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Life is Good

Paula Enjoys Retirement after Losing 75 Pounds

By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN

Weight Loss Patient PaulaAt 64, Paula radiates vibrant health. She loves to travel and is constantly on the move.

But her life was not always so enjoyable.

“My life was a total mess carrying around an extra 75 pounds,” she says. “I had been overweight since I was a teenager, and weight loss surgery has been the only thing that has worked for me.”

Before Paula underwent a sleeve gastrectomy in January 2014, she lived a life plagued with deep stress and many health issues: sleep apnea, severe arthritis, shortness of breath, fluid retention, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insomnia.

Paula’s emotional and social life was also affected by her weight— she felt haunted by fear, doubt and constant insecurity.

“I used to purchase my clothes online because I hated to go into stores. I was afraid of being fat-shamed,” she says. “I would decline invitations from family members for gatherings. I wouldn’t travel because I was uncomfortable sitting in airline seats. I just did not have any energy to go anywhere.”

Paula tried many diets over the years, only to regain more weight once she completed programs. She was eventually inspired to find out about weight loss surgery after one of her family members underwent a procedure and experienced success.

“My family was very encouraging and supportive, and they wanted me to live a long, healthy life,” Paula notes. “Three years later, this is the best I’ve felt in decades, and they love the new active me.”

After her sleeve gastrectomy, performed by Dr. Daniel Jones in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Paula also underwent total knee replacement surgery. Now, she has more energy than ever before and is thrilled to be able to keep up with her teenage grandchildren. Paula enjoys swimming, walking and playing basketball with them — all of which has helped her to maintain her 75-pound weight loss.

That’s not all — over the last three years, her health issues have either considerably improved or fully resolved. Her spirit is healthy again, too — Paula feels perfectly comfortable walking into a clothing store, rarely turns down invitations to family get-togethers, and travels frequently, without having to use an airplane seat belt extender.

“I am proud to say that I am 64 years of age, as I have never felt younger,” she says with happiness.

Now retired from working long days as a high school guidance counselor, Paula recognizes that weight loss surgery is a tool that helped her reset her metabolism while she incorporated better nutrition and more physical exercise into her life.

“Surgery helped me lose weight but gain control over my eating habits,” she says. “I listen to my body now, I stop eating when I feel full. I used to drink coffee all day long at work, then go home and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner all at once. Now, I eat my meals — healthy ones — in a more orderly fashion.”

Paula attributes her long-term success with maintenance to keeping all of her follow-up appointments with her surgeon and nutritionist. She acknowledges, however, that having weight loss surgery and the changes that come with it may not work for everyone.

“It was the only thing that helped me regain my health, mobility and mental well-being,” Paula says. “I hope that my story will encourage others to make a decision to change their life. For me, weight loss surgery saved mine.

“I wish I had done this earlier in my life, perhaps in my 30s or 40s,” she adds. “I’ve missed out on a lot of things, but I’m making up for lost time. I am very proud to be 64, blessed to be feeling well, enjoying my family and traveling. My life is really good.”

Photo courtesy of Paula Colon

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Nutrition Corner

Stay on Track During Summer Vacation

By Michelle Mamis, RD, LDN 

Bariatric Dietitian at BIDMC

A man and a woman eating watermelon slicesNot only do most of us look forward to warm temperatures, sunshine and BBQs during the summer, but it is also a very popular time to take a vacation. Whether it’s visiting family and/or friends, taking road trips or journeys to exotic destinations, many look forward to seeing new and exciting places and trying new foods.

But what does this mean for staying on track with your health? You don’t have to sacrifice all of your hard work and dedication to healthy eating and exercise just because you’re on vacation — try these tips:

  • Try new and decadent foods as a sample-to-taste, but aim to avoid making these the main dish/entrée choice at meal times.
  • Share a meal! Many restaurants serve large portions that can be split in half. Or, order an appetizer as your entrée.
  • Focus on consistent/structured intake throughout the day. Snacking during the day in addition to meals can be a common pattern when you’re out of your normal routine. Aim to stick to your consistent meal/snack schedule even while on vacation.
  • Exercise while you are away. Walking is a favorite physical activity for many while on vacation. Sometimes the best places to see are only accessible by walking; it can also be a nice family activity to add to your day or evening. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes/sneakers and walking gear on your trip. If the temperature will be too hot for walking, hop in the pool or ocean/lake for a morning or afternoon swim.

Are you going to be driving long distances to get to your destination? If so, fill your road trip with healthy options:

  • Pack a cooler with ice packs and cut-up produce to snack on while driving. Bring carrots, celery, peppers and cucumbers and pair with hummus or Tzatziki yogurt dip. For a sweet snack, bring cut-up fruit like apples, oranges and mixed berries.

  • Don’t have a cooler and looking for something shelf-stable? Try snacks such as portioned-out applesauce, mixed nuts or homemade trail mix.

  • To quench your thirst, bring water with sugar free mix-ins (like Crystal Light) or make flavor-infused water in advance for a refreshing beverage option.

  • Don’t forget to practice food safety: avoid having perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, and make sure your cooler is at or below 40° F. Bring hand sanitizer to use prior to/after eating while in the car if you are unable to wash your hands.

  • Driving for many hours? Try to get out of the car every few hours (or as often as possible) to take a break and stretch your legs.

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On the Lighter Side

Summer Training Camp

By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN 

Chalkboard with the words 'Summer Camp' written on itSummer does not have to be a hot dog eating contest.

Leave that to the professional eaters like Joey Chestnut. Instead of competing with them, start your very own personal summer training camp.

Follow the example of New England’s pride and GOAT (Greatest of All Time) Tom Brady and the Patriots — their summer training begins in a few weeks. The camp is designed to prepare each player for the long season ahead: to get them fit, energized and mentally primed for success with every drive.

Coach Belichick is relentless during summer camp. He demands every player arrive on time and do their job. No excuses! Practice, practice, practice is the name of the game — so take a page from the Pats’ playbook and make your game plan the same.

Summer is the perfect time to develop good habits when you take the field in the winter months. Think about the upcoming opposition: challenges begin in the fall while you lie on the couch every Sunday to watch football games. Then comes the treats and indulgences of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day. Whew!

Prep yourself this summer for the rivals you will personally face in the fall and winter. Get into your best physical and mental shape now. Plan to win with your exercise and nutrition goals:

  • Enjoy the outside while the weather is good. Have fun formulating an exercise routine with walking, swimming, bike riding, hiking and more. Develop a plan that lets you continue these or similar activities inside during the cold and cruel winter.
  • Practice conditioning your body by eating colorful fruits, berries and vegetables, currently fresh and delicious at local farmers’ markets.

Cartoon image of a Sun with shades onDo your job! Focus on these three conditioning phases during your healthy summer camp as you work on plays to make and actions to take that will keep your winning drive alive:

  1. Practice mental fortitude . You need to be strong-willed in order to tackle an offense of unhealthy food during the holiday season.
  2. Eat healthy . Fuel your intensity with high-energy foods that make you feel good without packing on extra pounds that weaken your spirit and slow your body down.
  3. Get going . Stay on the move with resistance training exercises and aerobic activity. Train your body to become a lean mean calorie-burning machine.

The Patriots know their toughest opponents are the ones they are not prepared for. One of the reasons for their success is the way they take on each opponent one week at a time. That’s a good strategy for you to incorporate in your own summer training camp: Work on sacking your own personal opponents one week at a time.

The winter chill may promise to challenge you, but getting ready for it now will help you kick off strong and score a touchdown for good health.

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Take Advantage of Summer to Meet Your Goals

By Sue Walker, LICSW, MSW 
Bariatric Social Worker at BIDMC

Sun shining on a beach umbrellaThe warmth of summer should be seen as a big plus to helping you succeed both before and after weight loss surgery. Here are some tips to help you make some seasonal goals utilizing the food and activities connected to the summer season.

  • Take advantage of the warm weather as an incentive to be more active outdoors. Try a “summer” sport that you might have an interest in, like swimming or tennis or biking. You might be surprised at the fun and the calorie burn.
  • Enjoy the fresh produce that is abundant this time of year. Experiment with recipes and healthy choices.
  • Plan your menu ahead of time when enjoying activities like family cookouts, graduation celebrations and long days at the beach. It is good to anticipate what food options there will be, so you can plan for your dietary needs and avoid unhealthy summer eating temptations.
  • Be mindful, conscious and deliberate in your choices each day, remembering to take one day at a time.
  • During the summer months when layers of clothing become fewer, more skin is often showing and being comfortable is at a premium. Stay focused on what makes you feel good, stay positive with your choices and be mindful of the possibilities each day brings.
  • Take time to wind down each day and shape your goals around what inspires you now.

Remember, focus on what summer brings — such as vacations and longer days to relax and feel good — as a way to enhance your journey to better health and wellness.

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Signature Series

Meet Our Bariatric Nurse Practitioner

Leigh-Ann Berk, ANP-BC, MSN, RDLeigh-Ann Berk, ANP-BC, MSN, RD, joined the Weight Loss Surgery Center team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2010 as a Nurse Practitioner.

She performs post-operative clinical assessments and manages bariatric patients in the inpatient unit on Farr 9 at BIDMC. She is an integral part of the multidisciplinary team in the Weight Loss Surgery Center, participating in rounds and providing support and education to staff, patients and their families.

Leigh-Ann began her career at BIDMC in 2002 as a clinical dietitian, providing medical nutrition therapy to outpatients. Additionally, she was a primary resource for medical staff regarding nutrition therapy for hospital inpatients.

It was during this point in her career that Leigh-Ann returned to school for nursing, becoming a staff nurse at BIDMC in 2007. After gaining experience as a registered nurse, Leigh-Ann earned her Master’s in nursing from Boston College in 2009, and advanced her role to nurse practitioner a year later.

"I like working as an NP in bariatric surgery because I enjoy caring for these patients very much," Leigh-Ann says. “Working in this specific setting affords me the opportunity to combine my background in nursing and nutrition to help patients who have had bariatric surgery.”

It is easy for anyone who meets Leigh-Ann to easily recognize her passion to assist patients as they start a new and exciting lifelong journey concentrating on health and nutrition.

Leigh-Ann's pride and joy are her two young children. She and her husband enjoy the many moments they share with their kids, and she says her family keeps her very active when she is not working.

Even though Leigh-Ann is often pressed for time, she stays fit by using her at-home elliptical machine and walking whenever she has the opportunity.

"Although I don't have much time for anything these days, between young children and work, I try and make time for my favorite hobbies, which are gardening and reading," she says.

Leigh-Ann is also an avid football fan. Her favorite team? “The New England Patriots, of course!"

Just as the Patriots have Tom Brady as their quarterback, BIDMC’s bariatric team has Leigh-Ann Berk. Whether you require a physical assessment, nutritional advice or just a bit of comfort, Leigh-Ann is poised and ready to assist you.

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In the Kitchen

Take-Along Snacks

By Michelle Mamis, RD, LDN 
Bariatric Dietitian at BIDMC

Easy to make and take wherever you go this summer, try these recipes to keep your healthy eating on track.

Waters infused with lemons, limes, and various fruitsInfused Water

Berry-Infused Water

  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries

Citrus-Infused Water

  • 7 cups cold water
  • 1 lemon (remove rind)
  • 1 orange (remove rind)
  • 1/2 lime (remove rind)


  • Combine all ingredients and let sit in fridge for 2-8 hours (or longer for stronger flavor).
  • Experiment and try different combinations of fruits, too.
  • Drink up and enjoy!

Recipe from

Black Forest Trail Mix

Serves 14 - 16

Bowl of Trail MixIngredients

1 cup dark chocolate chips 
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
1/2 cup dried cherries 
1 cup roasted peanuts 
1 cup whole almonds 
1 cup roasted cashews (whole, not pieces) 
1 cup hazelnuts


  • In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together until evenly distributed.
  • Divide in single-serving airtight containers or one large airtight container for up to one month.

Recipe from

Easy Tzatziki

Bowl of Tzatziki SauceIngredients

1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt 
1 English cucumber, seeded, finely grated and drained 
2 cloves garlic, finely minced 
1 tsp lemon zest plus 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill 
Salt and pepper


  • In a medium bowl whisk yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and dill.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill in refrigerator for an hour or longer.

Recipe from

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Good Luck, Dr. Schneider
Dr. Benjamin SchneiderWe Will Miss You!

Dr. Benjamin Schneider, a surgeon in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at BIDMC and Medical Director of the Weight Loss Surgery Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, is leaving us later this summer to take on an exciting new challenge.

Dr. Schneider is heading south to become the new Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Bariatric Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He originally came to BIDMC in 2003 to finish the fellowship he began at UT Southwestern, and has many family members in the Dallas area.

“As a faculty member and my partner for the last 14 years, Ben has left his mark on our institution,” says Dr. Daniel Jones, Director of the Weight Loss Surgery Center. “He helped develop the robotic surgery and bariatric programs in Boston and Milton, and has become a talented and innovative surgeon.”

All of us in the Weight Loss Surgery Center want to thank Dr. Schneider for his outstanding, compassionate care and service to patients; his mentorship of surgical residents and trainees; and his tireless efforts to help advance the bariatric surgery clinical and education programs here at BIDMC. We wish him and his family all the best.

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All content provided by the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

July 2017