Jeff Wiehe | The Journal Gazette
Stewart weighed about 300 pounds before he began the Optifast program.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
For nearly his entire life, David Stewart had a relationship with food he never even thought about, much less understood.
So when he looks back, it’s not surprising that there were no moments of clarity that pushed him to change his life. Instead, it was a culmination of things that mounted over time.
There were the expanding waistlines on his pants, which went from 40 inches to 42 inches to 44 inches.
There were the old pictures he’d look at, the ones that made him reminisce about the trimmer man he used to be.
And then there was being diagnosed with hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
By then, he knew he needed to lose weight.
For Stewart, though, a gym wasn’t the answer. Through friends, he heard about a program at Lutheran Health Network’s Weight Management Center, and soon enough, the now-50-year-old was on the phone, asking how to enroll.
When he entered the program in November 2010, he weighed 303 pounds. Within a year, he’d lost more than a third of his body weight.
And what the program addressed most, what helped him the most, was something he never expected: the psychology behind his eating habits.
Lifestyle changesLutheran Health Network’s Bariatric Center and Weight Management Center offers the Optifast program, something Lutheran has offered for 15 years.
“We don’t like to use the word ‘diet,’ ” Wheatcraft, the office coordinator, said of the program. “They are ‘lifestyle changes.’ That’s what we prefer.”
The program is geared toward people who have a body mass index greater than 27 or who need medical supervision while losing weight.
People who enroll typically are between the ages of 30 and 60 – though some are younger or older – who are looking to lose more than 50 pounds or more without surgery
Many who call have tried diets to lose weight, according to Wheatcraft, and have some knowledge about the food they should be eating.
People in the program are overseen and counseled by health care professionals, starting with a visit to the doctor.
Eating while boredWhat drew Stewart to the program was the seeming simplicity of it.
He knew what he’d have to do and when to do it.
Those going into the program spend the first three months drinking nothing but five shakes a day and one protein bar. ... nothing more.
After those three months, real food is reintroduced.
The program also makes those who go through it face some of their psychological issues when it comes to food.
Stewart knew going in that group sessions would be a part of the program ...
During that meeting, a behavior specialist went around the small group and zeroed in on what food meant to each person there.
“That’s the linchpin to the whole thing,” Stewart said. “That whole environment, figuring out in your brain why you’re eating the way you do.”
For Stewart, he was eating while bored.
“One thing people misunderstand is that there’s a huge psychological component to this,” Stewart said.
Success storyStewart knows the importance of exercise when it comes to losing weight. He bikes and runs regularly – though he hates running – and loves to play basketball.
As he went through the Optifast program – and the weight began to melt off – he found all of these things much easier to do. He was especially more adept at getting up and down the basketball court.
By October 2011, less than a year into the program, he had dropped to 199 pounds.
“It’s amazing how the knees could work without those 100 pounds,” he said.