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How Being a Physician Living with a Chronic Disease Impacts my Work with Bariatric Patients



“You can make $20 per stool sample?” You would have thought I had won the jackpot! I just thought my colleagues and I were getting one over on the “Diarrhea Clinic” in Guadalajara, Mexico. I attended medical school there and was making a habit of “donating” regularly. What I did not realize was that I wasn’t just suffering from “Montezuma’s Revenge.” It wasn’t until I returned home that I learned I had Crohn’s Colitis, an often debilitating inflammatory condition of the GI tract characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. It can often result in multiple surgeries to remove diseased colon and worse, colon cancer.

I spent the next several years on different medications including monthly infusions and weekly injections, all of which had many side effects. During my residency, I spent 10 days in the hospital due to a flare that resulted in over 20 abnormal stools per day, anemia, and almost constant pain. Despite this, I returned to my career determined to not let this disease slow me down.

I became a family doctor and practiced in the primary care setting for nine years. During that time, I discovered a passion for bariatric medicine. This evolved out of a desire to keep myself healthy which required changes in my diet. I found that eliminating processed foods and added sugars, except those naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, helped me to keep my colitis at bay. With the help of an excellent gastroenterologist, I healed and continued to enjoy excellent health for many years. However, this hasn’t always been easy and this is where bariatrics comes back into the picture.

Taking care of myself every moment of every day requires a lot of work. It means pushing myself to exercise even when I am exhausted. It requires eating salads and protein when others are enjoying pizza or ice cream. It requires actively engaging in positive thinking and using tools like meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and affirmations to manage stress levels. And I don’t always feel like doing these things. These are exactly the same challenges that, on a day to day basis, my bariatric patients experience.

I find that using these tools myself adds an additional layer of empathy and relatability to counseling my patients that otherwise wouldn’t be there. They often greatly appreciate this and find that I am able to help in a very unique way because I “get it.” I share my story with patients because when a doctor is able to be vulnerable, they realize they are not alone and that anything is possible.

Every day, I continue to discover new and powerful ways to care for myself, mind, body, and spirit. As my practice continues to evolve, I incorporate as many of these amazing modalities as possible. I hired a mind-body medicine physician to teach yoga, meditation and other skills who has inspired many of my patients. I have a behavioral counselor who keeps us all on track. But most of all, my patients, staff and I are all just trying to be the best version of ourselves on this human journey. I still struggle regularly — as do my patients — but we all have found better ways to be in this world. And because of that, I have found this work far more gratifying than anything I could have imagined and I believe my patients are better for it.



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Walk the Walk: Robard’s VP of Sales Gets with the Program



If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk. And that’s just what Robard Corporation’s Vice President of Sales, Mario Testa, decided to do on Super Bowl Sunday 2016. As the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, Mario was set to launch his own fight. He weighed 217 pounds, felt sluggish, tired and had very little energy. He had never struggled with weight as a youth, but age, lack of exercise, work, travel and, what he calls “perhaps a bit of laziness,” took their toll.

“I didn’t feel I was heavy until I saw a picture that ‘woke me up,’” recalls Testa. “It was a picture of me at my son’s sports banquet. It actually brought tears to my eyes.”

Mario had calculated that he had gained 85 pounds since he graduated high school — nearly three pounds a year. In addition to the weight, he faced a handful of related medical conditions, including high cholesterol and triglycerides and pre-diabetes. However, after just a week of using New Direction System products mixed with an occasional NutriMed shake, he began to notice a difference.

“I could tell it was working — and I was being disciplined to the program — because my pants felt a bit loose,” he says. “It was a huge motivator because I never ‘dieted’ before.”

Within a few weeks, his energy was improving, and he wasn’t getting out of breath as quickly. “I started exercising and being more active with my kids,” he says. “It also increased my confidence because I didn’t feel self-conscious anymore.”

Along with products, Testa began a simple exercise routine. He would walk around his neighborhood three nights a week and run on a treadmill one night a week without setting a distance or time. “I just do it until I work up a good sweat,” says Mario.

The discipline paid off. Now at 162 pounds, Mario’s showing no signs of slowing down. He’s got his eyes set on a strength conditioning program, and says that the current state of his health is excellent.

“My whole outlook on food has improved," he says. “I’m much more disciplined with what I eat, when I eat, how I eat and no longer have the cravings for the foods that fell into my danger zone. I’ve been able to keep all the weight off after nearly a year on the program.”

Mario never thought he would be so passionate about how losing weight and keeping it off could have such a positive impact on the overall quality his life — physically and emotionally. “I’m a true evangelist for healthy lifestyle and a disciple for our products,” he says. “It hasn’t changed my life. It saved my life.”

To find a New Direction System or NutriMed program near you, please visit our Find a Clinic page. If you’re a healthcare provider interested in Robard’s proven weight management programs, nutrition products and business services, you can learn more by visiting us here.


Blog written by Kevin Boyce/Robard Corporation

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