Finding your Starting Point

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Obesity will soon pass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Serious health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and an increased risk of certain cancers are associated with obesity.

But according to Raina Childers, a dietitian at Southeast Missouri Hospital's HealthPoint Plaza, "it's never too late to improve your health."

In October 2004, HealthPoint began offering a medically supervised weight loss program called Starting Point. The program, which was developed by a company called Health and Nutrition Technology, provides rapid and safe weight loss.

About 300 people have gone through Starting Point at HealthPoint. The average weight loss during the first 20 weeks is about 30 to 50 pounds, but many have exceeded that number, Childers said.

"Other improvements we've seen is increased energy, reductions in blood pressure, improvements in blood glucose control for clients with diabetes and reduction in medications," she said.

Dennis Caldwell of Cairo, Ill., enrolled in Starting Point in March 2005 after his physician warned him that his weight was causing health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Jenn's Health Story Volunteer George Landre

Dr. Rod Crist is Caldwell's physician and the Starting Point medical director. He monitors each participant's health and progress during the first 20 weeks.

"He basically told me my weight problem would kill me," Caldwell said. "I could already feel my body shutting down, so I made up my mind that day to enroll in the program."

During the first 20 weeks of Starting Point, Caldwell lost about 90 pounds and lowered his cholesterol and blood pressure.

"In the first stage, the Foundation Session, we work for behavior modification through education and group support. The goal is to learn the process of developing specific strategies for lifelong change, such as accountability, meal planning, physical activity, impacting your environment, making conscious choices and understanding the consequences of these choices," she said.

The first phase of the program lasts 20 weeks, and participants are required to supplement grocery store foods with at least five low-calorie meal replacements a day. Five meal replacements provide 800 calories, 75 grams of protein and 125 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Jenn's Health Story Volunteer Diane Runnels.

Participants also gather for weekly meetings to learn how to manage their long-term weight and health realistically.

The second phase in the program, Ongoing Practice Sessions, reinforces new lifestyle changes. Participants who reach the third stage, the Advanced Education Session, focus on making permanent changes and fine-tuning new eating and exercise habits.

Saint Francis Medical Center does not offer a program like Starting Point. In fact, Starting Point is the only health and nutrition technology program in the state.

Starting Point is available to anyone who wants to improve their health and weight, Childers said.

335-6611, extension 246

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