with those improvements, you’ll be that much more prepared to take on your other resolutions — one by one.

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.

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.

Take Charge of Your Health For American Heart Month

American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to take action to improve your heart health, especially if you’re overweight or obese.

Why Your Heart Health Matters

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for American men and women? Heart disease claims the lives of 1 out of every 4 American adults — that’s about 17 million people every year.

The good news is that there are certain risk factors that can tell you if you’re likely to get heart disease. By learning about the risk factors you may have, you can work to prevent these health problems.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make it more likely that you’ll develop a disease. So what are the key risk factors for heart disease?

  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

In the past, we’ve discussed how obesity can lead to many of these other conditions. Reducing your weight can go far when it comes to improving your heart health.

Take Action: Know Your Numbers

There is no better time than American Heart Month to become more aware of your important health numbers. By learning about and keeping track of these numbers, you can learn your risk factors for heart disease, monitor your progress in reducing them and motivate yourself to stick to good heart health.

The key numbers include:

  • Body weight and body-mass index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

To find out your numbers and to set up a plan to bring them within the healthy range, arrange an appointment with a doctor.

Take Action: Change Your Lifestyle

The best way to improve your health, reduce your weight and prevent heart disease is to make positive changes to your lifestyle through diet and exercise.

To reduce your weight and fight back against heart disease, eating a healthy, balanced diet and committing to an active lifestyle is crucial.

Dr. Dirk recommends a diet that is high in protein, low in carbs and made up of unprocessed foods, lean proteins, whole grains and produce. Committing to daily calorie-burning aerobic exercise is also crucial to effective weight loss.

Sometimes, diet and exercise aren’t enough to help you lose weight. In those cases, weight loss surgery is an option. When paired with diet and exercise, weight loss surgery has been shown to have a real effect on heart health:

  • 95% of people are able to avoid diabetes or make it easier to treat
  • 93% of people see improved blood pressure

Don’t wait until American Heart Month is over to start taking your health seriously. Call (214) 308-0189 today to set up an appointment with Dr. Dirk to discuss your weight loss options.


Healthy Meal-Prep Tips

meal-prep tips

Packing lunches and cooking breakfast can take up so much time that you may be tempted to just hit the drive-thru on the way to work or swing by the cafeteria at your school or office. Avoid temptation by making these easy grab-and-go meals in advance.


Smoothies: Over the weekend, blend together a variety of fruit, leafy greens, Greek yogurt and/or all-natural peanut butter and freeze the mixture in muffin tins to make portioning a breeze. When you’re ready for a smoothie, just pop out a few of the frozen disks and blend them up with the liquid of your choice for a fast, convenient breakfast.

Oatmeal cups: Muffin tins to the rescue again! Prepping a healthy breakfast in these perfectly portioned pans is a great way to get to work on time and eat a nutritious breakfast that will hold you over until lunchtime. This recipe for baked oatmeal cups provides fiber, protein and healthy carbs all in one handheld serving.

Steel-cut oatmeal: Steel-cut oats are the least-processed (and therefore most fiber-packed) kind of oats you can buy, but they also take an inconveniently long time to cook. Make your steel-cut oats in your slow cooker in advance and eat oatmeal for breakfast all week. Try healthy toppings like nuts, unsweetened coconut, natural peanut butter and fruit to mix things up.


Mason jar salads: If you never pack a salad for lunch because you know it will be soggy by the time you eat it, try making your salads in a mason jar. Layering the ingredients in the right order prevents delicate ingredients, like lettuce, from getting soggy. When you’re ready to eat, dump your salad into a bowl for an easy, nutritious lunch.

Egg cups: Eggs aren’t just for breakfast anymore! Use your trusty muffin tin to make your own mini-frittatas in advance. Mix scrambled eggs with veggies, lean meat and just a little bit of low-fat cheese for a well-rounded lunch that’s perfectly packable.

Skewers: Skewers are another simple tool that can help you keep track of your portions and make lunchtime fun. Skewer ingredients like lunch meat, shrimp, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, low-fat mozzarella balls and fruit on a kabob stick for a colorful and convenient lunch.

Happy packing!

How to Set SMART Goals for Weight Loss

Now that fall has officially begun and things are back in full swing, it’s easy to fall into a haze and let your workout fall by the wayside. It’s time to set S.M.A.R.T. weight loss goals and get back into a healthy mindset. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

weight loss goalsSpecific

Most people have a general sense of what sort of fitness level they’d like to achieve, like “lose weight” or “live a healthier lifestyle.” While admirable, these sorts of goals tend to be a bit ambiguous and not very motivational. Without a specific goal, it’s easier to get off-track, and there’s very little one can do to determine the changes that need to be made and those which have already been achieved. Instead of just aiming “improving endurance,” aim to complete a 5K race in the next three months. Instead of just promising to “losing weight,” try “losing 10 pounds this month.”


What do the specific goals above have in common? They’re measurable. Measurable goals allow you to track your progress, whether through lowered blood pressure and cholesterol or running that extra mile at the gym. Tracking your own progress can be highly motivational, since it allows you to witness the fruits of your labor in a concrete way. Measurable goals also help you to make adjustments to your diet and exercise plan along the way.


No one likes to feel like their efforts are futile, and continually setting goals that are unrealistic can bring those feelings about. When you set weight-loss goals, it’s important to think about your starting point (weight, lifestyle, available time for exercise), which varies greatly from person to person. Choosing attainable goals will set you up for success and ensure that you pursue healthy weight loss rather than extreme measures.


When it comes to choosing attainable goals, it’s imperative to consider what’s right for you. Your goals must be relevant to your personal priorities and health. Your spouse may be making changes in diet and exercise to lower his or her cholesterol, but if your goal is to lose weight, you may have to tailor your own approach accordingly.


This one goes hand-in-hand with “specific” and “measurable.” A time-bound goal aids in tracking your progress, but it also allows you make plans that are motivated by a specific deadline. If your goal is to run a 10K someday, will that get you up and moving now? Probably not. If you’re aiming to complete a race within the next three months, however, that might hold a little more sway.

If you’re considering weight loss surgery procedures or need help setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your lifestyle, call Dr. Dirk to get started.

The Solution to Fat Stigma and Bullying


As fall approaches and the kids are going back to school, first-day jitters abound for students everywhere. One thing kids shouldn’t have to worry about? Bullying. Unfortunately, as schools and administrators battle bullies, kids and teens remain susceptible to hurtful or aggressive behavior from other students.

Sadly, the primary reason kids are targeted in schools is obesity or weight-related issues. Before sensitive issues like sexual orientation, academic performance or ethnicity, childhood weight problems rank as the most common motive for bullies.

While weight-based biases are often more pronounced in affluent communities where an ultra-thin physique is most valued, it seems that “fat stigma” is almost universal among developed countries. The community at large often attributes weight-gain to voluntary lifestyle choices rather than a medical condition, and the underlying belief that obese people choose their weight seems to justify poor treatment and discrimination. In fact, some believe that discrimination will act as motivation for overweight people to make better choices.

“What is sad is that there is a solution to this problem,” Dr. Dirk says. “Instead of demanding change in laws or other peoples behavior, it is long overdue to accept obesity as a true medical condition. Obesity has been identified as a real medical condition since 2004. It took the American Medical Association until 2013 to recognize it as a medical condition.”

As a medical condition, obesity directly affects health and day-to-day activities, from students’ classwork to the daily tasks of a demanding job. It takes a toll on one’s heart health, blood sugar levels and, sadly, psychological well-being.

Facing daily discrimination in what should be a safe learning environment isn’t something any child or teenager should have to live with. Instead, kids should be educated on healthy practices like a balanced diet and regular exercise with the help of a doctor or nutritionist. If these changes aren’t enough to combat obesity as a medical condition, there are still options to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

“If your obesity includes, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and high cholesterol, it is time to think of bariatric surgery even sooner,” Dr. Dirk explains. For this reason, Dr. Dirk is one of the few surgeons who chooses to operate on teens to allow them full participation in the day-to-day activities that their friends and peers enjoy. If your child struggles with obesity, remember that they struggle with a medical condition that is treatable with the help of trained experts.

How Bariatric Surgery Can Benefit Your Brain

Bariatric Surgery and Your BrainBariatric surgery comes with a lot of benefits, which isn’t exactly breaking news. Your body operates more efficiently when it’s healthy, and weight loss surgery can make the body immeasurably healthier. Alongside treating diabetes and reducing joint pain, new research indicates that weight loss surgery boosts your brainpower and creates lasting benefits for your noggin.

Obesity can be really hard on the brain. Carrying around too many extra pounds can result in bad memory, food addiction and a host of other disorders. As we age, the impact of obesity only intensifies. Obesity is already linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and stroke, but the hormones released by fat could be having a broader inflammatory impact on your body.

According to Dr. Dirk, conditions that predispose patients to Alzheimer’s disease look much like those for cardiovascular disease. “The less common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, are the same.”

When a patient loses weight, whether through healthy lifestyle changes alone or alongside bariatric surgery, the risk for these ailments declines.

A study released earlier this year found that obesity surgery could help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Dirk isn’t so sure that’s the case. “Obesity is very common. More than 78 million Americans are obese, and 5.4 million will be affected by Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Statistically speaking, it’s highly likely that a person with Alzheimer’s is going to be obese.”

There is also a gene combination that has been identified in Alzheimer’s patients that is linked to high cholesterol, which gives credence to the idea that obesity is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

While patients should be concerned about how obesity affects their brain health, Dr. Dirk cautions that everyone should be doing what they can to prevent chronic disease. Alzheimer’s disease can strike anyone, and everyone should work toward a healthy lifestyle that benefits the entire body, not just the brain.

“My recommendation to everyone is to work at being healthy,” says Dr. Dirk. “If that means it’s time to consider obesity surgery, then don’t wait.”

Bariatric surgery is a major procedure, and it comes with risks, but for many patients the benefits to their health and quality of life far outweigh potential concerns. Contact Dallas Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr. Dirk Rodriguez NOW!