The weight-loss industry becomes Fat City
Bariatric Associates' Robert and Loretta Tafuri: 'Preventative medical nutritional and weight management falls squarely and exclusively on a medical doctor.'
The concept of losing weight is easy: Burn more calories than you consume. Conceptually speaking, it’s a piece of cake. ItÂ’s the execution that leaves almost 70 percent of Americans overweight or even obese. If it were that easy, weÂ’d all be smokinÂ’ hot in our bikinis. Hell, weÂ’d be walking around naked all year long.
We know being overweight is unhealthy. It is also unappealing. We also know that there are so many choices out there when the motivation kicks in and we want to lose weight. Go carb-free and youÂ’re guaranteed to lose weight. Have Jenny Craig or NutriSystem deliver the food right to your door and youÂ’ll lose weight. Blah, blah, blah. ItÂ’s a matter of finding the right diet for you and sticking to it.
Berta Prevosti, a weight loss counselor from Stratford, had an issue with weight while growing up. After she had children Â— three boys Â— she finally lost weight, simply because she started eating three meals a day. She believes there is a strong emotional tie to overeating and once that tie is broken, weight comes off easier.
Â“There are a thousand diets and anyone can lose weight on each of them, but itÂ’s amazing to me that in the year 2010, people still donÂ’t understand the very basic facts about losing weight,Â” she says.
Prevosti owns a holistic center and if she looks familiar, she was one of NHMÂ’s Coolest Singles of 2010. SheÂ’s a Reiki master and is certified in yoga and yoga therapy. After she helped a friend lose 100 pounds, she became more interested in helping others lose weight. So earlier this year, she launched a new business called Just Lose It With Berta that has online and in-person components. She writes an e-zine and a weekly blog and is working on a new Web site that will offer interactive forums and advice.
The first time she meets with a new client in person, she talks about the pragmatic way of losing weight.
Â“People can come up with a thousand different ways that chemistry works, all those combinations are a bunch of nonsense. ThereÂ’s only one way to lose weight,Â” she says.
ThereÂ’s that whole Â“burn more than you consumeÂ” thing again.
Â“Go to bed feeling a little hungry and never eat to fullness for three or four days in a row and you will lose weight. ItÂ’s impossible not click here Prevosti says. Once the cravings for unhealthy food are gone, she deals with the emotional reasons for a clientÂ’s click here.
During weekly meetings, Prevosti and her client will chart the food course for the week, taking into account meetings and parties.
Â“ItÂ’s not a diet Â— itÂ’s a change in life and a change in your relationship with food,Â” she explains. Â“ItÂ’s an emotional journey that you happen to lose weight on.
Â“Then it comes to staying with it and maintaining it,Â” Prevosti adds. Â“The difference is that so much has changed emotionally and they understand themselves better.Â” She takes serious issue with the notion Â“comfortÂ” food. Â“ItÂ’s just a silly term to say, Â‘IÂ’m going to eat because I donÂ’t feel well,Â’Â” she says. Â“Rather than dealing with why they donÂ’t feel well, they eat. Anyone can lose weight on a diet, but the second thereÂ’s an issue, itÂ’s going to come right back up.Â”
With as many as 70 percent of Americans overweight or obese, that leaves most of us in what Prevosti calls a perpetual state of weight loss.
Loss leader: Prevosti helps her clients negotiate the psychological and emotional dimensions of weight-management. PHOTOGRAPH: 2010 Stephen Ciuccoli
Â“A lot of people will lose part of their weight, but never get to their goal weight,Â” she says. Â“I can help anyone to lose weight, but to keep it off is the big thing Â— to live feeling not deprived. People need to eat and enjoy. They go out and have dessert and enjoy guilt-free eating in their healthy, happy bodies.Â”
Being overweight or obese can lead to a slew of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, arthritis and even certain types of cancer.
Robert Tafuri, a medical doctor who has a weight loss center in New Haven and Madison, likens obesity to a ticking time bomb.
He and his wife Loretta own a preventive medicine practice, Bariatric Associates of New England, which specializes in nutrition and medical weight-management. He treats patients who are very overweight or obese as well as those who are suffering from high cholesterol, diabetes and other health risks.
He says there is a plethora of wannabes who give the impression that theyÂ’re running a medical weight loss center, but buyer beware. Tafuri is an attending physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital and teaches at the Yale School of Medicine. His wife is a nurse with a degree in psychology and a Ph.D in natural health and holistic nutrition. They know their stuff.
Â“WeÂ’re for real,Â” he says. Â“ItÂ’s a confusing market to work in. There are people who have sent patients to the hospital because they donÂ’t examine patients or do proper blood work. ItÂ’s absolutely awful. There are some charlatans out there who take peopleÂ’s money and it is criminal what theyÂ’re doing.Â” Tafuri says that many weight-loss centers advertise that they are medically based, but they have no physician on staff.
Â“DonÂ’t let the white coats fool you,Â” he says. Â“That doesnÂ’t mean theyÂ’re a doctor you can trust with your medical well-being.
Â“ThereÂ’s no magic in my field. It takes long hours and a medically responsible effort,Â” he adds.
Many people who come to see Tafuri are morbidly obese and have tried and failed serious weight-loss regimens as many as eight or ten times.
Â“TheyÂ’ve tried and failed buy valium times,Â” he says. Â“I believe that preventative medical nutritional and weight management falls squarely and exclusively on a medical doctor. Nothing substitutes for an MD. Two years after reaching their goal, 92 percent of our patients didnÂ’t gain back more than 6.6 percent of what theyÂ’d lost.Â”
A newcomer to TafuriÂ’s practice will undergo blood work and a physical exam including aÂ bariatric history, electrocardiogram, calculation of body mass index (BMI), body fat composition analysis, ending with a customized weight and lifestyle assessment. Each patient falls into one of three plans: the Â“Cruise OptionÂ” for those wanting to lose ten to 20 pounds; a plan for those overweight with no medical problems and a BMIs between 25 and 29.9; and one for those who are obese with medical conditions and a BMI in excess of 30.
The initial weight loss phase takes between two and 16 weeks with an average weekly loss between two and six pounds. Tafuri says. The program concludes with a four-week transitional phase that segues into a long-term maintenance program.
At that first meeting, health and weight goals are discussed and the newly motivated patient leaves armed with dietary supplements in the form of powder for shakes and snack bars for the week. Each patientÂ’s progress is followed by the Tafuris and a physical therapist.
Loretta Tafuri handles the emotional component of the program and she agrees that there is no magic involved in weight loss.
Â“ThereÂ’s usually an underlying current behind overeating,Â” she says. Â“The magic isnÂ’t in the shakes and bars; itÂ’s in understanding why you overeat and changing that emotional behavior.Â”
One of TafuriÂ’s patients, Stacey M., decided last August that sheÂ’d been overweight for long enough. She, like many others who struggle with weight loss, had tried everything.
She calls it her Â“life battle.
Â“I was hesitant at first because I thought, Â‘I need to eat Â— I canÂ’t have just a bar and a shake.Â’ Finally I said it was worth a shot and it helped that my insurance covered it,Â” she says. Since August, Stacey has lost 60 pounds. She admits itÂ’s been hard. Every day she has two shakes, two bars, a snack bag and for dinner seven ounces of protein with three cups of vegetables and a sometimes a tossed salad. She joined Curves and walks outside whenever she has the chance. The weight has been melting off of her, and the compliments have been rolling in.
Â“I donÂ’t see a change in myself, though,Â” she acknowledges. Â“If youÂ’re a person who has never dealt with being overweight, you canÂ’t understand. I look in the mirror and I donÂ’t see a change.Â” She doesnÂ’t find it frustrating, though. As long as she sees the numbers on the scale changing and her clothes getting bigger, sheÂ’s satisfied. She has no specific goal in mind and says sheÂ’ll know it when she gets there.
Â“ItÂ’s super-easy Â— I love everything about it,Â” she says. Stacey did Weight Watchers, Herbal Life, Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, Dexatrim and even some pills that she knew were not good for her.
Â“They all work. ItÂ’s a matter of keeping to it and changing your lifestyle and continuing on. YouÂ’re not Â‘done.Â’ I will continue to see Loretta every two weeks for the rest of my life. SheÂ’s my new best friend,Â” Stacy jokes.
Stacy says sheÂ’s enjoyed putting her weight problem in someone elseÂ’s responsible hands for now and looks forward to putting her days of being overweight far behind her.
Like Stacey, Jim Montano spent much of his life overweight. HeÂ’s lost the weight and turned his loss into a profit with a new company called Nutmeg State Nutrition.
Â“I spent an enormous amount of money on a weight-loss program a few years ago, but I was committed,Â” he says. Â“I took getting healthy to heart. I investigated the products that many weight-loss centers use and found that thereÂ’s an enormous markup in the product price.Â”
He teamed up with a Hamden chiropractor with a degree in nutrition, Michael Pace, to serve as medical director and offer a 12-week diet plan. After outgrowing PaceÂ’s office, Montano opened a store on Dixwell Avenue in Hamden and now offers a four-week all-inclusive diet plan.
Â“We still offer the Dr. Pace Plan because some people want to see a doctor,Â” he says. The four-week plan includes a meal plan and all food, including bars and shakes. Customers can use a self-serve weigh-in room that has a scale linked to a computer system weekly.
Â“Data is stored to the computer and we can monitor your progress and for anyone who needs a consultation, we have two nutritional consultants,Â” Montano says. He acknowledges that nutritional consultants are not certified nutritionists but says heÂ’s enjoying watching his customers lose weight. He knows itÂ’s all about what works for you.
Whether a quick stop into his Hamden storefront with a backroom scale, a visit with a medical doctor or some common sense and friendly support is the answer to obesity, weight loss is certainly no piece of cake.
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