December 3, 2012 | Back to: Local News

Local physician helps patients take off pounds

Chances are that if you’re overweight, you’re carrying around more than just the extra pounds — the feelings of guilt and hopelessness often associated with being out of shape can be crippling. People often dread going to the doctor for fear of being scolded. But what if the doctor himself is fighting the same battle?

Dr. Jonathan Pierce, a Grass Valley physician, found himself in exactly that position.

“I had put on a lot of pounds during my residency, and they just never came off,” he said. “Obviously I knew it wasn’t healthy — I had to do something.”

After researching weight loss approaches, Pierce settled on the Hernried Center in Sacramento, which emphasizes life-long weight management through nutrition education, physical exercise and strategies for changing behaviors.

“What really seemed to help was the ongoing commitment to behavior change, the ongoing weekly meetings for up to 25 months,” he said. “With this program, statistically, when people continue to work with the dietician and behavioralist, 85 percent of those in the program were able to keep 25 to 30 pounds off. I was my own guinea pig.”

Pierce was so impressed with the program — and his personal loss of 60 pounds — that he decided to incorporate a new weight loss program into his own practice, based on the Hernried Center. Sierra Weight Loss in Grass Valley launched in June of this year, and new participants keep coming through the door. Under the medical supervision of Pierce, registered dietician and behavioralist Kelley Kull and nurse family practitioner Mary Berg, the 32 active members take part in weekly meetings and check-ups. Weight loss is first accomplished through meal supplements and regular exercise. Then, with careful monitoring and coaching, key healthy foods are transitioned back in to the diet.

“This program saved my life — I’ve lost 60 pounds,” said Midge Gallagher, the nursing supervisor at Hospice of the Foothills. “I’d given up on trying to lose weight — food was my drug of choice. But when the doctor told me I was at a high risk for a heart attack or stroke, it scared me.”

Gallagher, who said she’s “lost thousands of pounds throughout my life,” said the weekly meetings have made all the difference in finally keeping the weight off.

“We’ve laughed, cried and encouraged each other in our meetings,” she said. “It turns out I hadn’t been the only one watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ while eating a big bowl of ice cream.”

Today, Gallagher has been able to throw away her cholesterol medication and her blood sugar level is back to normal. At age 60, she recently ran the Turkey Trot for the first time and looks forward to her first grandchild in January.

“I have so much energy now that I come home from work and want to rearrange the living room furniture,” laughed Gallagher. “Next is the bedroom.”

Kull said the Hernried Center’s program has seen 20 years worth of successful weight-loss scenarios, so leading the groups at Sierra Weight Loss was an easy sell for her when Pierce approached her about the program.

“The ongoing commitment to behavior change and support is what makes it work long term,” she said. “It’s like a compass — people are learning to navigate life outside of meal replacements, and they do it successfully. It’s wonderful to see personalities change and friendships form in these groups. Many people don’t know how bad they feel until they feel better.”

To contact staff writer Cory Fisher email or call (530) 477-4203.

Cory Fisher

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The Union Updated Mar 27, 2014 08:03PM Published Dec 5, 2012 07:30AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.