Lifestyle change key to keeping off pounds

Pharmasave Parksville aids UBC clinical study helping sufferers of Type 2 diabetes

This is the second part in a January series on weight loss and related health issues. The first instalment, on the brain’s role in weight loss and retention, appeared in the Jan. 11 issue of The NEWS. Part three will appear in next Thursday’s Spotlight.

Barry Tuck travels to a funeral every day as owner of Yates Memorial Services in Parksville and Port Alberni. But last year, as he approached his late-50s while also climbing toward 230 pounds on his 5-foot-7 frame, he decided he might be putting himself at risk of making the trip as a customer.

“I’m not uneducated about weight loss,” said Tuck, 55. “I’ve done it three or four times, where I’d lose 25 or 30 pounds, and then a few months or a year later it would be back.

“I looked at my dad, who died last March, and saw he did that, the yo-yo weight loss and gain. And his health issues were heart-related.”

Tuck, who had been a fit athlete in his youth, remembered how that felt. But now his cholesterol was high and he was taking medication for high blood pressure.

He finally made an appointment late last summer to speak with Kirstin McKinnon of McKinnon Health Solutions in Qualicum Beach, and embarked on a lifestyle change that encompassed not only a diet and exercise, but a medical workup to determine his risks.

He has dropped back down to 185 pounds, nearly to his ideal of 180, and best of all, his blood pressure has returned to normal.

“You’re better off, if you have high blood pressure, to have medication,” Tuck said. “But if you can be off the medication altogether, that’s even better.”

Tammie Toriglia can relate.

Toriglia is co-owner of Parksville’s Pharmasave drug store branch, which runs its own weight-loss clinic through its healthy lifestyle program. She said successes in reducing or eliminating medications for Type 2 diabetes sufferers through monitored weight loss led to Pharmasave’s program being used in a clinical study by the University of British Columbia.

“We know if we can change the eating behaviours of people with Type 2 diabetes, we can have a huge effect on their blood sugars, their blood pressure, cholesterol, all those things that fall under the catch-all of metabolic syndrome,” said Toriglia.

“With the program we have, which is a fairly low-carbohydrate program, we see some really good improvements in some people’s diabetes. Some people can come off their medication.”

Many of the clients who come to the Pharmasave weight-loss clinic, Toriglia said, are referred by their physicians. While the clinic will accept walk-in clients who are not on medications and who simply want to be more fit, the number of medical conditions improved by losing excessive weight is nearly as lengthy as the list of medical conditions.

“What issues are impacted by being overweight? Oh my gosh, there are so many,” said Toriglia. “You could pretty much name any condition, and losing weight will improve it.”

She cited particular benefit from weight loss to those suffering from any inflammatory conditon, such as arthritis, and those dealing with mobility issues.

“We’ve seen patients who were scheduled for a knee replacement, and their surgeon said ‘We won’t do the surgery until you lose 50 pounds,’” Toriglia said. “Then they lose the weight and it takes the pressure off the joint, and some people have been able to avoid knee replacement, or at least postpone it for a number of years.

“Getting the weight off has made a huge difference in their quality of life, as far as mobility goes, and we’ve seen that with a lot of our patients.”

Tuck has found the same results working with McKinnon’s program.

Having previously been fit — he ran a marathon in 2011 after reaching his high of 232 pounds and then dropping the weight for the race — Tuck wanted to get back to that feeling of good health. And to stay there.

“I’m 55 now, and I’m not going to be 20 again,” he said. “But there’s a big difference between being unhealthy and sluggish, and being healthy and feeling you can move and breathe normally.”

Best of all, under both the McKinnon Health Solutions program and the Pharmasave program, clients don’t necessarily have to eliminate their favourite foods. But they do have to be a lot smarter around eating them.

“You’re not going to give up a potato, but when you introduce a potato, here’s how you’re going to do it,” said Toriglia. “It’s not going to mean eating french fries every day. You incorporate the foods that caused you to gain the weight in a way that helps you be successful in keeping it off.”

That is where the education part of both programs comes into play. At Pharmasave, weight-loss coaches Jennifer Spratt and Shelly Varnai monitor clients through weekly appointments, and those clients also journal their eating behaviours in between visits.

Toriglia said those clients rarely balk at what she describes as a “fairly strict” diet that reduces sugar, fat and carbohydrate intake.

“Most people, when they come here, they’re ready to lose the weight,” she said. “So they’re ready for the help, and they embrace the structure. Having that structure is easier than doing it on your own.”

Tuck agreed. Through McKinnon, he moderated his diet while learning the factors that motivated his eating choice and habits.

“That education taught me I don’t have to not have anything,” Tuck said. “Because I’m a big snacker after hours, I would have a big bag of chips open, and it’s gone. Well, I could do a small bag of chips, but that went away because my habits changed.

“I know I have to think about food every day for the rest of my life, not unlike an alcoholic has to be aware of drinking every day. But from the start of breakfast, now I know what I’m going to have for lunch, so I don’t have to worry.”