Summer Issue of Weight Matters Magazine

One of the perks of Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) Premium Access Membership is receiving hard copies of the Weight Matters Magazine mailed to your home. It's an awesome publication always jam-packed with the latest news and great articles about health, weight, nutrition, emotional wellness, stories about real people, and OAC community members who are making a difference. I love it when I open the mailbox and the latest issue has arrived. I highly recommend upgrading to premium access to get the magazine sent to your home, access to a massive digital video library, hundreds of past Weight Matters magazine article archives, discounts and early access to virtual and in-person event registration, and a bunch of other cool perks.

Weight Matters Magazine Summer 2021

If you already receive the magazine, turn to page 30 in the Summer issue. It is available for a limited time online. I had the privilege of writing the issue's Kid's Korner article. For those of you that don't know, Early Childhood Education is my first love and I enjoyed tapping into that part of my world by sharing some creative, healthy, and fun family dinner ideas. If you have kiddos in your life, I hope you and your family enjoy the ideas... and if you do... I'd love love love to hear about it!

Super Easy Falafel

This is my super easy version of Falafel. It’s not traditional so if you are looking for that, this is not the recipe for you but it’s a quick, easy, and super yummy recipe when you are jonesing for something with a Middle Eastern vibe. I love it because it uses canned chickpeas, using dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight is more traditional but I never remember to soak beans and when I want falafel... in the words of Veruca Salt, “I want it now!” 

This recipe also does not contain cilantro which is generally found in traditional recipes. If you love cilantro, you could certainly sub 1/2 the parsley with cilantro. I just didn’t have any on hand so all parsley was the way I made it the first time and ever after that. This recipe might appeal to the cilantro haters of the world (up to 20% of the population) for whom cilantro tastes like soap. Trivia: Did you know there is a genetic reason for this cilantro hate. Apparently, in 2012, researchers at Cornell University found that there was one specific gene (OR6A2, an olfactory receptor) that makes some people strongly dislike the taste of cilantro. So to those folks, you are in luck with my non-traditional, cilantro-less, falafel.

Eggface Recipes Super Easy Falafel Patties No Cilantro

Shelly’s Super Easy Falafel 

1 can of Chickpeas (15 oz.) rinsed and drained
1 Egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Zaatar
1/4 cup Multigrain Pancake Mix
1/2 cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Microwave drained chickpeas for 3 minutes and mash with a potato masher or fork. You want mashed but not pureed. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside about 3 minutes while you prepare Yogurt Dip. The mix will stiffen a bit and make it easier to form patties.

Form 6 small (slider size) patties, slightly flatten, and saute in oil (about 2 tablespoons) on medium heat. Flip when golden and cook till other side is golden and crisp. About 8-10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Serve warm with Yogurt Dip or Hummus (see my Homemade Hummus Recipe)

Update: Had some questions on air frying these... I have done them in a convection oven. 350 about 15-17 minutes flipping once. I prefer pan saute crispiness (and adjust my meal plan for that cooking method) but they can be done in ovens as well.

Yogurt Dip

1 cup Greek Yogurt, plain
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Zaatar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix till combined. Refrigerate till you serve it.

Super Easy Falafel Canned Chickpeas

These falafel are great with a small green salad, Caprese (tomato, mozzarella, basil) salad or cucumber salad. Leftovers reheat really well. Serve with an egg for breakfast. I don't eat bread but if you do those mini pitas would fit one of these perfectly with some lettuce, tomato, and a dollop of yogurt dip.

Food Fact: Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) provide nearly 8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.  

Heads up: #YWM2021Virtual

YWM2021Virtual Your Weight Matters Convention

The Your Weight Matters Convention & Expo will be held July 17th-25th. Join the education, information, and support of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC)'s annual in-person event but VIRTUALLY from the comfort of your home (or wherever you have wifi.) I'll be watching from my patio with an ice-cold drink. This is the 10th year of YWM events (8 in-person and now 2 virtually, damn covid) but I have not missed a single one. They are THAT good. 

Obesity Action Coalition YWM Your Weight Matters Convention and Expo

If you are interested in learning the latest science-based education about obesity, nutrition, fitness and exercise, weight loss and weight management, behavioral health, mental health, and more. 

Check out the full program agenda. 

This event series is not to be missed. REGISTRATION OPENS MAY 5th (or April 28 early registration if you are a premium access member of the OAC)

Note: This is a series of events that take place from July 17th-25th and many are free to access. 

I don't know about you but those events that go on all day long on a single day or weekend are just too much for my attention span and my buttocks to take. Hence the series, to optimize the benefit to you. Now, it still might be a lot to digest each session or you might have a prior engagement on one of the event days. This is why **I highly recommend the full-event registration option** that will give you the ability to replay the events (and score some groovy bonuses too.) There is also a CE credit registration option (up to 16 hours) for those of you in professions that utilize those.

Obesity Action Coalition YWM Your Weight Matters Convention and Expo Registration Options

Last thing I want to mention... I am hosting a Connect with the Experts event during the series on Tuesday 7/20 at 7 PM eastern. It's called: Lean on Me: Building a Support System that Empowers You. It's an add-on for $15 but if you want to hang out, chat about support, learn some helpful resources, and much more from yours truly! I'd love to see you there. 

Bariatric Surgery: Why more people don't have it.

Bariatric surgery is a pretty darn effective obesity treatment. Beyond the weight loss, which for many increases their quality of life, multiple long-term studies show bariatric surgery can put type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and hypertension (a risk for heart disease and stroke) into remission and reduces the burden or risk of many other obesity-related conditions and diseases including a few cancers. But only 1% of those who would qualify for bariatric surgery have it. 

A few thoughts on why and this is by no means an exhaustive list... 

Bariatric Surgery Vertical Sleeve VSG Gastric Bypass RNY

Fear of surgery, fear of complications and death. Let's be real. No one looks forward to surgery and this is one we can choose to have (or not.) The whole getting cut open, anesthesia, drains, tubes, pain, and recovery process sounds intimidating. 

The facts are the currently used bariatric procedures are pretty darn safe. The rate of serious complications within the first 30 days is between 0.25% and 1.25% and the mortality rate is even lower for the two most popular bariatric surgeries: vertical sleeve gastrectomies (VSG) and gastric bypass (RNY.) To put this in perspective that is a lower rate than most common surgeries (including gall bladder removal, appendectomy, and knee and hip replacement surgery.) Over 90% of bariatric operations are now being performed laparoscopically (a few small incisions) so that really helps lower the complications and speeds up recovery but I had open RNY (non-laparoscopic, one long incision, slower recovery) and it was still only about 2 weeks till I was functioning pretty normally. 

I think we tend to dismiss, disregard or probably just grow accustomed to the reality that for many of us obesity and obesity-related illnesses we may be dealing with carry risks of complications and death. Many higher than the risks of surgery. Something to consider when deciding to have surgery or not.

Suggested reading or resource: Look to the science and studies, not your friend at work "who knew someone, who had a friend, whose hairstylist had surgery."

Fear of the unknown, fear of change. Change is scary. I remember thinking "I know what I have to deal with now, I don't know what life is like after." Would I regret having bariatric surgery? How it would change my life? How it might affect my loved ones? 

It will change your life and the lives of those you love. Those changes will be positive for the most part, the resolution of health issues and increased quality of life but it is a change. Talk to post-ops 1+ years from surgery and ask them if they regret having surgery and the answer is usually "the only regret is not having it sooner." That being said anytime you make a big life change (think about: moving, relationship changes, babies, jobs, etc.) it takes time to adjust. Those first few weeks post-op when there are lots of instructions to follow, things are different and new, you feel stressed and overwhelmed, for some their comfort/soother in times of stress was food and well that is limited... and add to this scenario that you are healing from surgery... so YES, some people express regret (akin to buyer's remorse) but ask them again in a year and you will more than likely hear the "regret not having it sooner" answer. It took me about 7 weeks or so to feel "new normal" and not like an alien life force dropped onto a new planet. By month 4, I was feeling better than ever. 14 years and still no regrets.

Suggested reading or resource: I highly recommend finding a psychologist who works with bariatric surgery post-ops, sooner rather than later. They can help you navigate the new changes. You can search by zip code in your area with the locator or ask your bariatric surgeon's office for suggestions. Talk to other post-ops. You can find me online on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and I am happy to answer any questions or direct you to an answer or resource.

Access issues. Coverage for bariatric surgery is getting better but there should not be a policy allowed that excludes coverage for science-based obesity treatments (behavioral therapy, FDA-approved obesity drugs, and bariatric surgery) yet there are still many that exclude obesity care. It's confusing to even find out if you are covered. I see lots of patients ask on online patient forums if (insert any insurance company) covers bariatric surgery. The answer is: maybe. Most companies cover bariatric surgery, the question is does YOUR policy cover it (think cars: do you have the base model vehicle or the pimped out, top of the line vehicle with all the bells and whistles or something in between) and that is determined by a phone call to your insurance company and a look at your policy documents (policy sections to look for: Evidence of Coverage (EOC) or Certificate of Insurance (COI) or Summary of Benefits and Coverage.)

For those that are covered, it's still a complicated process to get approval, and frankly, health insurance carriers like it that way. Unlike other chronic disease treatments, people with obesity often have hoops to jump through like mandatory waiting periods (3-6 months is common, some even longer), mandatory diets with mandatory weight loss, extra documentation, and extra clearances. These discriminatory hoops are designed to delay and discourage patients, plain and simple and sadly it works. Also as you can imagine all these hoops often mean multiple appointments, time off work for those appointments and tests, travel costs, co-pays, program fees and that is even before the time off for surgery and healing. This is a real barrier that stops people from even considering surgery. 

Suggested reading or resource: Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) fights for access to care and an end to weight bias they have a great section on their website about understanding your insurance coverage, appealing denials, sample letters, glossary of terms, etc.

Weight bias and stigma, internalized bias, avoidance of care. Obesity is complex and there are multiple factors some may be controllable (behavioral) and many not so much and certainly not without assistance (biological, genetic, environmental, medications, psychological, socio-economics, health disparities, etc.) but to hear it from society, family, friends, even sadly doctors sometimes... it's all our fault ("just eat less and move more") and so we must solve it ourselves. As you can imagine after years of this messaging people actually can begin to believe it. So much so that some people with obesity look at seeking care and treatment as shirking responsibility or "taking the easy way out." 

Obesity is not your fault and you don't have to go it alone. Your health is not a game. You don't get bonus points for going it alone, struggling, or suffering more, you just get less quality of life. If your obesity is affecting your health, there are effective treatments and help. Seek them out. 

Another thing I wanted to mention about weight bias is we often have way too many crappy past health care experiences (read one of mine: scroll to Michelle "Shelly") and avoidance of care, in general, is a result. So the idea of a bunch of appointments for months isn't too appealing for many. This is one reason even if covered many don't follow through with the process. Finding good care is key. It is out there. It's worth finding.

If you are a healthcare provider reading: please help patients understand the experience with you and your office will be different. Explain the disease and science of obesity, explain chronic disease management, explain what is in our control and what isn't. Give patients the understanding and support that many have never received. You can make such a difference.

Suggested reading or resource: Stop Weight Bias campaign's section on weight bias in healthcare. Great ConscienHealth blogs on the multiple causes of obesity. 

Lack of understanding of obesity and treatments. Most people do believe that eating less and moving more will cure obesity. Doctors (scientists and others) need to take every opportunity to correct that misconception. There is so much more going on and perhaps if the complexity and chronic nature of obesity were shared more people would seek real care for it more readily instead of being prey to the latest diet industry fads and scams "maybe this time this (potion, sketchy pill, tea, DVD, gadget, etc.) will work" instead of seeking out science-based obesity treatments (behavioral therapy, FDA-approved obesity drugs, and bariatric surgery.) People would also understand why something that "worked" for a friend or co-worker or a celebrity on TV doesn't mean it will be the right treatment for them. 

I've also heard comments like "why should I have surgery when people just gain it back." First, bariatric surgery benefits are more than weight loss. There is, of course, a lot of weight loss but even after bariatric surgery bathroom scales still go in both directions. Be sure you have realistic expectations of what treatments can and can't do (there is no cure or finish line.) Obesity is a chronic disease and like any chronic disease needs managing for life. I am sure you have heard the saying bariatric surgery is a tool. It is a tool that requires maintenance, taking into the shop for tune-ups and you may need to use a few different tools over time. You get the idea. 

Suggested reading or resource: Obesity treatment options information from the Obesity Action Coalition. 

Bariatric surgery is not for everyone but right now it is the most effective treatment there is for obesity and if obesity is affecting your health, and you choose to have bariatric surgery I believe it should be accessible without hindrance, stigma, and bias. If you believe that too. Here are ways you can help:

Hamilton Beach Egg Bite Maker: Copycat Starbucks Egg Bites

Those of you who have been around this blog a while know that I have quite a collection of "egg bite" recipes. I think at last count there are at least 40 variations on the blog. Some of my favorites are the egg foo young, cheeseburger, pizza bites. I bake them 24 at a time in mini muffin tins and heat them up in a toaster oven or microwave throughout the week for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I have even made them for parties as an appetizer to rave reviews and cleared platters. Baking them gives them a toasty, yummy edge that I love but 24 at a time is a commitment so when I saw this little gadget: the Hamilton Beach Electric Egg Bites Maker I thought I would give it a whirl. I liked the single-serving idea and that this would give me an option for a different texture. These "egg bites" are more like the Starbucks sous vide bites, sort of like little souffl├ęs. 

Hamilton Beach Electric Egg Bites Maker

The gadget works sort of like a double boiler, with a lower well you add water to and a top tray with two small non-stick wells to hold your egg mixture (look for the max fill-line inside the wells.) There isn’t an on/off button, you just add the water and your egg mixture and plug it in when you are ready. There is a green light that turns on when it’s plugged in. It turns off when the egg bites are ready which is basically when the water in the bottom well is evaporated and the "Egg Bites" are done. Let them cool a bit and then pop them out onto a plate. 

Hamilton Beach Electric Egg Bites Maker

Verdict: Delicious. I was impressed. It's a great protein-packed breakfast option, softer than my traditional egg bites so even better for those early bariatric surgery post-ops, and pretty darn close to the Starbucks version for lovers of those pricey little suckers (around $4.45 for 2) so if you do love the Bux version this machine pays for itself pretty quickly.

Hamilton Beach Electric Egg Bites Maker

The instruction manual comes with a few basic recipes but like my baked versions the possibilities are endless and you can really customize your egg bites — adding cooked meats, cheeses, and veggies. They would be a great place to use up dinner leftovers. I had a tiny bit of egg mixture leftover probably because I added a few too many pieces of cooked sausage, feta cheese crumbles, and roasted red pepper that took up a little more space (old Archimedes' principle at play) so it may take a little experimenting to get the perfect recipe. 

Hamilton Beach Electric Egg Bites Maker

I am looking forward to several taste tests. Yum! 

If you have one of these gadgets or get one let me know what recipe creations you come up with. Oh, by the way, the machine comes in this sunny yellow (which sort of reminded me of an egg) or a pretty teal too. 

Tips for attending the first ever #YWM2020Virtual (or any virtual event)

While we are unable to connect in person this year, we can thankfully still share all the education, information, and support of Obesity Action Coalition's Annual Your Weight Matters YWM event. VIRTUALLY. Virtual conferences have been rising in popularity for the past few years, but with COVID-19, it's become a great way to still gather our community and introduce new folks to the Obesity Action Coalition and all it has to offer. We are so excited! With the financial commitment removed (the event series is FREE) and reduced time and travel commitment, the "doors" have been opened to many people that may have been unable in the past to attend, which is AWESOME! 

Here's the best part (ok maybe it's my best part) you can attend surrounded by your fur babies, with a bottomless refill of coffee (hotel coffee is $$$) and never change out of your pajamas! 

Here are a few tips to make attending the first-ever #YWM2020Virtual (or any virtual event) a great experience.

Most events will have an ability to check your connections (speaker-test, camera or mic test if applicable) utilize it to be sure you don't miss any of the event making settings adjustments as it's beginning. Not to worry, it's a super, user-friendly system and they'll be technical support the day of the events so if you do have an issue the OAC staff will be there to talk you through.

Get comfortable. I joked about staying in your PJ's but really that is a benefit to going virtual... no need for business attire or heels. Favorite t-shirt with the salsa stain on it? Wear it. Super soft sweatpants with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Wear them. Pants, no pants? We'll never know.

Get ready to watch. Grab something to drink and a healthy snack. Make it a goal to get through your water before the break. One of my favorite snacks is cucumber slices and a dip of some sort (homemade hummus or a Greek yogurt Dip) crunchy, hydrating and yummy.  

Utilize the chat feature (most virtual platforms have them) to ask questions of the speakers during the events. There are no "dumb questions" if you want to know chances are many others do too. If the speakers can't answer during the allotted time many will continue to answer beyond their sessions. This is your chance to chat with world-renowned speakers and cut through the noise about health, weight, weight loss, nutrition, fitness, emotional health, and well-being. Read more about the program.

Utilize the official event hashtag. Our hashtag is #YWM2020Virtual and we've already started talking online using it but it will blow up during, between, and after the event. These are your people. Follow those you see using the hashtag. Introduce yourself to fellow attendees and speakers: "Hey, I'm attending #YWM2020Virtual too!" "Hi, I enjoyed your presentation at #YWM2020Virtual." 


Share where you are watching #YWM2020Virtual from or who you are watching with. Snap a photo and post it with the hashtag. Let's see those smiling faces, the people behind the keyboard. Oh and scroll through the hashtag during and between events (just type it in the search box on Twitter or Instagram, etc.) you'll also see quotes and educational gems from the presentations. Share your thoughts. Just be sure to add the hashtag so we can all see and respond.

We have designed the program schedule into a series. I don't know about you but those events that go on all day long are just too much for my attention span and my buttocks to take. We get it, hence the series, to optimize the benefit to you. Now, it still might be a lot to digest or you might have a prior engagement on one of the event days. No worries, there is a paid option that will give you the ability to replay the events (and score some other groovy bonuses too.)

Hope these tips help you have an amazing time. If you haven't registered yet... do it now: 

Michelle "Shelly" Vicari
Obesity Action Coalition National Board Chair

It’s Time to Register for #YWM2020VIRTUAL

Every year for the past 7 years people have gathered together from all over the country to get evidence-based strategies for individuals impacted by excess weight and obesity. Real deal education and tools, free from scams and BS from world-renowned experts in their field. The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC)'s Your Weight Matters National Convention is truly an awesome event and I NEVER miss it. For those of you who have had the opportunity to attend it really is an amazing experience and post-pandemic when we are able to travel the country again and hug new friends I highly recommend it. 

While we can't gather in person this year, this July the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) has taken some of the great education and support you'd find at the events and is bringing it to everyone that wants to get a taste of what this OAC event is all about. We've created a FREE (yes, FREE) series of educational events that you can attend all from the comfort and safety of your home with YWM2020Virtual!

If you want to learn more about your health, weight, weight loss, nutrition, fitness, emotional health, and wellness make plans to spend a few days with us in July.

Here are just some of the educational topics and speakers:

• Thinking Differently about Your Weight – by Scott Kahan, MD, MPH
• Why is it So Hard to Lose Weight and Keep it off? – by Kevin Hall, PhD
• Become a Food BOSS: Manage Stress Eating, Beat Food Boredom, and Learn How to Feel in Charge – by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, LDN
• Adapting to a Changed World: Adding to Your Mental Health Toolbox – by Paul Davidson, PhD; and Merrill Littleberry, LCSW, LCDC, CCM, CI-CPT

Event Schedule:

Event 1: Saturday, July 11
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST/10:00 am – 12:00 pm PST
Event 2: Saturday, July 18
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST/10:00 am – 12:00 pm PST
Event 3: Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST/10:00 am – 1:00 pm PST

Did I mention... it's FREE!! Register to attend and learn more about the schedule and programming:

Chat about the event online using the official #YWM2020Virtual hashtag.

Hope to “see you” there!

Stay at Home Cooking: Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

As I write this most of the world is under stay at home orders to avoid spreading the coronavirus. We're only going out for essentials like food or medicine but even then I'm going to try and avoid it if possible. I had a pretty good food supply in the freezer and pantry so I've been cooking up some tasty meals so far... we'll see what happens in a couple of weeks it might be another story. I do have a couple of mysterious packages in the back of the freezer it might come to using those. Well... we could have a contest to guess what it is. LOL.

Last night's quarantine kitchen meal was a layered Spaghetti Squash Lasagna type situation. It was delicious and I'm looking forward to lunch leftovers. I'll try and post a few ideas in case people need some inspiration. You can also check out my Pinterest page.

Bariatric Healthy Dinner Ideas Coronavirus Cooking Quarantine

Shelly's Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

1 Spaghetti Squash, cooked
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Oregano

3/4 to 1 cup Tomato Sauce (I used storebought Rao's Tomato Basil)

1 cup Ricotta Cheese (I used whole milk)
1 Egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Basil
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
a few twists of Black Pepper

1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Half and deseed the spaghetti squash. OVEN: Place open end down on a Pyrex baking dish, pour 1/4 cup of water in dish. Cover with foil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes or MICROWAVE: Place open end down on a Pyrex baking dish, pour 1/4 cup of water in dish and microwave for 15 minutes or so. You want a fork to insert easily. Allow to cool slightly. Use two forks to shred the flesh of the cooked squash into "spaghetti." Add salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 teaspoon of oregano. Spread evenly in a deep-dish pie plate or casserole dish.

Spread tomato sauce on top evenly. Mix together remaining ingredients (except Mozzarella) till well combined and spread evenly over the tomato sauce layer. Top with Mozzarella. Place in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes. I broil the top for about 2 minutes more to get little golden brown cheese spots.

Bariatric Cooking Food WLS

Hope you and everyone you love is healthy and stays that way. Chat soon.