Hospital Weight Loss Group Drops Over 500 Pounds

January 14, 2011

Arkansas City - When officials at South Central Kansas Medical Center teamed up with Pat Simmons and the FitZone last summer to form "The Use It to Lose It Freedom Plan" the goal was to help people lose weight and live longer, healthier lives. To date the team has assisted 23 program participants in losing over 500 pounds combined.

"It's a wonderful program. It is a life changer for me," said one program participant who has lost 43 pounds since she began the program in July.

The Freedom Plan is described as a "comprehensive lifestyle management bariatric program emphasizing weight control and healthy habits". The program is the first of this kind in the area, and combines medical supervision, nutritional education, psychological intervention, fitness training, and support groups.

For about half of the group the Freedom Plan is also a path towards surgical intervention by receiving a Lap-Band surgery. A Lap-Band is a device implanted around the upper part of the stomach. The device is designed to reduce the stomach's capacity, restricting the amount of food one is able to eat while creating the "full" feeling, so the patient eats less.

Seven members have received the surgery at the medical center and five others are planning to do so. However, they are quick to point out that the surgery is not a "quick-fix" but only one of the tools available through the Freedom Plan.

"People are going to say, 'well she had a Lap-Band of course she is going to lose weight.', but it's not that easy. You can cheat the Lap-Band. I don't think without the exercise program I could have lost the weight I've lost so far, and the support group gives you the extra intervention from people going through what you are going through," said a group member.

The support group meets each week to weigh-in, listen to motivational speakers and healthcare professionals, and participate in fun activities such as healthy cook-outs or a grocery store derby.

One of the members of the health team assisting Freedom Plan members is SCKMC Registered Dietitian Dianne Ray. Ray's focus is one-on-one nutritional counseling. She uses each participant's unique background and health history to develop individual weight loss tools, including specialized diet planning for those receiving a surgical intervention.

"I think (the group) is doing excellent. They all continue to lose weight. They have been exercising beyond what they thought they could. They are always involved, upbeat, very committed, and supportive," Ray said.

Dr. Tyson Blatchford oversees the program as medical coordinator, and the surgeon who performs the Lap-Band procedure. He warns that almost anyone can be a candidate for the Freedom Plan, however participants should not be looking for a quick fix.

"This program is for those who want to change their lives. It requires behavior changes for the rest of your life," Dr. Blatchford said.

For those interested in finding out more information on The Use It to Lose It Freedom Plan, the medical center health team will be presenting a free health education seminar to be held at the medical center's cafeteria at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 17th. For additional information contact SCKRMC at 442-2500.

(Photo): Dr. Tyson Blatchford congratulates one of the SCKMC Freedom Plan participants as Bariatric Coordinator, Kathy Avery tracks his weight loss.