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Shared Medical Appointments Help Woman Lose Weight, Gain Health

Brenda Donohue has been on an extended shopping spree since giving all of her old clothes to charity. Since September 2017, the Westlake resident has lost more than 40 pounds and is down three clothing sizes as a patient in Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Weight Management Program. And she isn’t stopping.

“All of my life I’ve had weight issues, compounded by depression and stress eating,” says Brenda. “I would gain and lose weight, maybe fluctuating 20 pounds over 20 years. But during one bout of depression, I gained 133 pounds.”

Her primary care physician, James Gutierrez, MD, formerly of Cleveland Clinic Richard E. Jacobs Health Center in Avon and now of Cleveland Clinic London, referred Brenda to the Medical Weight Management Program. There she met Elena Borukh, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, who taught her that losing weight is about more than dieting.

“I went to my first visit with Dr. Borukh at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, and I was very prepared, very eager to make a change,” says Brenda. “After a few months of seeing her individually, I started attending group sessions.”

Groups of eight to 10 patients in the Medical Weight Management Program share medical appointments once a month at either main campus or Cleveland Clinic Lyndhurst Campus. A physician and a dietitian co-lead the 75-minute appointments, during which patients have one-on-one physician visits as well as participate in group sessions on healthy eating, exercise, stress management, and good sleep habits.

“My energy level is up. This program has made such a difference for me. I will probably stick with it forever — to maintain my health even after I meet my goal weight.”

An exercise physiology team personalizes exercise programs for each patient. A psychology team helps patients manage stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Sleep specialists step in to help patients struggling with sleep disorders, which can hinder weight loss. Some patients also are counseled on appetite control through the use of FDA-approved anti-obesity medications.

“We draw on our research, knowledge, and compassion to create a customized medical weight-loss plan for each person,” says Bartolome Burguera, MD, PhD, Medical Director of the program. “But just as valuable is the support patients receive from others in the program. As they meet together and discuss their common medical issues, they share challenges and successes with each other.”

When Brenda goes to her shared medical appointments on the first Friday of each month, she sees many of the same people.

“We always have a presentation about a health topic; we each get weighed in and get our blood pressure checked; then the doctor goes around the room, discussing each person’s individual progress and answering questions,” says Brenda. “Everyone is just so positive. I always leave feeling energized and encouraged.”

Each month, there’s a different focus, such as relieving stress and reading nutrition labels.

“One month, they wouldn’t let us see the number when we stepped on the scale,” says Brenda. “Instead, they encouraged us and affirmed our progress. At that session, we learned to focus on how we feel, not on the number of pounds we weigh.”

Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your weight (10 to 20 pounds for a 200-pound person) can increase your energy, reduce your cardiovascular risk, boost your self-esteem and decrease your stress, among other health improvements, says Dr. Burguera.

Brenda attributes her weight-loss success to the program — as well as to support from her husband and coworkers. Friends at the school where Brenda teaches second grade opted to stop their weekly potluck lunches when Brenda told them she couldn’t participate anymore because of her lifestyle changes.

“I’m working out again, with a trainer,” she says. “My energy level is up. This program has made such a difference for me. I will probably stick with it forever — to maintain my health even after I meet my goal weight.”

Related Institutes: Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute
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