Keeping It Off

October 11, 2013

When John Leggat, 55, was working in Yorba Linda in a high-pressure job with lots of travel and entertaining clients, his weight was 320 pounds and steadily increasing. He had heard about the UCI Health Weight Management Program through his company and decided to make an appointment. After a physical examination, he decided to participate in a weight loss program that would change his life.

“During my exam, the doctor said I had most of the risk factors that indicated the likelihood of a heart attack in the next 10 years,” says John. Those risk factors included obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle.

After his physical exam, John signed up for UC Irvine’s very low calorie Decision Free™ program – a plan designed to maximize weight loss and help John reframe his relationship with food.

“The thing that sold me was that it was a medically supervised program,” says John. “It wasn’t just some fad. I trusted the staff at UC Irvine and that helped a lot.”

As part of the plan, John drank meal replacement shakes to manage his appetite and provide the nutrients and calories he needed. He also started exercising.

“I had never exercised in my entire life,” says John. “First, I started by walking. By the time the program was done, I was exercising off about 1,200 calories a day.”

Soon John began running at the gym before work. Within months, John had dropped 125 pounds. “Once I started losing weight, the pounds just kept falling off,” says John. “The challenging part of the program was transitioning from shakes to a maintenance food plan.”

The program at UC Irvine re-introduces you to food slowly so your system isn’t overwhelmed. The first food John ate after the program was a plain baked potato – no butter, sour cream or other embellishments – just the potato.

“I still remember that first baked potato, plain, without salt and butter and how good it tasted,” says John.

He continued to incorporate vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and other grocery store food choices.

Every day since the program ended, John has continued making the right choices.

“I still meet with a health educator every Tuesday to help maintain the loss," now through a weekly conference call, "to help me stay accountable,” says John. “And five years ago I ran a half marathon.”

At UC Irvine, health educators are always just a phone call or an email away. Participants have ongoing support and they are welcome to attend classes throughout the day. Without such a reliable support network, John claims it’s easy to fall back into destructive behaviors and regain the weight.

“The only reason I’m still around is because of the Weight Management Program at UC Irvine,” says John.

“The support network is tremendous. I sincerely believe that the program and staff of UC Irvine saved my life and, as long as I’m around, I’ll remain a patient to keep close and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”