February 05, 2014

UAB launches Weight Loss Medicine to fight obesity

Written by
UAB Weight Loss Medicine, the only program in the Southeast to offer a multi-disciplinary, medical approach to weight management, has launched to address a consistent rise in the regional rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

before afterThe program is a collaborative effort of the UAB Health System, the UAB School of Medicine and the UAB School of Health Professions. The new program began serving patients in early January 2014. It is open to patients who are self-referred or physician referred and provides patients access to top experts and the newest technologies in nutrition with physicians from the departments of Medicine and Nutrition Sciences. It occupies the first and fifth floors of UAB Highlands, 1201 11th Ave. South in Birmingham.

“UAB Weight Loss Medicine serves as a comprehensive resource for those who want to lose weight, maintain weight loss, or prevent excessive weight gain during high-risk medical conditions such as post-injury rehabilitation and breast cancer treatment,” says Amy Warriner, M.D., co-director of the program and associate professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, in the School of Medicine.

“UAB Weight Loss Medicine has been built upon the long-standing successful EatRight program of the Department of Nutrition Sciences,” says Taraneh Soleymani, M.D., EatRight medical director, co-director of Weight Loss Medicine and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the School of Health Professions and the School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine.

“The program offers a team approach to weight management, in which the physician, dietitian, behaviorist and exercise trainer play critical roles in helping the patient achieve the goal weight,” says Soleymani. A variety of programs are available to the patients, including meal replacement.

Bruce Kilgore weighed 349 pounds in March 2013 when he became a patient in the EatRight program and will now be seen in the new Weight Loss Medicine program. So far, Kilgore has lost 142 pounds, just shy of his 149-pound goal. He tried other weight-loss programs, he says, but at UAB he found accountability, personal attention and a healthy, medical approach to weight loss.

“We focused on triggers of overeating,” Kilgore says. “We talked about healthy choices and understanding why” choices are made.

Lisa Toney has lost 79 pounds, “some days it’s 81 pounds,” she jokes. She, too, was an EatRight patient who will transition to the new Weight Loss Medicine program. “I knew there was no need for me to be 295” pounds, she says. Her mother told her she was too smart to be obese, and Toney says she wants to be healthy enough to participate in her young daughter’s life as she grows up. “It’s not easy. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It is very, very challenging. But now when people see me they say wow! Some people don’t recognize me.”

Weight Loss Medicine includes physician oversight, tailored diet plans, behavioral modification, weekly classes and exercise planning. The facility includes a newly outfitted gym with weight and aerobic machines. Patients who may benefit further from surgical weight loss are seen by the weight-loss surgeons in conjunction with the program.

UAB Weight Loss Medicine will include the renowned EatRight by UAB program. Created in 1975, EatRight is a lifestyle-oriented weight control program that provides patients with dietitians, exercise trainers, counselors and nutrition education. The program includes EatRight Lifestyle, which provides patients with skills and support to lose weight and keep it off; EatRight OPTIFAST, a meal replacement system; and EatRight Personal Fitness, which provides patients a certified personal trainer.

The program was created at UAB by a task force under the direction of Anupam Agarwal, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Nephrology, and Dr. W. Timothy Garvey, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences.

“Obesity and consequences from obesity have reached epidemic proportions. UAB has the expertise and the experience addressing obesity as a medical problem; we felt responsible to step up and provide this new program,” Agarwal says.

“The establishment of UAB Weight Loss Medicine will allow our physicians to apply effective treatments of obesity as a disease to treat the complications of obesity, such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension and other complications,” Garvey says. “The multi-disciplinary effort will also provide a venue for training health care providers and advancing the field of obesity medicine.”