beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

To find a doctor, call 800-667-5356 or click below:

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

left banner
right banner
Smaller Larger

Summer 2012 edition

Subscribe to our free quarterly e-letter for patient success stories, nutrition and fitness tips and more!
Sign up here »

Our Staff Makes the Difference ... But Our Patients Tell the Story

It's a Wonderful Life and Tom Darnell is Loving It After Losing 100 lbs.

By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN

For some folks, a riding lawn mower makes life more enjoyable. Not for Tom Darnell.

Since Tom had weight loss surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in October 2011, he says, "I'm loving IT" — referring to his push mower, which has replaced his riding mower for landscaping his lawn.

Patient Tom Darnell before and after undergoing weight loss surgery at BIDMC

Since undergoing surgery, Tom has found a lot more energy and seizes every opportunity to exercise. Switching up his lawn mowers is only one example of how Tom has recently integrated healthy behaviors into his new healthy lifestyle.

After losing 100 pounds, Tom reports that he is also making healthier food choices and eating smaller portions.

"I truly thought I would miss eating large amounts of pizza, submarine sandwiches, chips … but I lost my desire for junk food and increased my desire for an active life," he states. "I really have found a new taste for food and am now living a wonderful new life."

Life prior to weight loss surgery wasn't always so wonderful. Those days included fatigue, failed diets, hypertension, activity limited by joint pain, shortness of breath upon exertion, and a borderline diabetic diagnosis.

"Having weight loss surgery was the best thing I ever did," Tom says. "I am no longer taking medications, I can ride my bike for 15 miles at a time, I even kayak with my wife on the Scituate Harbor. It's nice, really nice."

As a construction worker, Tom also finds his work is much easier when it comes to walking up and down platforms. He says rough terrain and the like would often just make his body ache in the past.

"But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, all my aches and pains are now gone," says Tom.

Though he does recall the incisional pain he experienced following weight loss surgery, Tom explains that he would gladly experience that brief pain instead of the daily chronic joint pain he dealt with while carrying around an extra 100 pounds.

Turning 60 was a recent milestone in Tom's life; however, many friends and family commented on how he looks at least 10 years younger as a result of his recent weight loss.

Tom Darnell shows off his 100-lb. weight loss"I am much happier with the way I look," Tom says. He is also pleased that his wife is happier as well.

Tom explains that prior to his surgery, he would eat everything on his plate in addition to eating from others' plates. Now, when he goes to a restaurant, the first thing Tom orders is a take-home container because most portions are too big for him.

"Any time I go to a restaurant, I end up with my meal I am eating and save the extra portion for the next day. I am saving a lot of money too," he adds.

Another thing that pleases Tom - how very socially active he has become.

"I used to avoid seeing people and my friends because I hated the way I looked," he explains. "I shied away from going out, having new experiences and meeting people."

Not anymore. Now you'll find Tom out and about visiting friends, shopping for clothes, and dancing at weddings. He is currently a hospice volunteer and sings for residents in assisted living and long-term care facilities.

"I not only lost weight, I gained a whole new social life," Tom says. "I am happier about the way I look, and my self-esteem is better, and I love singing to the patients."

When asked what he would say to those considering weight loss surgery, Tom answers, "Go for it!" without hesitation.

Having weighed the risks and benefits of surgery before making his decision, "I was willing to do whatever it took to get the life I imagined," Tom explains, "and my life is so much better in so many ways. I am so grateful to the bariatric team, dietitians, and Dr. Schneider."

Tom is continuing to lose some weight, but is focusing more on maintenance and having fun exercising.

"I realize that I lost a little more than 100 pounds," he says, "but who is counting when life is this wonderful?"

All photos courtesy of Tom Darnell

[back to top]

Expert Advice

WLS Reunion an Evening of Inspiration and Motivation

By Amanda Bryant and Christie Roy, BIDMC staff

On May 3, 2012, the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center held its fourth Weight Loss Surgery Reunion at The Inn at Longwood Medical in Boston.

More photos »

Reunion Photos »

About 65 patients were able to attend with family and friends, joining bariatric surgeons Dr. Daniel Jones, Dr. Benjamin Schneider, and Dr. Robert Andrews, as well as the Center's patient support staff. This was the first time the event was held away from the hospital's campus, allowing for a more intimate atmosphere as patients enjoyed hors d'oeuvres while chatting casually with their surgeons and each other.

Among those who attended were patients who have recently undergone bariatric surgery as well as patients who had surgery several years ago. A few were invited to speak about their experiences - the things they can now do that they couldn't before, the confidence they now have, and how bariatric surgery changed their life as a whole.

More photos »

These speeches, some planned and some impromptu, provided motivation and encouragement for others. One woman brought a dress she had worn before surgery, allowing the crowd to see the significant difference in her figure. Another patient described how no one likes to go to the grocery store with him now because of how picky he is about what he buys.

One woman in particular found the speeches, and the event as a whole, to be a tool of inspiration in her personal weight loss journey.

"It's hard to hit a plateau and feel like it'll never get better," she said, declining to give her name, "but hearing people's stories motivated me to get over myself, so thank you to one and all."

The evening's speakers also included Dr. Elliot Chaikof, Chief of the Department of Surgery at BIDMC, and Dr. George Blackburn, Director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine at BIDMC, who was also the first to perform gastric bypass surgery in New England.

More photos »

The reunion took months of planning, headed by Bariatric Program Assistant Amanda Bryant. The Center's staff says all of the organizing is worth it and they are already excited about the next gathering, which they hope to hold about two years from now.

Their excitement was echoed in an e-mail sent by patient Dana Epstein after the event.

"I wanted to take a moment and thank you for all the planning and related work that went into the reunion," he wrote. "I spoke with my mom this morning, and she told me what a lovely event it was, and is already looking forward to the next one!"

Reunion Photos »

Sign up for the quarterly Weight Loss and Well-Being e-letter to be in the know about the next reunion!

[back to top]

Nutrition Corner

Staying On Track This Summer

By Kate Otto, RD, LDN, Bariatric Dietitian

grillingWhether it's a graduation party, wedding, neighborhood get-together or family vacation, there's no doubt that the summer months can be full of special events that seem to revolve around food (with the potential to pack on pounds). These types of engagements can make it tough to manage weight, especially when the social calendar is booked solid.

But it's important to remember that life happens after surgery. You can go to these events, enjoy yourself, and still stay on track with weight loss. The key is making a conscious effort to balance. So the next time you find yourself at a fabulous party or event, try out some of these tips to help you stay on track while still being able to enjoy yourself!

Planning, Portions, and Navigating the Menu

buffet tableThis is the absolute key. If a special event is coming up with lots of tempting treats, set limits before you get there and remind yourself to keep calories in check for the rest of the day. Fill up on lean protein, veggies and fruit, or have a light snack beforehand to avoid showing up on an empty stomach - this is when overeating tends to happen. If you find yourself at a buffet-style event, scope out the menu before you start to fill up your plate. Pick out a couple items that you really want to treat yourself with, and skip the ones you can live without. Try using an appetizer plate for smaller portions and eat your meal seated if you can. Avoid eating when distracted, and let yourself really enjoy your meal. This allows you to listen you your body's satiety cues and can help avoid second helpings.

Show Up Prepared

Offer to help the host or hostess by bringing a side dish. Not only will you know you have at least one healthy option, but you will be one of the most thoughtful guests there! This is especially helpful if you haven't graduated to Stage 5 yet, or are new out of surgery and still figuring out what foods work.

fruit plateNever Underestimate the Power of Fruits and Vegetables

Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals, and hunger-curbing fiber, fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories and taste delicious this time of year! Aim to include ½ to 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables with every meal. Try replacing dessert with fruit to satisfy your sweet craving.

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

Get in those fluids, especially on those hot, humid summer nights. Keep a water bottle or some source of hydrating fluid in hand. This keeps your hands busy from grabbing from those appetizer plates and the fluid keeps that pouch full. Just remember to separate from your solids by 30 minutes.

Learn to Say, "No, thanks."

But politely, of course. Sometimes it can be hard to do this, especially when you don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Learn to do it in a way you are comfortable with, and don't be afraid to say it. Don't let the fear of saying "no" to second helpings or an unhealthy food choice sabotage your weight loss efforts. Be proud of how far you have come!

woman's feet walkingKeep Moving

Even if your social calendar is booming, make some time for exercise … it's way more fun in warm weather anyway! Step out for a walk on your lunch break, hit the pool to swim some laps on the weekend, take a stroll after dinner with a friend, or shake your booty on the dance floor. Every little bit counts, so get out there (and get some vitamin D while you are at it)!

Strength in Numbers

Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your weight loss efforts, even if they don't know it. Making good choices does not mean that you need to broadcast that you had surgery, or that you are trying to lose weight. But surrounding yourself with people who are on the same path to a healthy lifestyle, and who encourage you along the way will make you that much more successful in the long run. You are worth it!

[back to top]

On the Lighter Side

GPS: Don't Leave Home Without One!

By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN

Do you have a GPS in your vehicle? Have you ever entered information to map your journey, including zip codes, but omitted important information to reach your destination? Perhaps you did not include paying tolls or your preference for highway travel in your search? While driving, did the GPS's voice endearingly say, "Turn right at the intersection, bear left ahead" while you thought to yourself … seriously?

Intuitively, you wonder why your drive is taking so long. Ultimately, you even get upset because you're ignoring your own voice of experience and trusting the animated map. Many drivers have even admitted to arguing with their passengers as a result of the mayhem, confessing their true anger because they mistrusted their own driving experience while trusting others and the infamous GPS. Consequently, all doubt is confirmed by the GPS declaring, "You have now reached your final destination" - only to learn that you have arrived on a dark dusty trail with your gas tank on empty.

If you have ever experienced this type of GPS breakdown, you are not alone. Many drivers, including myself, have had a similar experience and wanted to kick their GPS to the curb. Thrilled to know that there are plenty of us in the same boat, I decided to apply my crazy GPS driving experiences to create my own GPS (Guiding Personal Success) for my summer health travels.

GPS: Guiding Personal Success

GPS … Summer Destination: To Be Healthy & Fit

1. Create a Personalized Map for Success

Map your goals on graph paper or computer. Create a calendar for the months ahead. Chart your weight loss course. Start with small obtainable goals. It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with small steps.

2. Pack Lightly; Exclude Excess Baggage

Fuel your body with high test foods. Include plenty of summer vegetables, fruit, protein and H2O. Keep healthy foods available throughout your day. NEVER leave home without healthy snacks in your backpack.

3. Plan Ahead: Review Restaurant Nutrition Online

Create a cheat sheet of healthy choices for familiar restaurants (such as popular chains and, when possible, local establishments). Keep this in your wallet. Refer to it when you are dining out or on road trips with the family or friends. This will eliminate any guesswork or poor choices. It's guaranteed to save you time, money and, most importantly, extra calories.

4. Prepare for Delays

Even the best plans can fail once faced with stressors. Decrease stressors by expecting delays in your journey. (Remember, one pound equals FOUR STICKS of butter.) Keep going, knowing slower is better: Inch by inch it's a cinch; yard by yard it's hard.

5. Pay Attention to Detours

Detours are present for a reason. Construction, accidents … whatever the reason, take an alternative route. A detour does not mean that you abandon the trip; it's just a little hiccup on the road less traveled. Remember: If you get one flat tire, don't pop the remaining three because of one problem. Oftentimes, people abandon their hopes and desires because of a slip in their dietary plan. STOP, proceed with caution, and return to the map. Adjust your seatbelt and put yourself back in the driver's seat.

6. Don't Keep Looking in the Rearview Mirror

If you keep looking back, you won't see what is ahead. Forgive yourself of previous attempts at dieting. It's Summer 2012, so keep your eye on the prize: YOU!

7. Stay Focused on Your Destination

Know that your internal GPS will successfully guide you. Listen to your intuitive, experienced voice. Ask yourself, "Will this food or activity bring me closer to my goal or further away from it? Act accordingly. Remember to put all the information into the GPS so you'll arrive at the right place, at the right time (before Christmas).

Once you devise your personalized GPS, faithfully use it to obtain the body that is just right for you this summer. Fuel your healthy body with every bite and every breath you take. It will bring you to your ultimate destination: A Healthy, Happy You!

[back to top]

Signature Series

Meet our Bariatric Social Worker

By Christie Roy, BIDMC Staff

Sue Levy Walker, MSW, LICSW Sue Levy Walker, LICSW, MSW, joined the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2008 as the division's social worker. She offers support and assistance for bariatric patients and their families, helping them through any and all challenges they face during the surgery process.

Sue has been a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified case manager in Massachusetts for many years. She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient care, as well as with nursing homes, hospice, rehabilitation centers, and home care. For two years, Sue also ran her own private geriatric care consulting company.

A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C. (B.A.), and Rutgers University in New Jersey (MSW), Sue says there are a lot of positives to her job at BIDMC.

"I love working with weight loss surgery patients because so much of my role is as an advocate for the patients," she explains. "I get to cheer them on as they begin their journey, reinforce the wonderful changes to come and congratulate them on their courage in taking this step towards a healthier life and lifestyle."

Sue is the mother of twins who will be high school seniors in the fall and are getting ready to apply to college. Her kids play a big role in her life outside of work - Sue says she spends much of her free time volunteering as a fundraiser for their rugby and crew teams.

But she makes time for other activities too, including getaways to various spots around the globe.

"Recently I took trips to Israel and Spain," Sue says. "I also enjoy walking and kayaking, and I am very active in my synagogue."

Whether you are a past, present, or future bariatric patient at BIDMC, Sue is here to assist you. She is always available as a resource to patients looking for therapy or community support connections as well. You can reach Sue by calling the Center at 617-667-2845.

[back to top]

Ask the Trainer

Staying Fit This Summer

Summer on the sandQ. How can I enjoy my vacation without gaining weight?

Rick DiScipio, Med, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-PES: No matter where you're headed, vacation is a great time to relax, escape, and indulge. But there is no reason why exercising should be placed on the back burner. Here are four tips to incorporate fitness into your travel plans and return home without packing on the pounds.

1. Research

To stay on your daily exercise program, find out if your hotel has a gym, pool, or an agreement with a nearby health club.

2. Pack Right

If your hotel does not have a gym, bring it with you. You can get a full body workout with resistance bands, medicine balls, jump rope or by performing body weight exercises such as push-ups, squats, and lunges.

3. Choose to Move

Put on a pedometer, get outside, and walk. Wear it the morning you wake up and don't take it off until you're ready to go to sleep. Try to get around 10,000 steps throughout the day.

4. Explore

Consider booking a bike tour or a hiking trip. If you're heading to the beach, rent a kayak or play beach volleyball.

Please consult a physician before starting any exercise program. 

Rick DiScipio is an Exercise Physiologist at BIDMC's Tanger Be Well Center.

[back to top]

Ask the Dietitian

Eating More Fruit

Q. What's a healthy dessert that incorporates cooked-up fruit?

Kate Otto, RD, LDN: Try this easy recipe for an alternative way to eat fruit — a healthy summer treat to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Quiz: Test your summer nutrition knowledge »

fruitGrilled Fruit Kabobs

6 servings


1/2 fresh pineapple, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 medium nectarines, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 medium pears, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 medium fresh peaches, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 to 4 medium plums, cut into 1-inch chunks
10 apricots, halved
Warm honey or agave nectar to drizzle


Thread fruit alternately onto metal or soaked bamboo skewers. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat until fruit is heated through, about 6 minutes, turning often. Lightly drizzle with honey or agave nectar during the last minute of grilling time.

Recipe adapted from Reader's Digest 

Kate Otto is a bariatric nutritionist in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at BIDMC.

[back to top]

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Originally posted August 2012