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Intensive Behavior Therapy Yields Weight Loss Success

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By Kathy Hubbard


Some statistics can be misleading. For instance, the National Institute of Health says that a body mass index (BMI) over 30 indicates obesity. But, the two star running backs in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, Todd Gurley for the Rams and Sony Michel for the Patriots, both sport BMIs over 30.

Well, of course they do. They’re football players and that body mass is made up of pure muscle. What the two of them will have to worry about in the future, is how not to grow into fat men. In order to maintain their health, they’ll have to change their lifestyle.

That might not be too difficult for a young man, but what about those over 65 who’ve had decades of poor eating and exercise habits and have watched their bodies grow to the point of obesity? And, of course, it’s not just about men. Women tag team on that event.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that close to 40 percent of the population over 65 years of age are obese. And, they expect that number to double by 2050. I won’t be here to write about whether or not they’re correct, but those numbers could change if the senior population would take advantage of Intensive Behavior Therapy.

The best part about this program is that it is free. No, wait a minute. The best part about this program is that it works and it’s free. All you need is a referral from your primary care provider to start the program which is paid for by Medicare and administered by Mary Kaiser, a registered dietitian at Bonner General Health.

I can’t stress this enough, it’s not a diet. It’s a behavior modification program that teaches you to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle. But, don’t take my word for it. Here’s a participant who, along with her husband, lost enough weight to graduate out of the program.

Tina Foster and her husband, Finley, are close to 70 and have been married close to 50 years. She said that she has lost 43 pounds thanks to IBT, Finley has lost over fifty.

“We got overweight together, and we lost weight together,” Tina Foster said. “It worked for us. We would go in and talk to Mary and then we’d talk to each other. We expected a diet, but it’s not that at all. It made us think about what each of us was doing to keep this weight on. IBT made us more cognizant and it really helped that both of us were doing it at the same time.”

Foster first heard about IBT at her stitchery group. There was a woman there familiar with the program and when Finley Foster had blood workup that showed an increase in his blood sugar levels, Tina Foster asked the woman for more information.

The Fosters aren’t the only success stories. Kaiser said that in the past three years she’s seen 53 IBT patients. Cumulatively they’ve lost 933 pounds.

“This includes those who only came once and didn’t continue to those who have come for two or more years,” Kaiser said. “It’s tough for most seniors to lose weight, especially if they’re not mobile. But, I have some patients that have been creative with their exercises and find it possible to find inside locations to work out or to do ‘chair exercises.’

“The focus is on behavior, it’s not a diet plan,” Kaiser said. “The patient must have the motivation to make some changes. The first four visits are weekly, and then visits are every two weeks until six months. In order to qualify for continuing the program the patient must have lost at least 6.6 pounds in the first 6 months, and then visits are monthly for a year.”

On a national level, success rates are impressive. A study published in November by professors in the psychology department at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showed that patients who received IBT lost an average of 6.1 percent of their initial body weight at one year.

Their conclusion is that “intensive behavioral counseling is a proven method for helping people modify their eating and physical activity habit and achieve significant weight loss.” Just ask Tina Foster, she’ll agree.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.Go to Bonnergeneral.org/intensive-behavioral-therapy for more information.

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