This article originally appeared in the Magazine for Greenwich Hospital.
Like many people who have tried to lose weight and failed, author Richard Martin was pessimistic that any weight loss program would work for him. For one thing, he was obsessed with food. “I would think about food all the time,” he recalled. “I would dream about food. I would prepare meals in my sleep.”
So when a pulmonologist urged the then 280-pound Martin, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes, to try the program at Greenwich Hospital’s Weight Loss and Diabetes Center, he didn't have a lot of hope that it would work. “I really just went to save face with my doctor. I wanted to show him that I tried but in truth, I wasn't motivated,” he said.
Now, 50 pounds lighter and still going strong, Martin believes going to the Center was one of the best decisions he made in life. He credits the Center’s team for helping him understand the role diabetes and food play in the body’s production of insulin and how regulating what he eats not only affects his weight, but his energy, motivation and mood as well.
“Swings in blood sugar can lead to intense cravings for food, depression, anxiety and loss of sleep. All of these factors translate into weight gain,” explains Dr. Chris Mosunic, the Center’s director who is both a clinical psychologist and registered dietician. “Once people realize that it’s not just their personality or lack of willpower, that there is a bio-chemical reason behind their experience, they can take control over their own successful weight loss.”
With the help of Dr. Mosunic and members of his team, Gavin Pritchard, dietician and chef, and physiologist Erica Christ who oversees the Mary Cress Sotos Nutrition Resources division at the Center, Martin realized that once he managed the spikes in his blood sugar, the extreme hunger he’d always known, was tamed. “Within a few days, I wasn't standing in front of the refrigerator anymore,” he said.
The science-based approach advocated by the Center involves treating the whole person and not just the weight. Dr. Mosunic and Dr. Joshua Hrabosky, another psychologist on the team, assist people to ﬁnd ways to address their emotional and psychological needs other than through food. Christ and Pritchard develop personalized exercise and dietary programs that are realistic and sustainable, and an endocrinologist on staff, Dr. Yi Hao Yu, teaches people how lifestyle factors affect hormones and glucose levels in their bodies, which is particularly key in understanding diabetes.
Martin maintains a daily food diary. He said tracking food consumption gave him insight into his eating patterns and helped him adjust the types of carbohydrates he ingests. “There is a certain mindfulness to this approach, but if you can organize your intake of simple, medium and complex carbohydrates, you will be satisﬁed with your food and never feel deprived.”
For Martin, the beneﬁts of losing all that weight go far beyond his physical appearance. His diabetes is under control and he said his quality of life has vastly improved. Although he is attached to oxygen because of the COPD, Martin can now walk for as long as an hour at a time and is able to do such household tasks as laundry, which he hadn't been able to do for years. What’s more, Martin feels good about himself. “I used to think of myself as this hungry slob, but now I feel in control and I have my self-respect back,” he said, adding that the changes he has made to his life are forever. “There is no turning around for me.”