Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Weight, What? Weight Management at The Group?


Submitted by Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists, The Group

The Group has long been known as the premier provider of women’s health services in the Quad Cities, but did you know we also offer weight management? You’ve trusted us with your annual exams, your infertility, your pregnancies, and the transition to menopause, now trust that we can help you get a handle on your weight.

Program Director Rachel Smith describes the program as a “comprehensive approach to a chronic health condition: obesity.” We have all experienced the reality that diets don’t work, and most of us are frustrated with conflicting nutrition and exercise information. The need is clear for a comprehensive program that addresses the root causes of obesity and assists patients in making tough lifestyle changes. “We built this program and assembled our team very deliberately, based on the best research available about what works to help people lose weight and keep it off long term. We are not about chasing a magic number on the scale; we are about changing lives and improving health.”

While the majority of patients in the program take advantage of the medically managed meal replacement plan, The Group’s Weight Management Team customizes its approach to meet the individual needs of its patients. For some patients, they are already doing so many things right, they just need a few nutritional tweaks or a jump-start to lose 20 or 30 pounds. This type of patient may come into the New

Direction meal replacement program and use just one or two meal replacements a day to help them reach their goal efficiently, or they may opt to not use replacements at all. For others, years of the typical American diet and sedentary lifestyle have dug a “health rut” so deep that a more serious approach is required. For these patients, the full meal replacement plan is recommended. Some patients with more severe food addictions may benefit from prescription medications as well.

All patients in the program have the benefit of a professional team organized around the goal of helping them make lasting life changes.

Weight management at The Group is a medically managed program: patients are seen regularly by either the Medical Director Dr. Rita Aronson or program director, Rachel Smith, CNM, ARNP. Program participants also meet with a health coach, a nutritionist, and a personal trainer, rotating through the weight management team on a weekly basis. Each Wednesday evening, they have the option of attending a free weight-management group meeting, where topics range from goal setting and habit change to smart grocery shopping and exercise.

Every aspect of the program is designed to address the program goal of lasting change. “We want this to be the last diet our patients ever need,” says Nutritionist, Taylor Strieitmatter. “At the same time, we don’t want them to be eating meal replacements forever,” says Rachel. “The meal replacements are simply an efficient tool to help patients get to their goal weight quickly.” The replacements seem intimidating to most patients prior to starting the program, but in truth, they make it simple.

As Penny Jagers, one participant who is new to the program put it, “One of the biggest surprises to me is how easy the program is to follow. I am satisfied after I eat and rarely feel hungry. I used to focus on food after one meal wondering what I would have for the next. For the last six weeks I have not focused on food but instead on the positive changes in my body and how I am feeling about the changes.”

The New Direction meal replacement program is a four-phase plan that takes patients from screening to active weight loss, where the average loss ranges from four to six pounds weekly on the full meal replacement plan. From there, as program participants near their goal weight, they enter the adapting phase of the program, where they work very closely with Taylor to customize a plan for reintroducing meals one at a time. In the maintenance phase, patients can still take advantage of our weekly group meeting and occasional meal replacements to help them stay on track. Throughout the program, team members emphasize the importance of building healthy new habits so that the weight loss can easily be maintained. Allison Elfline, CPT, meets with patients monthly, tracks their measurements, sets exercise goals with them and sends them weekly workout plans customized to meet their particular health history requirements. For weight loss, what you eat is 90 percent of the battle, but once you get to the maintenance phase, daily activity and exercise becomes much more important. That’s why Ally’s work with the patients is so crucial.

The group introduced it’s weight management in February of 2016 and already we have some amazing success stories. A sign in the lobby of the Ob-Gyn practice boasts current weight loss totals for the program. Team members are proud to watch that number top 1,000 pounds and continue to grow. “Of course, we brag about our results and our impressive numbers, but it’s the story behind the numbers that is truly meaningful,” says Rachel.

One such success story is patient Kitty Speiser, one of the program’s early patients. She started the New Direction meal replacement program on April 27, 2016. At that time, she weighed 403 pounds. A childhood of “meat, potatoes, and random junk” had not set her on a path to good health and at 37 years old, with a diet that she admitted consisted of excessive amounts of food, Kitty was hypertensive and borderline diabetic. She had recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea and despite adequate treatment with CPAP, she was so fatigued that she would fall asleep anywhere and everywhere, even while driving. Her back and knees hurt so badly that she was unable to exercise at all. Some days she was near tears just climbing the stairs to bed at night. A minor women’s health concern resulted in a referral from her primary physician, to Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists and it was there that she first learned about the weight management program.

Kitty was highly skeptical and yet frightened enough about where her weight was leading her that she followed her gynecologist’s recommendation and made an appointment with the program director. She was adamant that she didn’t want surgery or any product that would be difficult to implement. She knew that if she didn’t learn how to fix her relationship with food that she “would just end up gaining everything back.” The idea of a meal replacement plan of shakes and bars scared her terribly, but after much discussion, Kitty decided to put her trust in Rachel and her weight management team. She started on a plan that incorporated four meal replacements daily, plus one low-carb meal on her own that consisted primarily of meat and vegetables. She began drinking water and focused on tracking her daily steps.

Once in the program, Kitty began meeting with Rachel along with nutritionist Taylor and personal trainer Ally. She took advantage of the weekly group meetings and found that it helped to hear others in the program share their challenges and successes. She began noticing changes in her body almost immediately: aches and pains became less frequent and her energy improved. Kitty, along with every other program participant, has had multiple special occasions that have arisen throughout the time she has been on the meal replacement plan.

These occasions afford program participants an opportunity to exercise their new knowledge about healthy food choices and increase their confidence in this area. For Kitty, this has meant the ability to attend and participate in all the special eating events that surround a wedding without fearing that it would ruin her progress in the program.

As she tells it, “Learning how to eat healthier and exercise has been awesome. Not having to go through some surgery or painful processes to remain healthy has been great. I have been able to rely on the team at The Group to help me with my struggles in my weight loss, and I know that they are there to help me when things don’t seem to be doing what my expectations say they should. Everyone keeps you grounded and realistic in what you should be able to do and how your body should respond to each changing day. I can gladly say as of right now, 12/7/16, I have lost a total of 112lbs by using the New Direction program. I thank them all for their support in helping me get back into shape as I continue on my journey to being a healthier me.”

To find out where your weight loss journey could take you, join us at our free Orientation Night every Wednesday evening at 6:30pm at Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists, The Group.

Weight Management at The Group Team Members
Medical Director:  Dr. Rita Aronson
Program Director:  Rachel Smith, CNM, ARNP, Integrative Health Coach
Nutritionist:  Taylor Streitmatter
Certified Personal Trainer:  Allison Elfline
Support Team:  Amanda Trujillo and Ashley Elsen