PFD technician, retired military
“Before my surgery, I couldn’t even walk 150 yards. I couldn’t do anything with my children. Now I’m walking 2-3 miles a day, climbing 12-15 flights of stairs. I have a lot more energy and I’m a lot happier. I saw my sister for the first time in two years and she didn’t even recognize me!”
Russell F. had his first appointment with Dr. Clark in February 2015. Weighing in at 437 pounds, Russell was unable to live the life he wanted with his family of eight kids, ages 15 through 38. After seeing others achieve success with bariatric surgery, Russell sought out Dr. Clark and began the process of shedding weight in order to make bariatric sleeve surgery safe for him.
“Dr. Clark was great, he never chastised me for being overweight. He was very open and supportive and checked in with me every day after my surgery.”
Today, Russell weighs 193 pounds and is able to play softball with his daughter, hike up Mt. Roberts to visit his wife’s ashes and live a more active lifestyle. He finds that maintaining his weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet – consisting of small portions of game meat and salmon – has been an easy transition.
“My surgery has made a huge difference in my life, but it’s not a miracle cure. You have to change your lifestyle – drink water, exercise. I believe Dr. Clark’s surgery added 15-20 more years to my life, but the rest is up to me. I am in the best shape I have been in since I retired from the military on January 1, 1997. No more blood pressure medication, no more high cholesterol medication, no more pain medications and no more water-reducing medications. Life can be good and is good again.”
*Results May Vary
Mom, Competitive Runner
Maddie P. isn’t your typical wife and mom of four. She’s a competitive runner, Zumba freak and practicing yogi. But things haven’t always been this way for her. After reaching her peak weight of 252 pounds on her petite frame, Maddie knew it was time to make a change when she couldn’t catch her running toddler.
“I’ve never been super-skinny; curves run in my family genes. After I had my first two children, dieting and exercising became harder, both physically and mentally, and the weight kept adding on. We moms put our kids first and our needs get pushed to the back burner sometimes,” recalls Maddie. “When we moved to Alaska, I didn’t have a support system of family and friends. After I had our fourth child, I had gained so much weight that I was just tired all the time and depressed.”
Maddie tried using at-home workout programs and cutting fried foods, soda and bread from her diet. This would work temporarily and she would lose a few pounds, only to gain them back. She would meet up with a friend for walks in the park, but after that friend moved away, Maddie had no one to support her efforts and hold her accountable.
“I didn’t feel like myself; I wasn’t “me” anymore and I felt trapped in my own body,” laments Maddie. “I hated shopping and everything physical was such a struggle, even walking up one flight of stairs or to the end of my street.”
Then one day Maddie and her family had a photo session with a local photographer and the two of them became friends. The photographer suggested Maddie look into a surgical weight loss solution and recommended Dr. Clark.
“I needed something to motivate me, and pursuing this surgery – the research and preparation – gave me that. I met with Dr. Clark and we tried other weight loss techniques for a few months before deciding on the gastric sleeve procedure. Dr. Clark really informed me about what the surgery entailed, he supported any decision I made, and gave me more ideas to research. Anchorage Bariatrics provides a total community of support and I know this will benefit me and my family long into the future,” Maddie shares. “Dr. Clark is always positive, uplifting, and encouraging. He’s that go-to person you want by your side to guide you. He’s not pushy, just informed and knowledgeable, and you can trust him right from the start. I was scared, but his confidence made me comfortable.”
“Aside from my weight, I was a generally healthy person who had never had surgery before. The fact that I had to go “under” and then eat a liquid diet was a mind bender and that motivates me to eat healthy now,” Maddie explains. “Since my surgery, I have lost 120 pounds and my life has improved drastically. I don’t ever see myself going back to the way I was before, but that person motivates me to be who I am today. The old me is always in the back of my mind, reminding me to do better and keep pushing.”
Nowadays Maddie is a FitBit-wearing, meal-tracking, kid-chasing wonder woman who has never felt better. “I workout daily and love my morning three mile runs because that’s my time to get away from the family and get refreshed; it doesn’t even feel like it’s exercise. I highly recommend using a fitness tracker, and I strive for 13,000 steps per day. I love taking spin classes, yoga, Zumba, and weight lifting,” says Maddie.
Maddie’s life is totally transformed and she’s doing things she never would have thought possible before. “My mental outlook is 1,000% better, I feel very positive and don’t procrastinate any more. If I set a goal, consider it done,” she declares. “I’m so happy with where I am now – being able to run after my kids and actually catch them is great!
“I worked so hard for this. Having the surgery was a learning tool to guide me and keep me moving forward. I understand that my health is important and if I don’t care, then no one else will. My confidence is lifted and nothing can stop me now!”
*Results May Vary
Meet Sarah, a busy wife and mother of four who found herself at the end of her rope after steadily gaining 114 pounds over the course of 15 years. Like so many women, she struggled with her weight after having children. “After my kids were born, it was like my body rebelled against me. My hormones were so out of whack that I couldn’t lose any weight no matter what I tried. And believe me, I tried!”
After visiting several doctors and taking hormonal birth control pills for years, Sarah finally realized that the hormones were the cause of the problem. “I was an active person as a child and young adult. I was a gymnast and on the track team in high school. I enjoyed being active with my kids when they were younger. Then I started getting exercise-induced migraines – splitting headaches that would knock me out for up to three days at a time, every time I tried to work out. I fell into a vicious cycle of exercise one day, have a migraine for three days, feel lazy and tired because I couldn’t do anything, then pick myself up and try to exercise again only to start the cycle over. All the while I’m taking hormones that were supposed to make me feel better, but in actuality just made me fatter and more tired. And the worst part is, the estrogen that was contributing to the migraines is stored in fat, so the bigger I got, the worse the migraines were. Talk about adding insult to injury!”
One day after a frustrating medical appointment, Sarah saw a flyer on the hospital wall for a weight loss support group. “It said something like ‘Tired of being sick and tired? Come to a bariatric support group!’ and I thought to myself, what have I got to lose? I didn’t even tell my husband I was going, I just wanted to see what it was all about.”
That’s where Sarah met Dr. Clark. “I was drawn to him right away. You can tell that he is doing what he was put on this earth to do and he is so passionate about it. He is a genuinely compassionate, tenderhearted person. He cares so deeply about his patients and making people better.”
Sarah and Dr. Clark decided that the gastric sleeve procedure was the right choice for her. “I’m not going to sugar-coat it – the first six weeks after surgery were tough. But, once you get past that, the rest is super-easy. In fact, it’s so much easier than I thought it would be!”
Now, three years after surgery, Sarah has lost 121 pounds and works her dream job as a flight attendant, something she couldn’t do before. Her migraines are virtually gone and she is a “recovering Dr. Pepper addict” who hasn’t had a soda since two days before surgery. “I just don’t crave it like I used to. My body and mind have changed and it has become so simple to make the right, healthy food choices.”
Sarah is sharing her story to help dispel the myth that bariatric surgery is for lazy people who want the easy way out. “Obese people are real people with real issues; sometimes their weight problems are rooted in a medical condition. People think that bariatric surgery is a quick-fix so you can continue to eat mashed potatoes and watch TV all day. That’s not the case. If you are serious about changing your habits and want to regain your life, then think about it. Go to a seminar. Talk with Dr. Clark. You will be so successful if you get it in your head that this is what you’re going to do.”
Sarah’s positive lifestyle changes have rubbed off on her family members, too. Her husband, who was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, has lost over 100 pounds by eating better alongside Sarah and his disease is under control. Their adult daughter was so inspired by Sarah’s weight loss and fitness accomplishments that she is now participating in figure and fitness competitions.
These days when Sarah isn’t flying, you’ll likely find her hiking or spending active time with her adult children. She even started going to a personal trainer. “I’m so impressed with my own abilities now. I used to be in the mindset that I was going to fail; I’m not that person anymore. I CAN get through a 30 minute personal training session without dying. And it feels amazing!”
*Results May Vary
Artist, Stay-at-home Mom
“Growing up, I was often bigger than most of my friends. I wasn’t ‘the fat girl,’ but I always felt like I was fighting my weight – but it was a fight that never went anywhere. Things took a turn in my mid-thirties, though, when I went on medication and began treatment for high blood pressure. Everything seemed to be creeping in on me. I knew things needed to change.”
In 2015, when Valerie consulted with Dr. Clark about gastric bypass surgery, her knees and feet were hurting a lot. She weighed 235 pounds, felt exhausted all the time and struggled to control her appetite. She was concerned that if she didn’t take action soon, she would no longer be able to participate in everyday activities with her family.
From the beginning of her treatment, Dr. Clark’s relaxed and gentle bedside manner proved a contrast to her other experiences at medical appointments. “Because of my high blood pressure, I’ve had several doctors. I’ve always struggled with my weight, so I always felt like a failure when it was time to go see the doctor.”
“Dr. Clark, on the other hand, was uncommonly kind and nonjudgmental every step of the way. Working with him has been life-changing. He is so mellow and accepting and he offers you solid routines for how to adjust to your new life. You never have anything to be ashamed of when you’re in his care. Working with him has brought me huge mental gains and I wouldn’t change this part of my journey for the world.”
Today, at 160 pounds, Valerie enjoys a much more active lifestyle. She loves boxing and running, and her increased stamina helps her tackle local outdoor destinations around Alaska, such as Mt. Baldy. Most significantly, perhaps, is how Valerie now recognizes the person she sees in the mirror. “I feel my outside now matches the mental image of how I have always thought of myself. When I think of myself, this is who I’ve always seen.”
*Results May Vary
Cindy first heard about Dr. Clark and gastric sleeve surgery through a co-worker.
“I knew I needed to do something. I was up to 250 pounds. Even going on a walk with my husband was difficult, I would get too easily winded. I had tried Weight Watchers and Tops Club, but none of the programs worked for me in the long-term. We have five grandkids and I wanted to be able to enjoy them, to live as long as I can.”
For Cindy, the weight had crept in slowly over time, five pounds here and there over a period of twenty years. Meeting with Dr. Clark, however, gave her the confidence she needed to get her life back on track.
“Dr. Clark cared, he’s kind. I never felt like he was being judgmental. I felt like I was working with someone who wanted nothing more than to help people improve their quality of life. He’s giving people their lives back, he helped me get my life back.”
And while surgery was a significant part of the process for her, Cindy also knew she had to actively participate and dedicate herself to his regimen in order to achieve her goals.
“I track what I eat. I do what Dr. Clark says I need to do. Surgery is only a tool – it’s just one part of the process – but it’s not the whole thing. You can get the surgery, but if you don’t dedicate yourself to making necessary changes in your life, it won’t amount to much good. Dr. Clark taught me how to implement the other tools I needed to succeed in meeting my goals – tools like exercise, drinking enough water and eating well.”
It’s been a little more than a year since her surgery and Cindy couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve lost 105 pounds and I’m the most active I’ve been in twenty years: I go to the gym a few times a week, I do zumba and I’ve participated in four organized runs. On Sunday, I’ll run my fifth – a four-miler!”
*Results May Vary
US Air Force Veteran
Imagine having to get off a crowded elevator because you caused it to be over the weight limit. Or not being able to participate in a zip line adventure on your family’s vacation to the Philippines. This is what Pat, a decorated former member of the US Air Force, was dealing with after a decade of gaining weight. Ashamed of his body, Pat would sneak away when it was time to take family photos. This is not how Pat envisioned living his life.
One day a colleague and friend confided in Pat that he had just undergone a bariatric surgery procedure to help lose weight. Pat had considered weight loss procedures for himself, but was afraid of surgery and the ensuing recovery. However, after watching his friend lose weight and regain confidence, Pat was inspired to change his own life. “I thought if my friend, who is larger than me, can do it, then there’s no reason why I can’t!” proclaimed Pat.
Pat had heard of Dr. Clark from their mutual affiliation with the Air Force base, so he decided to book an appointment. “From the moment I first arrived at the Anchorage Bariatrics office, I felt like I had entered a giant, welcoming support facility. The entire office staff is fantastic; you can tell immediately that they genuinely care about every person who walks in. I always felt like people were staring at me, pointing fingers, and whispering behind my back. It was the exact opposite at Anchorage Bariatrics,” explains Pat. “When I initially met Dr. Clark, my first impression of him was that he’s very professional and non-judgmental. I immediately felt very comfortable and, after reviewing and discussing all of my options, he really put my mind at ease. He’s just awesome!”
Prior to his laparoscopic sleeve procedure in September 2016, Pat was suffering from high blood pressure, swelling in his feet, and sleep apnea. He regularly finished off three or four plates at buffet dinners, consumed an entire pizza on his own, and drank lots of beer and coffee – up to a pot and a half a day! Just nine months later, Pat has lost 95 pounds and is feeling great. The swelling is gone, he’s sleeping better and his blood pressure is under control. He no longer feels the need to fill his “beach ball belly” to the breaking point – in fact, he doesn’t have any food cravings at all. He has completely eliminated soda and is down to just two cups of coffee a day.
“Mentally and physically, I feel great!” says Pat. “This surgery has been a real life saver. I’m no longer too tired to play with my grandkids, I don’t get out of breath going up the stairs – everyday things are so much easier. I can even shop in regular clothes stores now instead of specialty big and tall shops. It feels amazing!”
Pat has incorporated daily walks into his schedule and now packages his food into appropriate portion-sized containers to make healthy food choices easier. “Dr. Clark taught me how to measure out my food and take control over what I put into my body. I can still eat pizza if I want to, I just only eat one slice instead of the whole pie, and it is surprisingly easy,” claims Pat.
Pat shares that he is very happy with his results thus far, but he still has about 20 pounds to go to reach his goal weight of 175. “I lost 50 pounds in the first three months so it was great to see a difference right away. The entire process has been relatively painless; I was out of the hospital after one day and up walking around right away. The positive encouragement from the staff at Anchorage Bariatrics motivates me to stay on track and it is comforting to know that they truly want me to be successful,” Pat says. “Dr. Clark provided the avenue for change that I needed. Thanks to him and my own efforts, I feel like the sky’s the limit!”
*Results May Vary
Have you ever thought that no one understands how you feel about your weight? Kristi is one of those people who can relate – she’s someone who truly knows what it is like to be overweight and unhappy about it. She is also someone who had the courage to make a change and is now living her best life for it.
“The summer after fourth grade, I went to stay with my grandmother who always had a kitchen stocked with creamy soups and sugary cereals, encouraged ice cream eating every night, and had a cupboard full of junk food. It was a childhood dream, until my mom came to pick me up in August and she didn’t even recognize me because of all the weight I had gained,” remembers Kristi. “That was the beginning of the weight and body issues that I have carried with me for all of my life. As a teenager, I would starve myself until I was so dehydrated that every muscle in my body was cramping up and I could hardly move. Body shaming was rampant and even though I was a healthy weight at the time, I felt fat because my friends told me I was, which led to depression.”
Kristi joined the Air Force after high school and even had to lose weight to conform to their requirements. She used laxatives and diet pills to “make weight” whenever she needed to. “It was a fight my entire career to stay off the Air Force’s weight management program and preserve my job. Along the way I hurt my back and it got progressively worse, which made it harder to exercise, resulting in added weight.”
In the summer of 2012, Kristi was on one of her annual girl’s trips with a friend who wanted to go on a helicopter tour of Denali. She remembers feeling mortified to have to step on a scale before boarding. As a result of her weight, Kristi was forced to sit in the middle of the back row while her friend got front-row window seat. “I remember being so embarrassed and then frustrated because I spent all this money to take this helicopter tour, then couldn’t see anything out the windows because of where I was sitting. My friend was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sights and chatting on the headsets while I was silent and feeling left out,” laments Kristi. “To add insult to injury, our next adventure was white water rafting – we were offered an opportunity to float in a portion of the river – but I stayed on the raft while my friend jumped out and swam. I was scared that if I got out of the raft I wouldn’t be able to get back in.”
That trip was a turning point for Kristi. “I started thinking about my future. I want to be around to see my future grandchildren and have a relationship with them. My own grandmother died at the age of 58 from heart problems and diabetes. My husband is a pretty fit guy who comes from an active family and I have always felt out of place with them. I didn’t want to feel that way or have those fears any longer,” Kristi says. “I also had several miscarriages that may have been related to my weight. Losing those pregnancies took a huge emotional toll that just contributed to my depression. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of diet, fail, depression.”
After she had her youngest son, Kristi’s OB/GYN referred her to Dr. Clark. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled when met him!” exclaims Kristi. “He is super-supportive, sincere, and engaging. He spent lots of time hearing me out and his whole demeanor just put me at ease. I really appreciated his candidness and honesty (and still do!).”
Kristi had gastric bypass in August 2013, lost 95 pounds, and has kept it off to this day. She remembers the first few weeks being difficult, but the physical pain was much less than what she was expecting. “The emotional side was more pronounced for me; I had buyer’s remorse and wondered if this life-altering surgery was really the right thing for me. I loved to cook and bake and after surgery I was avoiding the kitchen at all costs,” Kristi shares. “I remember smelling food my husband cooked and being so angry that I couldn’t partake in that meal with my family. A week later I cooked dinner and that simple act of being there with them and preparing the food made me feel so much better, it just lightened my mood. Knowing that I could still cook for them allowed me to let go of my resentments. I knew everything was going to be OK from then on out and it has been. I don’t regret the surgery at all and I would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Kristi says she feels fantastic and is proud of herself for keeping the weight off. “I’ve learned to be more forgiving and to listen to my body. I try to follow the Two Bite Rule, when it comes to sweets. My family often shares a dessert and each of us gets two bites to enjoy the flavor and appreciate the taste and texture. We don’t over-indulge and I love that we’re teaching our kids very healthy eating habits,” Kristi explains.
“I have SO much more energy now! The best thing about the surgery is that your energy comes back. Now I don’t let anything drag me down, I just keep going. I don’t want to be where I was. I love it that now my husband can pick me up playfully, carry me up the stairs, hug me and twirl me around. I’ve never had that before, ever. Now I do and it is so fun!”
Kristi wants to make sure that people don’t think weight loss surgery is the easy way out. “It is a tool that you have to learn how to use. I am so appreciative of this tool and try to never forget where I was and how it helped me change my life,” says Kristi. “Don’t be ashamed to put yourself first and do something just for you. There are bumps along the way, there are physical limitations, negative feedback, and plateaus, but you can overcome them. It requires hard work, dedication, and lifestyle changes, so be prepared to commit to those things. But, it can be completely life altering which then makes it feel like it is not work at all. I believe in it so much that I left a great job I was happy with, to come work at Anchorage Bariatrics. I was so confident in Dr. Clark that when he asked me to join his team it was a no-brainer that we would be successful. I tell patients here about my experience so they can understand that I do “get it.” I think it helps people relax because going into any doctor’s office can be stressful and intimidating. I love inspiring our patients – I’m here for them and want to help. It can be an emotional journey for people and I hope that seeing me can put them at ease and show that if you really want to live a healthier life, you can!”
*Results May Vary
Getting healthy can be a family affair. Just ask Teresa C. who, after years of struggling with her weight, found the courage to make a change after her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“I’ve had body image issues most of my life, dating back to high school. When I had difficulty with birthing my two children, the weight just crept on. Being a mom is stressful, and I would eat to stuff the stress away. My blood pressure and weight skyrocketed and I developed high cholesterol and sleep apnea,” remembers Teresa.
After her daughter’s diagnosis, Teresa knew she had to get healthy, not only to take care of her daughter, but to set a good example as well. She began researching weight loss options and attempted Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet, and appetite suppressant pills. These worked for a few months at a time, but the weight would always come back.
“I found Dr. Clark by researching doctors in Anchorage. I had my initial visit to watch the informational video and it was so helpful – it really clarified my options and gave me insight into why I have struggled for so long. When I met Dr. Clark in person, I was struck by how gentle and caring he is, and I appreciated how he listened to me and respected my opinions. I know he genuinely values all of his patients,” comments Teresa.
“After we decided on the gastric sleeve procedure, I was anxious to get things underway. I had had surgical procedures before so I wasn’t nervous about that. My biggest concern was keeping the weight off and adjusting my lifestyle. My family was very supportive and that helped a lot. I also received excellent support (and still do!) from the team at Anchorage Bariatrics and other patients. Making this change is a big deal and you can’t do it alone, so I’m very grateful for the support,” Teresa says.
“Right after surgery, my mental outlook was a little skeptical. I was thinking ‘well, I’m on autopilot right now, but what’s going to happen next?’ After about six months, I really felt like, yes, this IS going to work and I CAN do it! My attitude is 100% better, I have this still-surprising abundance of energy, and I feel like a ‘normal’ person now,” shares Teresa.
“One year later, my family is still adjusting to the new, energetic me. I always want to get up and go and try new things. I’m doing yoga, jogging, and I have much better balance on my cross-country skis. Life is wonderful now!” exclaims Teresa. “If you or someone you know is struggling with weight issues, come to Anchorage Bariatrics right now. Don’t hesitate and don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t do it. Set your mind and go for it!”
*Results May Vary