Obesity is becoming epidemic, with 21 percent of America's population already considered obese and 3 to 5 percent morbidly or excessively obese.
Methodist Hospitals' ReStart Center at the Southlake Campus provides hope for area residents who face this chronic, life-threatening disease through its weight loss, wellness and surgery solutions. The Healthy 4 Life program at the ReStart Center helps patients make lifestyle changes rather than "diet," says Omar Shamsi, M.D., board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Dieting has a negative connotation associated with deprivation. Instead, the Healthy 4 Life program emphasizes "how can I make changes and enjoy life," Dr. Shamsi says. Some of these lifestyle changes provide the primary solution to weight loss. Others prepare the client for bariatric surgery, then help with nutritional challenges following weight loss surgery, he says. An initial medical assessment and private conference helps the client establish healthy goals for his or her weight loss, Dr. Shamsi says. "We find that people have tried many diets and if they've lost weight, they've gained it back," he says.
Obesity leads to many other health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, infertility, arthritis and some cancers, the physician says. Getting and keeping the weight off is key to better health, he says.
The first lifestyle change Dr. Shamsi suggests is to start a food log and immediately write down everything eaten. "People forget what they ate five minutes ago. The log helps them see exactly what they are eating throughout the day. It keeps them in check," the physician says. Dr. Shamsi says many of us snack on sweet or salty things. Substituting four to five fruits and vegetables a day for chips, cookies and candy will provide good calories.
Americans are used to counting calories, but for some clients counting carbohydrates works better, although counting carbs is "harder than counting calories," Dr. Shamsi says. Carbohydrates are the body's main energy source and come from plant-based foods. Sugars, starches and fiber are the three types of carbohydrates. All carbohydrates are broken down in digestion into glucose. The glucose is either used immediately for energy, stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, or if there is more energy available than the body can use, the glucose is converted and stored as fat. Among the healthy sources of carbohydrates are whole gains, fruits and vegetables. Counting carbs is especially important for those with diabetes because glucose storage is triggered by insulin. Those people who don't produce enough insulin need to regulate their blood sugar with medications, insulin injections or dietary changes.
Drinking 64 ounces of water daily is another vital part of weight loss, Dr. Shamsi says. "This keeps you hydrated. When you feel hungry, you may actually be dehydrated," he says. "Whatever you drink, it should have less than five calories in it, so low-calorie sodas can be part of your intake."
Exercising will help take the weight off and help keep it off, he says, because it improves the body's metabolism. When people begin losing weight, the first to be shed is water weight. Later the fat behind the muscles begins to be used for energy when the person stays active, he adds. Exercise also helps tone the muscles and helps to keep the skin elastic, Dr. Shamsi says. This is important, too, if the patient has elected to have bariatric surgery as a permanent weight-loss solution.
Start with just 10 minutes of walking, Dr. Shamsi advises. "The hardest part is that first step," he says. Obesity puts great strain on the hip and leg joints, so starting out easy won't put added stress on those joints that may be arthritic. "Even stretching can help those muscles."
Methodist Hospitals ReStart Center is the only center of its kind in Northwest Indiana that blends nutrition, wellness and surgery to help patients lose and keep off weight, Dr. Shamsi says. It has also been designated a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. "I work side-by-side with the staff at the Methodist Hospitals ReStart Center. It's one of the main reasons I came to Merrillville," he says. "The staff really cares about the patients."
For more information about the ReStart Center, call (219) 738-5617.