Live it, don’t diet – A look at Intensive Behavioral Therapy

“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!” the tabloid magazine headline screamed at me at the grocery store right after Christmas. I was waiting behind a woman with enough groceries to feed a third world country, so I picked up the rag and began to read it.

“I bet it says to cut off your head,” the man behind me in line said. That started us on a discussion about weight loss that was far more interesting than the magazine’s assertion that by following their plan one could watch their weight drastically reduce.

The man looked to be in fairly good shape. I’m not good at judging ages, but would guess him to be around his late 60s early 70s. Maybe I flatter him.

“I lost 85 pounds in the last year and a half,” he said. “My doctor said that if I didn’t lose some weight, I’d be dead in five years.”

I didn’t ask of what, we were strangers after all. I did ask him if he was familiar with the Medicare program called Intensive Behavioral Therapy.

“Familiar? I’m their poster child in Arizona,” he said with a laugh. “You know it’s not a quick-fix diet, don’t you? It’s a total change in lifestyle and I’m now so much happier than I was then. I get out of the house more. I’m now walking the golf course. It’s all so very good.”

I’ve written before about this program that’s free of charge to those who qualify for Medicare, but, it’s been a couple of years. The only rule is that you have to have a body mass index (BMI) over 30 and you must be committed to attending the sessions. Your doctor will sign off on your participation in the program that’s given at Bonner General Health.

You know as well as I do that obesity can lead to many conditions and diseases that can potentially shorten your life and often can make your day-to-day living a living hell.

“An estimated 97 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese, a condition that substantially raises their risk of morbidity from hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers,” a report published by the National Institute of Health says.

You know if you’re obese. You know how you feel. You are the one who has to make the decision to change your lifestyle – not just your eating habits – to improve your health.

Mary Kaiser is the registered dietician that administers the IBT program at BGH. I reached out to her, because I was curious to know what success stories she had about the program. She told me that currently she has seventeen people enrolled and, of course, there’s room for lots more.

“I have one patient who is five months into the program and has lost 22 pounds in preparation for knee surgery,” Kaiser said. “I have another patient who lost 55.8 pounds in twelve months and has kept it off for two years. He is attending round two since he isn’t below 30 BMI and has lost almost four and a half pounds in his first two weeks.”

Wow! If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is!

“IBT is not a diet. It is a lifestyle change that they should be able to see themselves doing for the next 20 or 30 years,” Kaiser said. “Sessions are once a week for four weeks, then every other week until six months. The patient must lose 6.6 pounds in the first six months to continue.

“If they have lost the 6.6 pounds then I meet with them once a month until the one year point. Sessions are short,” she said. “They’re only fifteen minutes.”

So, imagine spending just a quarter of an hour a week for a month and watching the number on the scale go down and along with it your risk for potentially life-threatening disease not to mention looking and feeling better.

It’s your choice. Read the stupid magazines in the grocery store or give yourself the chance to lead a healthier life. Maybe Intensive Behavioral Therapy will be just what the doctor ordered!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.