ELIZABETHTOWN - A new program offered through Elizabethtown Community Hospital is showing plenty of potential to help patients improve their health by losing weight.
The Medical Weight Loss program has been in place at ECH since April, and is reporting very positive results.
"Obesity has become a major issue throughout United States," said Dr. Rob DeMuro, a physician at ECH who employs the program, "and we've certainly seen it here."
DeMuro noted how obesity increases the risk of both heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death among adults in the U.S., and said the cost of medical care for the complications of obesity alone can be astronomical.
"We deal with obesity daily and found that, from a medical standpoint, we had very few options," DeMuro said. "Medications are limited, so we looked for a program that was safe and comprehensive."
The program, licensed by a franchise called the Center for Medical Weight Loss, tailors a program specifically to patients based on how much weight they need to lose. Weekly or bi-weekly visits are scheduled with the physician to monitor progress.
"We were skeptical at first whether this would work, but have been very pleased with the responses so far," said DeMuro.
Patients are measured for body composition - their percentages of fat, muscle and water, and their metabolic rate - to determine the best course of treatment.
Most often, patients are placed on a low-calorie diet that utilizes supplemental shakes and nutrition bars, which are provided through the program, in combination with regular exercise. Additional treatments, such as appetite suppressants or even bariatric surgery, can be employed if needed.
"There is a modified option with more calories were people can eat regular food if need be," DeMuro said.
Elizabethtown resident Jim Ratliff was among the first patients to utilize the Medical Weight Loss program at ECH. Reaching a weight of more than 310 pounds in March, an illness caused him to be bedridden for three straight days. The experience prompted him to seek a weight loss solution.
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"Now I don't live to eat; I eat to live," Ratliff said, noting how he spreads out the four shakes of his 960-calorie daily diet to minimize hunger.
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Since starting the program April 10, Ratliff is down to 242 pounds; averaging about a pound of weight loss each day for a total of more than 65 pounds lost.
"I'm floored with the results; it's way beyond what I thought I would get with all this," Ratliff said, adding that he hopes to continue losing weight. "I thank God every day, and I thank Dr. DeMuro for offering this program."
Ratliff said he would recommend the program to anybody, noting how the shakes and bars work well for his always-on-the-go lifestyle, but adds that it does take commitment.
"How successful our patients are depends on various factors," said DeMuro. "The individual's that are losing eight to 10 pounds a week are all exercising daily. We have some individuals who do not exercise and lose one or two pounds a week. That may not seem like much but if you add it up for a number of months it becomes significant weight loss."
There are some times he's tempted to eat some of the foods he used to eat, Ratliff said, "but then I remember what I felt like when I was in bed, and I don't want to feel that way again."
"This program is about losing weight, but also helping to educate people during office visits every one to two weeks about the changes they need to make long-term to either continue with weight loss or maintaining their current body weight," DeMuro added. "We cannot stress enough to individuals that exercise is crucial to keep weight off once you achieve your goal."
To that end, the hospital is developing a program in their physical therapy department to allow Medical Weight Loss patients use of exercise equipment there year-round.
"It's important to offer our community access to a variety of specialized services such as this," said ECH director of community relations Jane Hooper. "The hospital works to ensure that the entire community stays healthy, and this Medical Weight Loss program contributes to that goal."
Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the Medical Weight Loss program depending on what type of treatment is needed. For more information about the Medical Weight Loss program at ECH, contact the hospital at 873-6377.
Photos: Jimmy before.jpg
(Right) Elizabethtown resident Jim Ratliff weighed 307 pounds when he started the Medical Weight Loss program at Elizabethtown Community Hospital in April. (Left) As of June 14, Ratliff has trimmed down to 242 pounds with help from the program.