By Nate Hinkel and Sally Graham
Crouching next to his backyard pool for a routine skimming of its leaves and drowned insects, Jim Brown saw a reflection of a man he didn’t want to be.
After having let his health go a little bit following the death of his wife in 2006, Brown was hit with the realization that he couldn’t muster the strength or agility to get back up from his poolside routine.
“I was too fat, bottom line,” said the 67-year-old Brown. “I just didn’t care too much anymore and overate regularly.”
He’d heard about the UAMS Program for Weight Loss and Metabolic Control from his daughter, Melody, and friends in casual conversations. When he entered the program June 25, 2009, Brown weighed 307 pounds.
A lot of people don’t realize how much their weight and eating habits affect their lives,” Brown said. “It affects your mood, your relationships, your health, and overall just your quality of life. The program at UAMS has worked for me and it’s been a guiding factor in my life.”
The program gives the patient knowledge and tools to succeed by aiming to permanently change unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits, said clinic coordinator Betsy Day. Getting participants to reach their ideal weight is accomplished through a documented, medically proven strategy.
“Many people get caught up in losing weight as quickly as possible and don’t have an understanding of the dangers of fad diets and drugs that often are more risky than being overweight or obese,” Day said. “The key part of any rational diet includes behavior modification to avoid regaining the lost weight as soon as previous eating habits resume.”
With the program’s encouragement for a steady dose of exercise, Brown picked up a passion for running, which he shares with his multi-marathon-running daughter.
“We always used to travel around and support Melody in her marathons,” Brown said.
Nowadays, he isn’t just watching, he’s participating. He’s completed one 5k, six half-marathons and the full Little Rock Marathon in March 2012. He trains locally with the Little Rock Marathon training group, which includes up to four runs a week. He also mixes in strength training about three times a week.
But even with plenty of exercise, he sometimes needs additional motivation and discipline required to stay on track.
“That’s what is great about the program,” Brown said. “I know myself, and I know I need to stay involved. The people at UAMS have been great, and they’re always there for advice and positive reinforcement to keep me on track.”
Brown keeps his weight around 180 pounds and stops by UAMS to weigh in almost weekly. Now that he’s training for another marathon, it requires eating more calories to keep his energy level where it needs to be. The staff at UAMS helps him regulate his eating habits and keep him sufficiently fueled for his runs.
“I’m going to be around to enjoy my family much longer now,” Brown said. “I’m a changed man and I would encourage anyone thinking about doing this to do it for themselves. You only live once so you have to make it count.”
Fit for the Future
At 448 pounds, Daniel Moix, 32, knew he needed “a multifaceted approach to weight loss.” And like Brown, he found it last year at the UAMS Weight Loss and Metabolic Control Program.
“I’d had many wake-up calls in the past, but I kept hitting snooze,” Moix said.
The UAMS plan consists of Health One Meal Replacements, weekly classes in nutrition and behavior modification taught by registered dietitians and nutritionists, and regular visits with a board-certified endocrinologist.
The UAMS Weight Loss and Metabolic Control Program helps patients:
- Lose weight
- Improve their health
- Maintain their weight loss
- Enhance their chances for longevity
Moix is one of about 250 active patients in the program that’s been a fixture at UAMS for nearly 20 years. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee may be the plan’s most high-profile success story, but there are many patient-champions eager to share their before-and-after photographs.
Elizabeth Vaughn-Neely, who has reached her goal and is on the maintenance plan, says learning how to keep track of what she eats has helped. She lost 132 pounds and eliminated blood pressure medication and having to prick her fingers because she is no longer diabetic.
“I feel it! My blood pressure is now 101/62!”
Betsy Day, the weight control clinic coordinator, said many patients sign up who don’t need to lose a dramatic amount of weight. “Cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension would all decrease tremendously by a 20-25 pound weight loss in some patients.”
What distinguishes the UAMS program is that a board-certified endocrinologist consults with patients throughout the process. Stavros C. Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., an endocrinologist who directs the program, says patients are assigned a track.
“Red patients see the doctor once every two weeks,” said Manolagas. “Orange patients see the doctor every month. Yellow patients see the doctor once every 2-3 months. Green patients no longer have to see the doctor.”
Moix said he is glad a doctor is with him every step of the way. He started the program as a red, transitioned to orange and calls himself “a yellow fellow” now.
Besides the formal education classes, patients take field trips to grocery stores and restaurants to test their new skills. They learn practical guides, such as a 3-ounce serving of meat is the same size as a deck of playing cards, not the oversized portion served in restaurants.
Patients also look to each other for inspiration, support and understanding when they may encounter what Moix calls “lapses, relapses and collapses.” As a self-proclaimed data nerd, Moix manipulates his weight statistics in a spreadsheet and has shared his ups and downs on an informative and entertaining blog. As a sedentary child of an obese parent, the native Arkansan weighed 165 pounds in the third grade. By high school, he could no longer find a scale to accommodate his size.
He’s lost 173 pounds so far, but measures his progress in real “a-ha” moments.
“I simply didn’t fit through the vessel’s water-tight doors,” Moix says about the USS Razorback, a World War II-era submarine at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.
A recent photograph captures a beaming Moix fitting through the door. “Serving as a motivator to my peers both in-person and through my blog is rewarding,” said Moix. “Finally, being able to do the things that I want to do makes it all worth it.