Bite by Bite – Digesting a Healthy Lifestyle

By Derrick W. Spell, M.D., FACP

Six years ago, everything that was wrong with my health came to mind one day. Most of my clothes no longer fit. I had trouble climbing one flight of stairs. I realized that I was taking care of my patients, but not taking care of myself. I finally accepted that I needed to change.

After months of reading and preparation, I discovered that psychology is the missing ingredient from conventional health and fitness strategies. When I combined this new knowledge on psychology with proper diet and exercise, the pounds came off quite naturally. As the months turned into years, I have continued to keep my weight off.

What’s the best way to get started on the road to living a healthier life?
I believe the road to a healthier life requires a solid foundation. This groundwork is best achieved by reading about nutrition and learning some useful mental strategies for weight loss. Change is a process that works best when you think and plan before you act.

What was your greatest obstacle in making this change in your life?
My greatest obstacle was actually myself!  I lost weight during medical school but gained it back over the years. Many overweight people have had varying weight loss success at times, but they ultimately regain weight in the end. Experts call this the “yo-yo effect.” I had to commit to permanent change and lose my weight for good.

Does living a healthier lifestyle reduce my risk for cancer and other diseases?
Yes!  Most people know that tobacco consumption increases the risk of many cancers. However, few people know that obesity also increases the risk of several cancers.  In fact, there are over a dozen cancers that are more common in obese individuals. The most common of these cancers include breast, esophagus and upper stomach, pancreas, kidney, ovary, colon and rectum. Living a healthier lifestyle (eating well and exercising often) reduces risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases.

Obese people don’t just have a higher risk of cancer; they are also more likely to have a poor outcome.   Obese cancer patients have a higher risk of cancer recurrence and death. They are also more likely to develop side effects with cancer treatments. Even among obese cancer survivors, they are more likely to develop heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other second cancers.

If I have cancer, how should I go about living the healthiest lifestyle?
If you are a cancer survivor, you should discuss lifestyle choices with your oncologist. They may have specific recommendations for your diet based on your cancer and other health issues.  Generally speaking, eating more whole foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) and less processed foods (especially sweets) is advised. Regular exercise is recommended for all adults, but you should discuss specific advice and goals with your oncologist.

You have a new book that chronicles your journey to successful weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.  Can you tell us a little about the book?
Absolutely!  More and more people asked about my secrets to success. My wife suggested that I share my advice with everyone in a book. It took some time to complete, but my book was released in February 2019.  It is entitled The Bite-Sized Guide to Getting Right-Sized and it is my complete game plan for success!  I disclose all my weight-loss secrets in “bite-sized” chunks that are easy to read.  You can learn more about the book at You can order print or electronic versions through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also obtain an autographed copy directly from me!  For a signed copy, please call (225) 767-1311.