I weighed 334 pounds when I came to the George Washington University Weight Management Clinic in 2003. I had struggled with my weight for most of my life. Twice before I had successfully lost a lot of weight, once in my 20's and once in my 30's, but each time I only maintained the weight loss for short periods of time before gradually gaining back to an even higher level than before. Physically, I felt terrible - chronically fatigued, sweating profusely with even small amounts of physical activity. Emotionally, I felt sad and depressed.
When I contacted the clinic by email, my expectations were low. I was surprised to get a return email within a couple of hours from Dr. Arthur Frank, the Director of the Clinic. He answered my questions directly, and invited me to come in for an appointment. When we talked a couple of days later, he offered a combination of easy-going, non-judgmental hope and realism, backed up by objective, measurable data. I really liked his no-nonsense, direct approach to weight loss. He has an excellent sense of humor, and while we laughed about some things, I sensed he was listening carefully to what I had to say, and that I was being heard in a way I rarely experienced in a physician's office.
I started the program the day before Thanksgiving, 2003.
I lost 6 pounds the first week and consistently dropped weight from there. Along the way, the doctors suggested I try out the support groups offered by the psychology and social work staff. I used to run weight loss groups while I was in graduate school, so I didn't think I would find them very helpful. But I tried out one or two, and I was truly surprised how helpful they were. As I achieved my weight loss goal, I learned more and more about the emotional and psychological aspects of overeating, and it has made all of the difference. I have attended many different groups at the Clinic over the years and I have now settled into the Men's Group, which I attend every Saturday morning. Weight loss and maintenance issues are different for men and women, and I've found this group, and the group leader - Dr. Bill Picon's insightful teaching and listening to be an integral component of my maintenance program.
And one more thing . before I came to the Clinic, I hated exercise. Summertime in DC meant heat and humidity, and a prodigious amount of sweating. I was so uncomfortable, and practically lived in my car. Not anymore. Now I walk as much as possible, and have found this exercise to be a lot of fun, an excellent stress management tool, and something I really look forward to almost every day.
My total weight loss was about 176 pounds, give or take. My lowest weight, which was a bit on the low side, was 158. My weight has now stabilized in the mid-170's. For the first couple years, I weighed myself daily; now I use my clothes (32 waist, size 15 shirt) to gauge my maintenance. If my pants feel the slightest bit tighter, I pay a bit more attention to what I'm eating and my level of physical activity until they feel "right" again.
I'm grateful to Clinic for helping me make the first step of believing I could manage my weight. Over the years, this belief and the results that came of it have opened a world of possibilities and realities. The relationships and friendships I've made at the Clinic have added great depth and dimension to my life.
I hope this description will help another new patient, who might be wondering as I was, "Is there anything out there that could help me." — A.C.