Extreme Weight Loss the Healthy, Sustainable Way

If you’re going to run a marathon, you might as well try to win it, right?

That’s how Firelands Regional Medical Center Dietary Director and Executive Chef Rick Brown approaches his life, both figuratively and literally.

Just 11 months ago, Rick was dealing with numerous health problems brought on by extreme weight gain, smoking, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Crashing onto the couch with a pizza after a long day of work, ongoing doctor’s appointments, difficulty breathing, and daily blood pressure medications were his norm. At just 45 years old, the final straw for Rick was a life-altering trip to the emergency room, where it hit him like a ton of bricks: he was killing himself with food.

Rick Brown's extreme weight loss

“I thought, ‘I’m 45, I don’t want to live life dictated by doctor’s office visits and medications,’” said Rick. “I decided to heal myself with food as opposed to killing myself with food.”

That was the turning point, and there was no looking back.

As Executive Chef at Firelands, Rick’s daily life was surrounded and almost dictated by food. He knew he couldn’t (and didn’t want to) change that, but he could change the types of food he was putting into his body. And he believed there were ways to still enjoy eating while focusing on foods and recipes that use healthy ingredients and taste good. While every person is different, for Rick, a vegan lifestyle was the answer to his health problems.

And Rick admitted the diet change is often the hardest adjustment for those willing to make such a dramatic life change. Rick used to hate vegetables, but now he says they’re all he eats. His indulgence these days is bread. He’s cut back, but carbs are a treat he still allows himself once in a while. Moderation is key.

“Breaking habits and recreating new, healthier habits was by far the hardest part,” said Rick. “But it was also the most important part: making habits. I didn’t want a diet, I wanted a lifestyle. And you have to start somewhere.”

By focusing on a new, healthier lifestyle, not just a short-term diet fad or weight loss craze, Rick’s body and mind literally morphed before his eyes. His first goal was to lose enough weight to get off his blood pressure medication naturally through a vegan diet and daily exercise. Less than a year later, instead of crashing on the couch after work, Rick hops on a bike or goes for a walk with his kids – anything he can do to keep moving.

“As an adult, I can’t stress exercise enough,” said Rick. “Whatever your fitness level may be, keep moving.”
And yes, Rick’s new lifestyle led to extreme weight loss – he went from a size 4X eleven months ago to a men’s medium today. And many coworkers are shocked by his extreme weight loss.

“I almost didn’t recognize him after not seeing him for a few months” said Natalie Romito, RD, LD, wellness coordinator and outpatient dietician at Regional Medical Center. Natalie and Rick have partnered to bring additional healthy food options to the Firelands’ main and south campus cafeterias, including a wellness station focused on whole plant-based, low sodium foods.

“I’m rediscovering food, experimenting with different ingredients and recipes, and making food healthy while still tasting good,” said Rick. “And I feel like I’m in my twenties. I love being outside, I have a more positive outlook on life, and I’m [literally] half the person I used to be.”

extreme weight loss through a vegan lifestyleRick’s extreme weight loss is a dream for many people struggling to lose weight through healthier eating and exercise. With the busyness of jobs, errands, kids, scheduled activities, doctor’s appointments, and other necessities, it can seem impossible to pass up the convenience of a fast food dinner, processed foods you can grab and go, or the temptation to skip that evening workout because your child was cranky and you’re exhausted. Life makes creating new habits tricky. Rick’s advice: don’t beat yourself up.

“Don’t let others’ opinions affect your direction,” said Rick. “Don’t worry about yesterday, just think about today. If you get off track, forgive yourself and decide to do better tomorrow. If I can do it, anyone can.”

After losing more than one hundred pounds in under a year, Rick is working towards running – and winning - a marathon: something he never dreamed he’d be able to do before his extreme weight loss journey.

Now ask yourself: if you’re going to lose weight, you might as well lose weight for good, right?

A Weight Management Clinic for Sustainable, Extreme Weight Loss

No diet craze like the keto diet, dry fasting, or any other fad can deliver the healthy extreme weight loss results that a long-term lifestyle change can deliver. That’s what the weight management clinic at Firelands Regional Medical Center is designed to do: create habits participants can implement over time that lead to healthy, sustainable weight loss results.

“Every person is unique, which is why our weight management clinic is individualized and catered to each person, depending on what they need to succeed,” said Dana Valentine, NP, of the Firelands Center for Coordinated Care. “The program includes everything the patient needs for a healthier lifestyle – weight management and nutrition classes, physical therapy evaluation and sessions, physician visits, support groups, and dietitian visits.”

The purpose of the program is to help participants establish long-term lifestyle changes, not drastic, quick fixes that can’t be maintained over time. Participants are held accountable with regular follow-up appointments, and access to a dietitian provides crucial nutrition education many people need to stay motivated.

The weight management program at Firelands requires a doctor’s referral, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for your next doctor’s appointment to get into the program.

“If a patient is interested in the weight management clinic, we’re happy to call their doctor, discuss the program with him/her, and advocate for the patient to obtain the referral,” said Dana.

The key to success for both Rick and any weight management clinic participant is a change in mindset and daily habits. You have to want it, and you have to accept that your life will not be the same. You have to make the leap forward and convince yourself that turning back is not an option. You have to keep moving.

The weight management and nutrition clinic is conveniently located at the Center for Coordinated Care at the Hayes/Tyler corner of the Firelands Regional Medical Center main campus, 1221 Hayes Ave., Suite B. For further information or referral questions, please call 419-557-6550.