To celebrate his 10-year wedding anniversary, David Sears, a weekend radio host on Birmingham’s Jox 94.5 and assistant program director of Talk 99.5, planned a special vacation back to Disney World, where he and his wife had honeymooned. The trip started off well until Sears started noticing a rash on his leg. After a few days, the rash intensified and became so painful that he had to seek immediate medical attention.
Diagnosed as cellulitis, the rash was on track to becoming flesh-eating bacteria, a side effect caused by Sears’ obesity. Although aware that he was overweight, Sears was stunned that something preventable was causing such a burden.
“I felt angry that my own weight was not only impacting my health, but costing us an amazing experience. We had looked forward to this trip for months, but because I was so overweight and out of shape, it impacted our lives,” Sears said.
Upon their return home after their trip was cut short, Sears knew it was time to seek medical intervention to help change his lifestyle. He was led to University of Alabama at Birmingham Weight Loss Medicine, a clinic focused on providing patients the tools and resources needed to achieve short-term and long-term weight loss success.
“Our mission is to change the perception about obesity and stop putting the blame on the patients,” said Amy Warriner, M.D., director of the Weight Loss Medicine clinic and associate professor in UAB’s Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. “Obesity is a disease, and we treat it as such, providing not just medical evaluations but educational components to our patient treatment, which we have found helps foster accountability for the patient to reach their health goals.”
On day one of Sears’ participation at the Weight Loss Medicine clinic, he clocked in at 373 pounds and had blood pressure of 155/100, significantly higher than recommended healthy levels. While these numbers were overwhelming, they gave Sears the visual representations of where he was starting and where to set achievable goals.
In helping patients set and reach measurable goals designed for their individual needs, the Weight Loss Medicine clinic’s evidence-based program includes medical evaluations, ongoing nutrition classes, visits with eating behaviorists, nutrition education and counseling sessions with dietitians, access to psychological consultations, and more. The interdisciplinary team is composed of UAB health care providers with specialty training across many disciplines, ranging from endocrinology and internal medicine to psychology and nutrition, all of whom have a passion for helping people to change not only their bodies and their health, but their lifestyles as well.
Since obesity is classified as a disease, many insurance providers cover treatment at the Weight Loss Medicine clinic, an option that helps relieve patients who are seeking help. Additional interactions with dietitians and eating behaviorists (services that may or may not be covered by insurance) are frequently also recommended, and available at a discounted rate through the Weight Loss Management Clinic Membership.
“At the end of the day, we want to provide our patients the knowledge and tools needed to give our patients the highest chance of success,” Warriner said. “So many factors contribute to obesity, and we strive to identify those contributing components for each patient and help them meet their goals.”
Now, one year after his initial consultation, Sears is down 100 pounds, and his body fat percentage has dropped from 40 percent to 28 percent. He notes that his lifestyle changes have also helped him bond with his wife, as they prepare meals together and tackle weight loss as a team. Ultimately, his goal is to reach 235 pounds and 10 percent body fat; but Sears stresses that, to him, these numbers don’t reflect weight as much as health.
“I think it’s important that people who may seek medical help to lose weight understand this is a total lifestyle change, not a diet,” Sears said. “While it’s been great to shed pounds, I feel empowered knowing I’m altering the course of my health for the better and have learned how to be responsible and make smarter choices in regard to food consumption, exercise and lifestyle habits.”
Sears and his wife hope to return to Disney World in the coming year, a trip that will mark a full transformation of his life and health.