by Jessie Moniz Hardy
Dieting to lose weight and exercising to get in shape happen to be two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. While it is possible to do it alone, in some cases, it’s useful to call on the experts, including physicians, nutritionists and international weight-loss specialists.
Last summer, a love for baked goods was starting to catch up with actuary Chandra Ryan. Her weight was creeping up, and so were her bad cholesterol levels. Because her body mass index was above 29 (a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9), she was eligible for a medically-managed weight loss programme. In this type of programme, medical professionals typically suggest certain dietary changes, offer support, counselling and education, and set up an exercise routine. Cholesterol levels, weight, blood pressure and other measures of health are carefully monitored. Ms Ryan selected certified nutritionist Myra Dill at Efitbda who works closely with physician Heather Ketteniss. “Myra asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to learn how to eat properly,” Ms Ryan said.
Ms Dill helped Ms Ryan decrease her carbohydrate intake, increase her lean proteins, and up her exercise routine. She also made sure the changes matched Ms Ryan’s lifestyle. “Medically managed weight loss programmes work because they make clients accountable to someone,” Ms Dill explained. “It’s natural to put on weight and unnatural to lose it. That’s why weight loss is so difficult.” But she warned that there were no quick fixes. In fact, she doesn’t declare success until the client has kept the weight off for two years.
Ms Ryan lost 25 lbs in five months and lowered her bad cholesterol numbers. Now she’s feeling physically stronger and more confident. She loves when people notice the change. Her advice to others who want to lose weight is: don’t underestimate yourself.
“Everyone has the power to make small changes and take small steps,” she said. “That is all it takes.”
Dr Kyjuan Brown, owner of Northshore Medical and Aesthetics Centre in Pembroke, said people often self-sabotage when trying to lose weight. His clinic’s B-Lean Weight Loss Club does a lot of hand-holding and lifestyle work to help clients reach their ideal weight. The club comes with coaching, a support group, a cooking class, and more. It is open to individuals who have mild to severe obesity. For people who have 100lbs or more to lose, Northshore’s jump start programme is an option. Clients take small doses of the HCG pregnancy hormone to accelerate weight loss.
“When you’re not pregnant HCG stimulates the breakdown and mobilisation of fat,” Dr Brown explained. “In very low doses it suppresses hunger.” Clients are on a restricted diet of 500 to 800 calories. In 40 days, women can see up to 23lbs of weight loss, and men, 40 to 50lbs. When the 40 days are up, clients segue to a long term maintenance or a naturopathic programme.”
It’s estimated that one in three people in Bermuda is obese. Physician Stanley James, who also offers weight loss programmes at Premier Health and Wellness on King Street in Hamilton, said there are multi-faceted reasons for the obesity crisis. He felt an overabundance of food, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, played a role. But he also stated there was a psychological component to it. “Depression, anxiety and stress are often treated with comfort foods and alcohol,” he said. “A lot of people are emotional eaters, and we try to shame them out of that. It makes it worse.”
Dr James is in the process of opening the Bermuda Healthy Weight Institute, a multidisciplinary obesity centre, with an obesity physician on duty. “It will have a registered dietician, a clinical psychologist and also a bariatric surgeon to do a complete series of surgeries,” he said. “For some patients, a medical intervention programme won’t work.”
Harvard University professor and obesity specialist, Fatima Cody Stanford, will be directing the clinic, flying regularly between the US and Bermuda. She has just been licensed to practice on the Island. “I see this as an opportunity to do some education about the complexity of obesity and to actually treat using evidence-based guidelines developed throughout the world,” she said.
Dr Stanford has found that most physicians are taught very little about obesity and weight loss, even though obesity is one of the most prevalent diseases in the developed and underdeveloped world. “We know there is no country that is doing an excellent job teaching about the disease of obesity,” she said. “And if no one is teaching, you can imagine the treatment and care is minimal at best.”
One of her goals is to train local doctors, dieticians, social workers and other relevant parties, to better combat obesity. But Dr Stanford said there is no cookie-cutter approach to treating clients. It’s, therefore, important to learn as much as you can about a client’s lifestyle. “Some interventions may be lifestyle modifications that help optimise their weight which could include looking at their diet quality,” she said. “It may be looking at optimising the length and intensity and duration of physical activity.”
This article was originally posted in the 2020 edition of RG Mags Health & Wellness magazine.