Extreme weight loss and elite training coexist at CU Anschutz
by Amy Vaerewyck | University Communications
Have you ever watched as someone lost half their body weight? You’ve got a chance to witness this amazing feat in action during the fourth season of ABC’s hit series Extreme Weight Loss—now being filmed at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.
The TV show documents a year in the life of severely obese people as they work to lose weight and get fit with the show’s transformation specialist, Chris Powell, and with the Center’s medical director, Holly Wyatt, MD, associate professor of medicine. The Center will serve as the show’s partner for medical oversight, weight loss and nutrition services.
At the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, weight loss and fitness happen on screen and off. Read the Center’s member success stories below.
Sharon Francis: “I used to weigh 250 pounds.”
The Sharon Francis who put on a wedding gown and walked down the aisle looked a lot different than the Sharon Francis who now puts on work-out clothes and runs on the elliptical every day after work.
Since that day 12 years ago, Francis has lost 115 pounds—and since the day in April 2012 when she joined the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, she has dropped 8 percent of her body fat and increased her muscle mass to 34 percent.
“I’m now wearing a size small, and I have muscle definition,” she said. “It feels really fabulous.”
How did she do it? Diet, exercise and sheer willpower. She goes to the Center every day after work and sometimes on weekends. She loves the group exercise classes and the “non-meat-market” atmosphere.
“My motto is there’s no excuse, and I’m religious about [going to the Center] now,” she said. “It’s wonderful there, and the staff are fabulous. You see people helping each other, because everyone’s there to get healthy.”
Frank DeGruy, MD: “I wanted to have the best skiing season of my life.”
After an 80-hour work week, it’s hard to find the time—not to mention the energy—to get in a good workout. The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center helped Frank DeGruy, MD, professor in the CU School of Medicine, find the time—and now he feels like he has more energy than ever.
“There are several fitness centers near my home, but I like the way this one is staffed,” he said. “The staff are highly competent and knowledgeable, and they offer a lot of instruction, support, reinforcement and encouragement.”
For years, DeGruy, struggled with chronic back pain. Three to four times a year, he would injure his back while downhill skiing or by doing something as simple as lifting a suitcase. Since he started working with Nick Edwards, a personal trainer at the Center, he has been working out more aggressively than ever before and has sustained zero injuries.
And his success story at the Center has extended to his Department of Family Medicine, where he gives colleagues his blessing to take time out of the work day to go to the Center to work out together.
“There is a well-established body of literature around the notion that physical activity and physical health make people more productive at work,” he said. “I believe if we can promote, as a work priority, physically healthy people, we’ll actually get more done and be better at what we do.”
Joy Fox: “I’m getting older, and my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic.”
Joy Fox lost 70 pounds in one year, and she’s keeping the weight off. A weight management class at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center made it possible for the 58-year-old.
Every Tuesday for 20 weeks she showed up at the Center at 5:30 p.m., along with about 10 other women, and spent an hour learning how to use meal replacement products to shed weight. Then, she worked with two of the Center’s registered dietitians, Kristen Bing and Elizabeth Kealey, to learn how to maintain her weight, eating proper portions of nutritious foods.
“A lot of overweight people feel shame,” she said. “[At the Center,] they understand that a negative approach is not the way to do it, and they’re always positive.”
Halfway through the course, Fox’s blood sugar tested as normal—and she was down a few dress sizes.
“I didn’t do it for vanity, but it’s a nice side effect,” Fox said. “I’m not an exercise freak, but I want to live to be a very old woman.”
Judy Primeaux, MA, RPh: “I wanted to be as healthy as I could for chapter three of life.”
Judy Primeaux’s problem was stress. Stress from her job as a director at the CU School of Medicine’s Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. Stress from caring for her aging mother living far away in Louisiana. Stress from the myriad volunteer activities she’d committed herself to at her church and elsewhere.
Other gyms and fitness centers only created more stress in her life, but the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center finally helped relieve her stress.
“I’d become so debilitated in my cardiovascular health that I could hardly walk from the parking lot to the office without stopping to rest,” said Primeaux, 63. “I went to the Center, and I just said ‘Help,’ and they put this team together for me.”
When she had back muscle spasms, her team helped her get therapeutic massage. When she experienced joint pain, her team helped her move her workout to the pool. When she achieved one goal, her team helped her set a new goal.
Primeaux’s ultimate goal is to lose 100 pounds. She’s not there yet, but in only a year—with ongoing support from one of the Center’s registered dietitian, Kim Gorman—she has seen her cholesterol drop and has been able to go off her blood pressure medication.
“What differentiates the Center is that they’re not just trying to make the beautiful people more beautiful,” she said. “No matter where you are, they’re there to help you move to the next step, and they hang in there with you.”