Weighing In

By John Torsiello

Medically assisted weight loss programs offer a different approach

Losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is, of course, more difficult than it sounds. There are no magic potions, no switch we can flip inside our bodies to make it all happen overnight. Thus, many Americans struggle with being overweight and the resulting health issues.

We are bombarded by infomercials and countless magazine articles on how to lose weight fast “and keep it off.” The sad truth is that even if chic, fad diets and “meal plans” do help us lose weight initially, more than likely, those who partake of such fast fixes eventually fall off the weight-loss wagon.

The National Weight Control Registry reports that Americans try to lose weight at least four times a year, and at any given time, there are nearly 108 million people in the U.S. on weight-loss regimens. About 220,000 Americans suffer from severe obesity. Treatments like bariatric surgery, which is used to treat severe obesity, can cost anywhere between $11,500 and $26,000.

According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, by 2030, nearly 42 percent of American adults may be obese. Americans are collectively gaining weight at an alarming rate, with the average adult weighing about 15 pounds more than 20 years ago. Obesity is not a disease of willpower but a medical condition, and it is linked to severe chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer, causing about one in five deaths in the U.S. each year.

These are startling and troubling numbers, to be certain.

“If a person is able to lose weight, the tricky part, even with those who have had surgery to help them lose weight, is that they eventually put the weight back on,” says Carla Angevine, a registered dietician at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington and a community wellness coordinator. “Most people need a lifestyle modification to lose weight, something that will work for them forever. And it’s not just about how we look but also how we feel – emotionally, socially and even spiritually.”

Asking for help
Some individuals feel the need to turn to medically assisted weight loss programs for help in their battle against the bulge.

Programs offered by the Millennium Med Spa & Center for Medical Weight Loss in Rocky Hill are designed to help individuals with their specific weight loss goals, whether it’s to lose 100 pounds or those last “stubborn” five to 10 pounds, according to Dr. Maria O’Brien. It’s not surgery or diet pills. It is weight management based on medical, scientific evidence that targets the root causes of obesity and weight gain.

Dr. O’Brien says the Millennium Med process has been “especially beneficial” for those who have a body mass index of 30 or higher because it can reduce the risk of other serious medical conditions. Millennium Med patients meet weekly and directly with Dr. O’Brien.

“Millennium Med patients achieve a lifelong healthy weight because we help them engage in behaviors that promote weight loss and maintenance,” she says. With Dr. O’Brien’s expertise and counseling, patients have been able to lose significant weight and improve conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and coronary artery disease. She believes her “extensive medical knowledge and empathetic, friendly approach” is the key to her patients’ healthier, fitter and more spiritually happy life.

Each visit to Millennium Med involves a metabolic analysis, a special dietary component, a one-on-one counseling component, and an exercise component. Dr. O’Brien uses a person’s metabolism and body composition as “true indicators” of weight loss progress. Behavioral counseling helps clients engage in behaviors that promote weight loss and “lifelong healthy weight maintenance.”

No ”quick fix”
Pounds Transformation, with offices in West Hartford, Southington and Glastonbury, operates on a concept that focuses on education, understanding there is no one-size-fits-all or “quick fix,” and the addressing of issues like stress, sleep, medical conditions, medications, lifestyle limitations and more, explains Chief Medical Officer Charles Cavo, DO.

“We do not rely on patients purchasing our foods, products or supplements,” he says. “We focus on having patients rely on the education we provide when they go to the grocery store, visit a restaurant, navigate a party, etc.”

Dr. Cavo, who co-founded Pounds Transformation with his wife, CEO Michelle Cavo, PA-C, notes, “We are not a franchise.” The couple started Pounds Transformation in their West Hartford kitchen with “two patients and a concept. Fortunately, our patients were successful, and our practice grew.”

The Cavos opened a small office in West Hartford Center for managing abnormal weight gain. They quickly outgrew the space as they gained support from local clinicians who “appreciated the effects of nutritional medicine and how it translated to preventive medicine,” says Dr. Cavo. Their patients continued to have success in weight reduction, as well as resolving such chronic medical conditions as diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure.

“Our patients receive education and an understanding that there is so much more to weight loss than the conventional thinking: ‘exercise more and eat less.’ With the education and awareness, there is a higher likelihood of achieving sustainable weight loss.” The Cavos say they have helped patients come off medications such as insulin, blood pressure medications and cholesterol medications, which “may save households hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in medication bills.”

Dr. Cavo says they have helped patients who needed to lose weight before surgery, and those struggling to start families.

Pounds Transformation has a kitchen for cooking classes and demonstrations. There’s a professional chef available and a culinary education program for clients to take advantage of. Says Dr. Cavo, “All of the providers and dietitians have specialized in obesity medicine and have other areas of interest, which improves our quality of care.”

Dr. Cavo is a diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and is boarded in OB/Gyn, which has “allowed for better management of women’s nutritional needs,” while dealing with medical conditions such as infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, perimenopause, and other issues – all conditions that increase the risk for abnormal weight gain. “Our registered dietitians are also specialists, not only in obesity medicine, but in fitness, diabetes, management of post-bariatric surgery and more. Our youngest patient was two years old and our oldest was 96.”

A weight loss map
The owners of Compass Physician-Supervised Fat Loss Centers in Glastonbury believe the key to weight loss success is to first diagnose the causes of weight gain. With the help of specialized health coaches, the center’s clinicians work with clients to identify all factors in weight gain. The next step is to review the results with the client in person. Lastly, the center creates an individualized plan – a weight loss map, as it were – that makes sense for each individual and is easy to follow.

Dr. Eric Kusher, founder and CEO of Compass Fat Loss, says developing an individualized weight loss program and close monitoring of the client’s progress are keys to a successful outcome. He explains that some 65 percent of the center’s clients are women, with the age range “all over the spectrum. It really is an epidemic in our country,” he says of weight gain and obesity. “The sad part of it is that with weight gain comes all the health risks. We want to get people back to a healthy lifestyle, get them in the right place, and weight loss will follow. We want to get people off medication.”

One of the core strengths at Compass Fat Loss is close monitoring of the patient and the encouragement of accountability in each client. “We follow patients every day through our technology, so we don’t rely on having them come back to us in a month to check their progress. A lot can happen in a month.” Conversations can be conducted “virtually” through video conferencing if the patient so desires. Compass Weight Loss has one other physician in addition to Dr. Kusher and a full staff of health coaches to make it all come together for the client.

A DNA analysis is also conducted to allow Compass Fat Loss clinicians to “fine-tune” a client’s overall plan for weight loss and maintenance, and to build a custom plan for each individual.

A medical weight loss plan from Compass Fat Loss will likely include regular exercise; an effective diet to help regulate carbohydrates, calories, and sugars, and get more protein, fiber, whole foods, probiotics, fruits, vegetables, and water into a diet; regular blood glucose tests to monitor blood sugar levels and weight-loss progress; calorie counting; intermittent fasting (this requires professional supervision); continual monitoring of a client’s health and weight-loss progress; and other aspects.

Personal successes
Patti Roca of Tolland tried “everything” in an attempt to lose weight. Even if she did drop pounds, the weight came back on, and more. “I had reached a point where nothing worked,” she says. So, she made an appointment at Pounds Transformation, and she is in a much better place. “I was able to lose the weight and keep it off. My knees and ankles don’t hurt anymore, I have more stamina, and by getting rid of all the sugar I was consuming, I’m thinking clearer.”

Lisa Muller of Coventry had battled weight loss since she was eight years old. She was very overweight and dealing with several troubling health issues when she also decided to also visit Pounds Transformation. “I was at my wits’ end. I was 278 pounds, I could hardly walk, and I was in and out of the hospital. I was desperate, and my physician gave me a Pounds Transformation business card and said to make the call. I knew where I wanted to go but didn’t know how to get there.” After treatment, Muller has lost considerable weight and her health has improved.

Dr. Cavo is happy when his patients succeed in their goals, and he and his staff are personally invested in outcomes and the journey.

“When the weather is nice, we have walks with the patients, registered dieticians and providers, and they target goals, such as 5-kilometer races that they run together. We have taken great pride and enjoyment in creating a supportive community that is looking at obesity through a different lens,” he says.

He says those struggling with weight and the medical and psychological conditions that go along with abnormal weight gain should not be blamed for their condition, which has been the case for so long. “It goes without saying that when we see our patients appreciate their successes, we feel satisfied that our job was well done.”

Dr. Kusher couldn’t agree more. “It’s why I do what I do,” he says of seeing a patient find success in their weight loss effort and personal happiness in their lives. “That is the joy in doing what we do.”

Angevine advises people considering medically assisted weight loss programs to “do their homework,” and adds, “Talk to someone who went to the facility you are considering. Work up a pros and cons list and make sure the center you are considering will hear your needs as a person and that it isn’t a one-way street treatment. There has to be give and take.” And, she says, “have realistic goals – and they should be not just about weight loss but also health goals. Determine what you want out of life and then how best to get there.”


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