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Ending Her “Losing” Battle



When Audrey Richardson’s calendar flipped to January 1 last year, she was well beyond making a resolution.

Her doctor had told her that she had to do something to lose weight. Her blood sugar levels were climbing dangerously, but she knew that she never followed through on her goals to diet.

“The last two or three years I decided I wouldn’t even make a resolution, because it wasn’t going to happen anyway,” Audrey says. “It took something more for me. I needed change.”

The 61-year-old woman had struggled with weight for over 30 years. When her primary care physician told her that her blood sugar levels were up for the second year in a row, she knew what the long-term effect could be if she stayed on her current course.

A different choice

Her doctor gently suggested that she consider weight loss surgery, but Audrey refused, asking for a non-surgical option instead. Her doctor referred her for a consultation to see if Sanford’s Health’s medically managed weight loss management program would be a good option for her.

She met with Dr. Ron Wiisanen, a specialist with the program and filled out her questionnaire earnestly, giving serious thought to the reasons why she was tired of being overweight. In addition to improving her health, she wanted to be able to sit easily in a chair or take a bite of something without having to worry that people were looking at her and judging her.

“I wanted to in be in shape to actually enjoy my retirement,” Audrey says. “The ball was in my court and it was time to take action.”

More than willpower

Many people like Audrey have difficulty maintaining weight loss because they fail to address the underlying reasons for their overeating, says psychologist Dr. Kim LaHaise. Without the knowledge of new coping mechanisms and the commitment to make long-term behavioral changes, it’s hard to succeed.

“The new year is a good time for people to take a look at their habits and what they like and they don’t,” says the psychologist, who works with patients in Sanford’s managed weight loss program. “People need to have a lot of dedication and commitment to make changes that they stick to day in and day out.”

Sanford’s program is designed to facilitate those long-term changes, following up that initial weight loss with the kind of support that people like Audrey need to keep the weight off, LaHaise said.

Audrey’s new life began the day she started the Sanford program. She worked with a multi-disciplinary team that included care from a doctor who specializes in weight loss, psychological evaluation and support and a practical, individualized advice on nutrition and exercise.

Her new diet began with a system of protein shakes designed to kick off her weight loss and reset her metabolism. She gradually moved into eating healthy regular meals, changing the way she eats and looks at food. Classes and regular appointments with specialists helped support her efforts.

The team approach gave Audrey a full arsenal of tools to make changes and the support she needed to stick with them, says Dr. Natalie Irwin, a physician who specializes in eating disorders. It is important for patients like her who need to make dramatic changes to have customized options and solid medical advice.

“Audrey is a real inspiration,” says Dr. Irwin. “She shows that it is not just a matter of having willpower, but making slow and steady changes over time.”

Life is great

Audrey, who earlier had surgery to repair two damaged knees, now can be as active as she wants, walking and biking regularly. Her diet now includes lean protein and vegetables and she watches her carbohydrate intake. Even her husband has lost weight with the new way the family eats.

“It’s me that is making the difference, because it’s me that’s accountable,” says Audrey. “It’s not one cookie that is going to hurt me, it’s the choice of taking home a dozen and eating them.”

So far, she’s lost over 60 pounds. Her blood pressure medicine decreased by 50 percent and her blood sugar levels are back to normal. And Audrey loves the way she looks and feels.

“I have sessions of crazy energy,” she says. “I never thought that I’d be going up and down the stairs without a handrail and now I’m doing steps and keeping up with the grandkids.”

Audrey said she didn’t tell her co-workers at first what she was doing, but as her clothes got so loose that she needed a new wardrobe, it was time to explain. She continues to lose weight slowly, setting attainable goals that she knows she can reach.

“It’s incredible what you discover about yourself in this process,” says Audrey. “I knew that if I was going to live a normal life 20 years from now, I’d have to learn new eating habits. Now I know that I won’t have to miss out on life.”

Posted Date: September 2012

Ending Her “Losing” Battle

For years, Audrey Richardson knew that she wouldn’t really keep her New Year’s Resolution to drop a few pounds. How would this Fargo nurse get the support and tools she needed to make a long-lasting change?