Healthier lifestyle

How to pursue a

HARLINGEN – For Valley residents looking for options to lose weight during the new year, Valley Baptist Medical Center holds free “Introduction to Medical & Surgical Weight Loss Options” patient information seminars in Harlingen on the first and second Tuesdays of the month.

Upcoming dates for these free seminars include next Tuesday, Feb. 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Valley Baptist’s Woodward Conference Center, 2101 Pease Street (located on the first floor of the hospital, through the “South Tower” entrance); and on Tuesday, Feb. 9, also from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the Boggus Education Pavilion (located across the street from the Valley Baptist Emergency Room).

Dawn Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CBN, Director of the Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Program at Valley Baptist Medical Center, said the seminars can help Valley residents to learn more about ways to reduce weight and to pursue a healthier life “with the people and activities you love, and with the confidence you deserve.”

In addition to being a surgical nurse, Ms. Rodriguez has gone through bariatric surgery herself – and so can personally understand the concerns of weight loss patients.

Along with exploring medical and surgical weight loss options, Ms. Rodriguez, along with Olivia Zamora, Registered Dietitian/Licensed Dietitian with the Valley Baptist Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Program, share a wealth of information about healthier eating and pursuing a healthier lifestyle with their patients.

“We help the patients to make the lifestyle choices that can help enable them to take the weight off and keep it off,” Ms. Zamora said.

“I really encourage them to monitor what they’re consuming. We look at what we need to change in order to make it easier for them to lose weight.”

Using certain mobile phone apps can also help people keep track of what they’re eating, in order to better monitor their progress in reducing their “portion sizes,” Ms. Zamora added.

During a recent presentation at Valley Baptist, it was noted that portion sizes have actually increased over the years at many fast food restaurants – even though many people are less active than they were in past years. Obesity has become a major concern in the Valley and across the country, often being associated with other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to dieting, treatments for obesity include exercise, medication, behavior changes, and in some cases, bariatric surgery.

During a “gastric bypass” surgery, the surgeon creates a new and smaller “pouch” in the patient’s stomach.

The new pouch can only hold a small amount of food, which results in the patient feeling “full” sooner and therefore eating less, Ms. Rodriguez said.

In addition, the surgeon connects the new pouch to a part of the small intestine farther down in the intestinal tract, which reduces the amount of calories that the patient absorbs.

This “malabsorption” of calories also results in the patient losing more weight.

Another surgical option for weight-loss surgery is the “sleeve gastrectomy,” during which the surgeon removes the majority of the stomach, turning the remainder of the stomach into a narrow “sleeve.”

With this method, patients may lose weight because of “gastric restriction” and decreased hunger due to changes in hormone levels related to hunger.

Regardless of the type of weight loss surgery, Ms. Rodriguez said a patient must be committed and motivated to pursue a healthier lifestyle in order to achieve and maintain success in meeting their weight loss goals.

For more information about medical and surgical weight loss options, contact your physician and Ms. Rodriguez at (956) 389-6896 or by e-mail at; and visit

For information or to RSVP for an upcoming bariatric surgery seminar, please call 1-888-902-5433.