Thomas Vernon has struggled with his weight for much of his life, but in 2017 that changed significantly, as a result of his partnership with Christiana Care’s Metabolic Health Services team in Wilmington. The retired North Wilmington accountant lost 66 pounds from February to October and dropped his body mass index (BMI) from 52.18 to 42.97.
Vernon has Type 2 diabetes, and he knows that his condition puts him at higher risk for kidney disease, neurological problems and damage to his blood vessels. He’s on a personal mission to make lifestyle changes so that he can reduce his need for insulin and reduce his risk factors. In recent months, with the encouragement of Amy B. Wachter, M.D., clinical leader of Christiana Care’s Endocrinology Practice, he has cut his insulin usage in half and kept in close contact with clinicians who monitor the efficacy of such changes.
“I applaud Mr. Vernon for staying so engaged with us,” said Dr. Wachter. She said that if his progress continues, he may be able to stop taking insulin altogether.
“All of a sudden I am eating better, and the weight is coming off,” said the 62-year-old Vernon. “I give much of the credit to my dietitian and my endocrinologist. They helped me get motivated, and really I have lost close to 100 pounds since I came to Christiana Care.”
Wishing to improve his health and be near family, Vernon moved from Florida to Delaware in 2016, and that fall he consulted Dr. Wachter. He knew he had serious health issues, including his weight — 372 pounds. He has also been bothered by spinal stenosis, arthritis and heart disease that resulted in bypass surgery in 1996. He told Dr. Wachter he was ready to make some serious lifestyle changes, and he was introduced to dietitian and diabetes educator Julie Garey, RD, LDN, CDE.
“Julie is a fantastic person who asked a lot of questions about my habits and how I was eating,” he said. “It was with Julie’s support that I began to understand portion sizes and make better choices. I was delighted that my weight began to drop.”
His typical diet in February 2017 included three meals a day, many of them purchased at convenience stores, along with pies and cupcakes for snacks. Dinner was often pizza or Chinese takeout.
“We talked about healthy eating choices, low-sodium options and how to read nutrition labels,” Garey said. “We also discussed coping techniques to deal with stress in place of stressful and emotional eating.”
Some patients who come to Wilmington Hospital for medical nutrition therapy also attend support groups and classes. Christiana Care Metabolic Health services hosts a free monthly weight-loss seminar that provides information about obesity and treatment options, as well as a variety of weight-management programs that include nutrition education, psychological aspects of behavior change and exercise.
“We have different options for patients tailored to meet their needs,” said Garey. “You never know where a patient will find the most help.” Other options include one-on-one counseling, a meal-replacement program and bariatric surgery.
One-on-one counseling was the support that best matched Vernon’s needs. He does not enjoy cooking, and he worked with Garey to create achievable healthy eating goals. While he didn’t achieve every one, he was always willing to try again. He also knew that his weight-loss goals would have to be achieved through his diet, because his bad back limits his ability to exercise.
These days he is likely to have a protein shake with fruit and peanut butter crackers for breakfast. Lunch is a sandwich on whole-wheat bread, and dinner is a protein shake with raw vegetables. Snacks are fruit, celery with peanut butter and frozen fruit juice popsicles. While temptation is ever-present, in the form of grab-and-go snacks and junk food available at every grocery and convenience store, his commitment is built on the understanding that he gained in working with his Christiana Care care team. He knows that his health was increasingly at risk, and controlling his diet is his key to wellness.
“Some patients get off track when there are personal stresses,” said Garey. “Mr. Vernon has been especially focused on reaching towards his goals. And he’s not stopping. He will continue to see us, setting new goals in 2018.”