After years in the medical field as a family practice physician, Dr. Ellen K. Stehouwer began to realize that one of the most common problems her patients came to her with was their weight.
Many of them wanted to lose weight.
“Every day, patients would come in and want to know how to lose weight,” Stehouwer said. “People think about it as something they do to look better. But in reality, losing weight is all about getting healthy.
“They are told, ‘Eat less, move more and have will power.’ But being overweight is a disease and should be treated like one,” she said.
And that’s what led she and her husband, Jim Mange, to open Kitsap Medical Weight Loss in February. The clinic offers medical help for those wanting to lose weight.
Stehouwer said, even though obesity is a major problem in America, medical schools don’t teach physicians how to help patients lose weight. So she boarded to become certified in medical bariatrics by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She had a clerkship with Dr. Allen Rader, an expert in the field.
Kitsap Medical Weight Loss saw its first patient in February. Since then, they’ve seen clients lose more than 1,800 pounds.
“Ninety-five percent of the patients who have seen us have lost weight,” said Mange, the office manager. And 80 percent of patients have lost weight — at least 5 percent of their body weight in just two months.
“Those who have stayed with the program longer have lost more,” he said. “But even a 5 percent weight loss is enough to see blood pressure lowered and help with other significant health issues.”
When a potential patient comes to their office, he or she are seen by Stehouwer, who does a medical examination and health history. The patient is given a body composition test to determine what percentage of their body is muscle, fat, water, etc.
There’s an educational component which can be done one-on-one, or in a group setting, where patients learn how to eat.
“We talk about specific guidelines for nutrition,” she said. “We aren’t a meal replacement program or a diet. This is a lifestyle change.”
Patients are encouraged to eat a lowercarbohydrate diet, moderate protein and low in fat. Food lists are given to each patient and there are recipes and suggested meal plans online at www.kitsapmedicalweightloss.com.
And patients are encouraged to exercise.
“We talk about what exercise will work into their life,” Stehouwer said. “Fitness is a component of what we do.”
Many of the people who come to see her are borderline diabetic or have diabetes. Some patients have health issues that require that they be given an EKG, which can be done at the clinic. Blood draws also are used to determine a person’s health and are done by medical assistant Susanna Molina.
For the initial visit, clients pay $285. Checkups once a month are $90.
One of the aspects of Stehouwer’s clinic that differs from other weight loss centers is that she is a medical doctor and can prescribe medication to help with weight loss, if needed.
“Losing weight includes behavioral and psychological components, and metabolic and nutritional information,” she said. “All of these are part of it. And in some cases there are medications that can help with cravings and appetite.”
In the short time they’ve been open, they’ve seen success with their patient.
“Some have said their blood pressure is under control,” Mange said. “Others have said they are feeling better overall because they are eating right.”
Successes also include people who have seen improvements in chronic pain and sleep patterns. And they’ve had patients who are now hiking and kayaking when they’d never have been able to do that before losing weight.
Part of the process is learning that there isn’t an end to the program, Stehouwer said.
“What we do here is real life,” she said. “Patients don’t have to come here for the rest of their lives. But we have the weight loss phase and then the maintenance phase, where they learn how to maintain their weight loss. We find the number on the scale that will trigger them needing to call us and come back in.”
The work is very rewarding.
“We’re very excited about what we’ve seen so far,” Mange said. “We haven’t been open long enough to have statistics on the longterm results. But to be able to give patients good news — they’ve lost weight or their lab work is better — that’s a good feeling.”
Kitsap Medical Weight Loss can help anyone trying to lose weight, he said. Some patients come because they need to lose weight before their physician will allow them have surgery, such as a knee replacement. Medications prescribed are dispensed in their office.
“It just has to be someone who knows there is no magic pill,” he said. “It takes work. But anyone interested in doing the work, we’re here for them.”
To learn more, go to www.kitsapmedical weightloss.com, or call 360-626-1166.
— Leslie Kelly is special publications editor for Kitsap News Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.