July 2019 - Northwest Weight & Wellness Center
425.224.8200 | F: 224.8299 info@nwwls.com
425.224.8200 425.224.8299 info@nwwls.com
Make Your Sure Health is Secure

Make Your Sure Health is Secure

By Laura Andromalos, MS, RD, CDE, CSOWM

If you have been on an airplane lately, you’ve heard the safety speech. Did you notice the part about oxygen masks? Make sure your mask is secure before helping others around you. What happens if you don’t secure your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency? You may pass out before you are able to help those around you.

When I hear that safety speech, it reminds me of a common theme in my appointments with patients: the need to put your health first.

Many of my patients are givers. They are spouses, parents, and children and they give of themselves to their families on a daily basis. Additionally, several of them have giving professions such as personal care attendants, health care providers, and teachers. Over the years, they have always put other people’s priorities before their own. They worry about taking care of the needs of others and they neglect their own health needs, such as sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and relaxation.

For example, I worked with a patient who took time to make lunches for her three children and her spouse every night but never made her own lunch. Instead, she relied on fast food during the day which was contributing to her weight gain. If you are a giver, I’m sure you can think of similar examples.

It’s wonderful to be a giver but you can’t neglect giving to yourself. To achieve your health goals and live your happiest life, you need to prioritize yourself. If you don’t keep yourself healthy, it is going to impact your ability to give to those around you. Maybe you will be less patient or have less energy due to lack of sleep… Maybe you won’t physically be able to help someone due to mobility or functional body problems…Maybe your life will be shortened due to health problems you have neglected… You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best you, whether it’s as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, coworker, or friend.

In the case of the patient I mentioned, we set a goal for her to take a few extra minutes each night to make her own lunch. She did this and started losing weight since she was eating less fast food. Losing the weight gave her more energy and made her feel better about her body and this made her a happier person and a happier wife and mother. Taking care of herself helped her to better take care of her family.

If you are a giver, tune into whether you might be giving to others at the expense of your own health needs. Remember to make sure your health is secure before helping others.

Staff Spotlight: Erika Burk

Staff Spotlight: Erika Burk

Name: Erika Burk

Role: Office Assistant

Joined NWWC: July 2010

Personal Life: Erika grew up in Kansas and lived in Missouri before moving to Washington in 1996. This is her favorite place she has lived due to the pleasant weather. She has several family members in the area including her mother & stepfather, two stepsisters, and a few of her 8 nieces and nephews.

Life Before NWWC: Erika worked in several industries before joining the NWWC team 9 years ago. She has worked at a daycare, in retail, and at a fast food restaurant.

A Day in Her Job: Erika supports many departments at NWWC. She assembles the Guide to Success binders that every new patient receives at the beginning of their bariatric surgery journey and the patient packets that are distributed at information seminars and sent to referring providers. She helps the nutrition team to keep the retail shelves stocked with products. She supports the billing department with sending out invoices. She also sorts all of the incoming mail for the organization. She is always ready with a smile and a “yes” for additional tasks!

What Else to Know about Erika:

  • Erika is a social butterfly. She is very outgoing and enjoys spending time with friends, family, and her boyfriend at restaurants, movie theaters, or just hanging out.
  • Erika is a weightlifting champion. She joined a weightlifting team 7 years ago and practices every Saturday. Each year, she goes to regional and state competitions and has earned more medals than she can count. She competes in the deadlift and bench press events.
  • Erika is on her own health journey. She has increased her exercise through swimming and walking and is focusing on portion sizes and the plate method at her meals.
Chad’s Bariatric Success

Chad’s Bariatric Success

Chad had a sleeve gastrectomy in November 2016 at NWWC.

What is the best part about this journey?

It was getting back to the normal active lifestyle that I had when I was younger. I used to do a lot of outdoors stuff like camping, fishing, hiking, and softball. For the 5 years before surgery, I couldn’t physically do any of those things. Sports was one of my biggest joys and I couldn’t do that. I was trapped in my own body.

My health had deteriorated so badly. I had to take medication on a daily basis for blood pressure. I was getting fatty liver. I had pre-diabetes. My kidneys weren’t functioning properly. I was a walking pharmacy. I had to go to doctor every 3 months for my blood tests. Now I’m on the once a year plan. All of that stuff is gone.

What has been the hardest part?

The hardest part for me was completely restructuring my life. My whole life revolved around food – family dinners, BBQs, going to the beach. I didn’t realize how much of my life was lived as a slave to food.

Like everyone says, it’s a tool, not a fix. You have to use the tool correctly. I can still gain weight so I really watch what I put in my body. My head still craves junk food and then, when I eat it, I feel horrible. It doesn’t satisfy me. I don’t eat out as often. When I do go out to eat with my wife, we split one plate or put half of our food in a box before we even start to eat. It was really difficult for me to re-learn portion sizes. I always bought the bulk stuff. I haven’t had a Costco card for 3 years now.

What goals did you set for yourself? Have you made progress towards those goals?

Chad running on the beach in Hawaii. “I could have never done that before surgery.”

The first goal I made was that I wanted to be 175 pounds. I made it but I wasn’t comfortable doing what it took to stay at 175 pounds. Since then, I gained about 15 pounds and I’m really comfortable at my current weight. I lost 12 inches off my waist and my pant size hasn’t increased from my lowest weight.

I wanted to be able to hike at least 3 miles without having to rest. I did that and I can still do that.

I wanted to play softball again. I’ve played the past 2 years. I’ve done men’s league, co-ed league, and coached.

My other goal was to get off all of the medications I was taking. I’m so glad to not have to take medications all the time. I’m not a slave to that stuff. I didn’t want to be walking pharmacy.

I still want to jump out of an airplane. It’s on the bucket list.

What advice would you give those who want to pursue weight loss surgery?

I think it’s the best thing I ever did. I wish I wouldn’t have waited 10 years to do it. There was always something holding me back, usually money and fear of the surgery itself. Whatever’s holding you back, let it go. There’s a life out there waiting for you that’s beyond your imagination. I was cash pay. I sold all of my prize possessions – my car, my tools. I sold everything I had to pay for it. If I could have imagined how good I was going to feel, the opportunities that came my way just by being physically active and capable, I would have done it 10 years sooner.

You don’t even know what’s waiting for you. I’m a new man. I’m strong and happy, joyous and free. Whatever’s holding you back, it’s just not worth the life you could have. There’s nothing that compares with the freedom I have from being trapped in the overweight body.



The way we eat, the when we eat, the how we eat, and the why we eat is motivated by many forces. Most of us will recognize and admit to eating for reasons other than hunger. Maybe you associate TV watching with chips or popcorn. A fight with your partner is soothed by ice cream. Have you ever gone to the state fair feeling full or satisfied and want to eat funnel cakes anyway? Just the smell alone of funnel cakes wafting your way brings back carefree childhood memories of fun at the fair. If you eat one, even though you aren’t hungry, maybe you can feel that way again. The taste, texture, and smell of certain foods can flood your mind with memories.

Regardless of the society, culture, religion or ethnicity, we are taught from a young age to associate pain, suffering, happiness, celebration, depression, and a vast array of other emotions with food. Sometimes it is a formal teaching via our faith where certain foods are eaten to play a part in religious ceremonies. Other times, under less formal circumstances, we are taught from our mothers to treat the pain and humiliation of being stood up at the prom with a milk shake. Celebrating a win from a game? Let’s have a pizza! Is it Christmas? Well then, we must have cookies.  

You can start learning about your eating habits by writing down what and when you eat and what you are feeling when you eat it. I’ll bet it isn’t hunger. At some point, to really make progress with your weight loss, you need to uncouple. You need to disassociate doughnuts and disappointment, boredom and beer nuts, suffering and sundaes. You need to uncouple these emotions and experiences with food. Food is many things, but it is not therapy. It is not a tonic. It is not a coping mechanism. After all, if you are disappointed before you start eating, think how disappointed you will feel after eating those doughnuts. What will follow is another wave of emotions, usually self-doubt, defeat, self-deficiency and failing. Now how did that doughnut serve you? Sounds to me like you just rode a roller coaster of self-destructive behavior that brought you back to the same place that you started. Wanna go for another ride?

Uncouple. The next time you are sad. Stop. Think. Maybe you should be sad. It is okay to feel sad at some point in your life. Why are you sad? It is okay to feel. It may be uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant, but that’s okay. Sadness is natural. Spend your time wondering why you are sad and how you can feel better without food. You can talk it over with a friend, family member or counselor. Share your sadness. Often just talking about it and expressing your emotion verbally is enough release you from its grip.

Uncouple emotion from the food. Food is not the cure. Smell the funnel cakes, remember your feelings of youth and happiness. Tell the story in your head to a friend or your spouse. Eating the funnel cake will not return you to a happier time. You cannot step into a funnel cake and slide down a magical hole to a happier place. You will more likely wind up in a pool of tears like Alice did.

Feelings are part of the human experience. Stop being afraid to experience. When we admit we have feelings and emotions, we are vulnerable. Vulnerability is a dangerous place. It will take time to sort through the doughnuts and cookies in your life, but until you allow yourself this indulgence you will continue to medicate and manage with food. By exposing yourself to your feelings you will find a new beginning and a new emotion. Success!

Staff Spotlight: Kristi Hansen

Staff Spotlight: Kristi Hansen

Name: Kristi Hansen

Role: Registered Nurse in Sound Surgeons Surgery Center

Joined NWWC: October 2018

Personal Life: Kristi is married and has two teenagers and two dogs. She has worked her way across the country over the years. She was born in Tennessee, moved to Iowa in junior high, moved to Minnesota with her high school sweetheart & husband, moved to southern California, moved back to Tennessee, and arrived in Washington one year ago. “I am ready to stay put for a while.”

Life Before NWWC: Kristi has been a nurse for 24 years and has always worked in acute care hospitals before joining NWWC. She has worked in intensive care, step down (the transition between intensive and general care), post-anesthesia care, and cardiac catheterization (cath) lab. Her cath lab role was the most intense. When on call, Kristi slept with a pager and had to be in within 30 minutes of being paged to provide CPR and stabilize patients who were on the edge of death. She has worked her fair share of nights, weekends, and holidays and is enjoying the calmer setting of the surgery center.

A Day in Her Job: Once patients have checked in for surgery, Kristi greets them in the waiting room and takes them to the surgery center. She prepares them for surgery by starting their IV, completing a medical assessment, reviewing the preoperative surgical questions, and providing them with medications. After surgery, Kristi takes care of patients in recovery. The first full hour is one-on-one time with a nurse. “We don’t leave their side.” She comforts patients as they come out of anesthesia, manages their pain and nausea, and encourages them to take their first sips of water. As their recovery continues, Kristi helps them to get dressed, supports them as they take their first laps around the nursing station, and continues to manage pain, nausea, and hydration.

What Else to Know about Kristi:

  • Kristi has known she wanted to be a nurse since she was a child. She had surgery when she was 6 years old and really liked the nurse who took care of her. “I thought, ‘She helps people feel better. I like that. I want to be a nurse.’” And the rest is history! She enjoys the autonomy of nursing and being able to help patients on a daily basis.
  • Kristi’s most memorable patients are an entire family who have had bariatric surgery. She has helped 3 of the 4 family members. “They are a super cool family. It’s been great to see them all go through the positive experience together. They all help to support one another.”
  • Kristi and her family enjoy the outdoors. They hike in the summer, including the dogs, and have explored many of the trails in the Cascades. They are hoping to tackle more hikes in the Olympics this year. They usually visit northern Minnesota each summer and Kristi hopes to own a cabin there someday for retirement. In the winter, Kristi cross-country skis while the rest of her family enjoys the downhill version.
  • Kristi’s children are gearing up for exciting life transitions. Her daughter starts her senior year of high school this fall and is considering colleges in California, Washington, and Minnesota. Her son is becoming an Eagle Scout this summer following a 2-week backpacking and camping trip in Canada.