It can be for a variety of reasons but sometimes we just get stuck. Instead of practicing healthy lifestyle habits, we adopt a sedentary existence and consume food with empty calories. The risk is that we can stay in that space too long, something Kitty Hawk resident Barbara Dixon knows well. She lost her husband of 60 years in 2020 to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). During his illness, Dixon was the primary caregiver, and she damaged her left shoulder helping him with basic life skills. The profound loss and the injury left her depressed and unmotivated.

It was a neighbor who convinced her to go to The Center for Healthy Living (TCFHL), a service of Outer Banks Health. There, Dixon joined TCFHL’s 12-week weight management class led by Integrative Medicine Physician Christina Bowen, Family Nurse Practitioner Marielle Silk, Certified Life Coach Denise De Pedro and Registered Dietitian Jackie Hall. The group dynamic encourages participants to speak about their health concerns and, with the assistance of the facilitators, discover ways to address and undo unhealthy lifestyle habits.

It was through the experience that Dixon became aware of the impact that food has on the body, and it moved her to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet. “I feel so much younger with the 30 pound weight loss, and I’ve lowered my blood sugar,” she offers enthusiastically. “I have five great-grandchildren, and I want to be around for them. I feel like because I lost weight, it has given me more life.”

In addition to the weight management classes, Dixon has had one-on-one time with Dr. Bowen who encouraged her to have the shoulder pain addressed. So she made an appointment with Dr. Brad Carofino, an orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist who partners with Outer Banks Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Kill Devil Hills. Dixon made the decision to undergo surgery this past March to correct the problem. “I’m in physical therapy now and am working toward recovery,” she said.

Well into a new chapter of life, Dixon has resumed activities that bring her joy. “I love to bake,” she shares, “and make things for family and friends.” The reenergized chef recently whipped up a beautiful chocolate cake with icing made from sweet potatoes, as well as a fruit crisp, and Key lime energy bites. Her go to plant-based recipe guides include Forks Over Knives and the Love and Lemons Ever Day cookbook.

“I’ve already promised everyone that cake, she says with a smile, “because I don’t want it around here. I might eat it.” Great strategy Barbara!

If you’re feeling stuck and contemplating a change in your lifestyle habits, make an appointment with The Center for Healthy Living by calling 252-449-5978. And stay tuned for the next 12-week weight management class scheduled for early fall 2022.


Health & Wellness