Healthcheck Special: Medical weight loss
July 19, 2012 (WPVI) -- A new weight loss program is getting a lot of attention lately for helping people shed pounds. What makes this different is that it's medically-based.
The program was started about six years ago, but it is now growing as the push to curb obesity grows.
And it is not just about getting into your skinny jeans, it's about lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol and improving your overall health.
50-year-old Tracey DiCrescenzo of Westmont, N.J. says she feels healthier now than she has in years.
Almost two years ago she was at her heaviest, 250 pounds. She says it hit her at her son's graduation how unhealthy she was.
"Because after he graduated you had to walk up the hill to meet your children," she said, "and I remember struggling to walk up that hill.
That's what brought her to Dr. Matthew Pinto of Marlton, N.J., a family practice doctor who runs one of the Centers for Medical Weight Loss. It's a national program that helps people lose weight with the help of a doctor.
"We essentially monitor them on a weekly basis," said Dr. Pinto, "checking their blood pressure, doing lab work, making sure they are healthy while they are on this."
The standard program starts people off by cutting calories using meal replacements, shakes and bars.
Some critics say this isn't the best way to change behaviors and teach healthy eating. But Dr. Pinto says it is temporary and helps people addicted to food, break that cycle.
"So it allows them to still get nutrition, still get food," he said. "But it is not in their mind, the way they look at food."
Some clients are also given vitamin injections. But Dr. Pinto says they are not miracle shots. People still have to put in the work.
Once Tracey started losing weight, she weaned off the replacement meals. She's now down 77 pounds. She does one shake in the morning and then eats normal, healthy food the rest of the day.
"I usually try to have a salad at lunch, throw in a piece of chicken," she said. "Every night I have been grilling eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions."
Tracey told me she has totally changed the way she eats, and she likes it.
She also no longer needs blood pressure or cholesterol medication. And her family couldn't be more proud.
"I am just glad she is healthy and is able to be a little more active," said Tracey's son Brett.
"I feel great, I feel healthy, I feel fit," said Tracey. "I have the confidence now in myself that I can do this."
And Tracey is now planning on running a 5K next month.
The program also helped Tony Luke Jr. lose more than 100 pounds. And he has kept the weight off.
A study done by the company shows most people do lose weight and keep it off. But there is a small drop-out rate.
Other studies show the weight loss plan is safe. Dr. Pinto says because patients are closely monitored on the program, people with other medical conditions such as diabetes are candidates.
The cost of the program varies. It ranges from as low as $100/month to as high as $250/ week.
There are many centers in our area. Some accept some insurance, others work off of claims. Dr. Pinto's practice does not accept insurance.
For more information on the program, visit: www.centerformedicalweightloss.com
For more information on Dr. Pinto's practice, visit: www.vivecenter.com
healthcheck, ali gorman, r.n.
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