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Back in the Saddle: Heather's Weight Loss Journey

Heather Weitzel Before and After“I had lost track of what it was like to be a normal weight,” confesses 49-year-old Heather Weitzel. Over the course of 20 years, this piano teacher and mother of three gained nearly 100 pounds, her eating habits spiraled out of control and she felt completely lethargic and unable to exercise. “I had gotten to the point where I was obese,” she shares. “I was disappointed that this was where my life had ended up. I was stopping myself from doing things that I loved because I was uncomfortable with my body. You aren’t going for a run whenever you feel like it, you aren’t going out dancing with your friends, you aren’t doing the things that you were doing when you were thinner.” An athlete in her youth and a former member of the University of Maryland equestrian team, Heather knew she needed to change and tried all kinds of diets to get back on track. “I would fail and then rebound and gain more weight,” she remembers.

The turning point came in 2014 when her husband, Eric underwent open-heart surgery and she witnessed the difficulty of his recovery, even for a very healthy adult. “I thought, if this happened to me, I would be in big trouble,” she contemplated. Heather would soon discover that heart disease in her family and her arrhythmia condition (irregular heart rhythm) placed her at a higher risk for cardiac distress. She critically needed a plan to lose weight or her health would be in serious jeopardy.

Having friends who successfully completed Sansum Clinic’s medically supervised Doctors’ Weight Management Program swayed Heather to consider joining. This method uses HMR meal replacements, which U.S. News and World Report ranked #1 diet for fast weight loss in the 2018 Best Diets ratings. Sansum Clinic introduced the HMR program in 1986. Endocrinologist Dr. Chris Donner who is still with the program today was key in bringing this researched-backed, behavior-based program to Santa Barbara in order to help patients lose weight in a fast and safe environment.

Doctors who work with DWMP understand how to help patients become their best selves. Once Heather finally decided to take the leap, she took comfort knowing internist Dr. Vikki Lane and the team would closely follow her lab results, adjust her medications, and keep tabs on her progress. Heather liked that she would see the program physician, attend a weekly support class and pick up food all in one convenient location.

Avoiding grocery stores kept temptation at bay and connecting with others facing similar weight struggles strengthened her. “The level of support is excellent and the coaches are awesome. If I have a problem or a situation I don’t know how to work around, they always have ideas,” explains Heather. “I knew I was being taken care of.” The program’s coaches helped her to break old and stubborn habits. She appreciated being able to call or email her coach when she struggled. “It’s a psychological battle as well as physical but I had people with me the whole way. They were my cheerleaders.” “It’s so much about behavior,” reports Donna Gill, manager for the Doctors’ Weight Management Program. “Are you thinking ahead? What are you doing to make sure the next meal is a healthy one?”

Before long, Heather began to see results and she weighed in 45 pounds lighter. Slowly, her family life started to change. Her kids and husband planned and cooked meals together. “We learned together as a family about better nutrition and health,” relays Heather. “Now when I see my son in a grocery store turning over an item to read the label, I think, I’ve won. We’ve won!”

Once Heather graduated to Phase 2, the weight management part of the program, she needed to learn how to eat in a healthy manner in her own kitchen and out in a restaurant. Heather’s lifestyle changes resulted in a total loss of 90 pounds. This milestone is where her coaches became more important than ever. She moved from battling her body to take even a short walk to exercising regularly enough to train for a marathon. The pièce de résistance that felt truly breathtaking to Heather was finally getting back on a horse, something she guessed might never happen due to her heart condition. “I didn’t believe how good I would feel at the end,” says Heather, her face glowing with a big smile. “It was so much fun to regain my sense of adventure and start trying new things." 

Developed by a behavioral psychologist, Sansum Clinic’s Doctors’ Weight Management Program combines a staff of healthcare and weight loss professionals with more than 30 years of experience implementing a well-designed system where patients achieve long-term success. Donna and her team revel in the moments where participants see results they dreamed about or realize they can forgo medication because of their weight loss. “It’s the best thing ever when people get happier and healthier and come into their own. We see them evolve and change and it’s very rewarding,” Donna remarks. For Heather, the challenging road has delivered many lessons, with the most important one being passed on to her children. “I feel at peace knowing I am giving myself the best option for a long healthy life and I am giving my family the same.”
Register Today
View the Orientation schedule -  Doctors' Weight Management Program Orientation and then call (805) 563-6190 to register for a session. (No cost, no obligation.)
Average weight loss for the in-clinic Decision Free® plan is 43-66 lbs. based on research studies conducted in people who completed between 12-26 weeks.