Non-Surgical Weight Loss Programs: Making People Healthier, Happier


Behavior change key to successful weight loss and eventual weight management

With Arkansas having the third highest adult obesity rate in the nation with about one in three residents obese, there is a compelling reason for healthcare providers to do more to help people lose weight. There are non-surgical weight loss programs available that can help people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

"We focus on individual behavior change emphasizing what the individual needs to have successful weight loss and eventually weight management," said Natalie Williamson, MS, CPT, who is program team leader for the Weight Loss Program-HMC at Baptist Health in Little Rock. "We meet with each participant weekly to monitor their progress and to make any necessary adjustments."

Williamson said their program covers a lot of territory including nutrition, exercise, stress, shopping, planning, cooking, eating out, hydration and balance.

"It is a lifestyle that we teach with the goal of having weight loss turn into weight management," Williamson said. "If you don't make it a lifestyle, then you will continue to yo-yo up and down with your weight."

Candidates for the weight loss program include anyone looking to lose 20 or more pounds who is interested in sustainable weight loss and management. Williamson said their program focuses on portion control, nutrition and metabolism.

Natalie Williamson

The "secret" to success is being consistent and ready. Williamson said there are five stages to change and it is important to prepare.

"Just because you want to manage your weight does not mean you are ready to do so," Williamson said. "It does not happen overnight. It is a series of ups and downs."

She recommends exercise because that helps speed up the metabolism to burn more calories.

"Metabolism is the pacer for caloric intake," Williamson said. "The more healthy muscle we have, the more energy our body needs to run it. The type of exercise a person needs is individualized, just like a person's diet. Each individual has different needs, likes and dislikes."

The program can be done in conjunction with bariatric surgery for weight loss. Williamson said the surgery itself does not fix what someone eats or wants to eat.

"The lifestyle changes have to come regardless for the surgery to be effective long term," she said. "If you don't change the lifestyle, the weight will only come back."

Williamson said some people really like electronic devices such as the BodyGem that measure your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

"This is how many calories you burn at rest," Williamson said. "This will also tell you if you are suffering from a low metabolism or a high metabolism. When you eat either too much or too little for what you need, it causes you to gain weight or not be able to lose weight. Many factors affect metabolism but only 2 factors increase metabolism: exercise and eating habits. The more you move, the more you burn, but too much of a deficit has the opposite effect. Lack of calories will cause your body to resort to other sources of fuel - muscle. Losing muscle lowers metabolism, causing your RMR to decrease and directly lowers the amount of calories you can eat without gaining weight. Eating only one big meal a day will slow your metabolism down or put it in starvation mode."
Williamson said the bottom line, diet and exercise are individualized. Age, activity, medications, chronic medical conditions and activity need to be factored in. There is no one size fits all diet program or exercise program - but there are programs out there that can be tailored for you."

Nancy Owens

Nancy Owens, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor who is director of a program called Best Life at St. Bernards Health & Wellness in Jonesboro, relates well to people in the program.

"In my own personal journey, I was not really a fitness person for many years," Owens said. "I saw working out and dieting as torturous. I would go on a diet and work out for a while, get decent results, and then sink back to old behaviors. I was on a see saw. I came to realize wellness was more than a diet and more than working out. It was balancing your own life. As I began to do this for myself, people would ask me how I was doing it."

The Best Life program is designed to teach people how to incorporate movement and sensible ways of eating that aren't about deprivation and aren't about extremes. It is about making small changes.

"To be a healthy person, you can have some of the things you love to eat in balance," Owens said. "Instead of doing some extreme plan, I always ask participants to begin with being aware of how much you are eating so you have a real idea of your calorie intake. There are a lot of apps now on phones where you can track what you are eating."

Owens said success is based on making sensible choices. For example, calories from sodas or sweet drinks can add up very quickly.

"Even with diet sodas, you are taking in artificial chemicals and that is really no better," Owens said. "In many cases, diet sodas cause the same kind of rise in insulin in the body."

Keeping a food diary is a good idea. Owens is sometimes shocked when looking at someone's food diary that they have so few vegetables or fruit in their diet.

"For many of us, it is so much easier to grab something that is processed," Owens said. "The closer to nature it is, the more likely it is going to have more nutrition. How much of your food looks like food? How closely does it resemble nature?"

Healthy eating has gotten a bad rap, she believes. She tries to dispel the idea that you can't enjoy food and still be a desirable weight.

"I throw spinach into my smoothies all the time," she said. "There are a lot of healthy foods that are really delicious. I always do one food demo with my programs to show how easy it is to prepare healthy food and how good it tastes. Healthy is not boring. Healthy is delicious if you just do a little bit of research."

Starting to work out after not being active can be daunting. Owens likes to start people out slow with basic workout movements. It is rewarding to see how fast people can improve.

"People who were not very strong and had little endurance really start showing improvement within four to six weeks," she said. "They are starting to feel energetic. That momentum gets them excited and then they can increase the exercise intensity."

While she works with people in individual training and group classes, she also talks to participants about the benefits of incorporating movement into their day.

"If you sit at a desk all day and get up, get up and walk for ten minutes when you have a break," Owens said. "It gets all your major muscles moving, it lifts your mood, and it gets your heart beating stronger. If you are looking for heart health, you are going to have to tax your heart a bit. Create a plan, know your goals--whether they are better heart health or weight loss - and know all the steps to get there."

For more visit:

St. Bernards Health & Wellness

Baptist Health offering new weight loss device


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Baptist, Becky Gillette, Best Life, cardiovascular health, exercise, fitness, food diary, health, healthy foods, heart health, Nancy Owens, Natalie Williamson, St. Bernards Health & Wellness in Jonesboro, weight loss, Weight Loss Program-HMC
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