Weight-loss clinics are full, with clients who had their fill over holidays

January 05, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

If it's January, it must be diet time.

With the start of the new year, diet programs across the county are busy accommodating new dieters this week -- folks who picked up 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays as well as seriously overweight people who have decided it's time to do something about it.

Several centers and programs reported having appointments for two to three times as many new clients this week as they normally get.

"We get a lot of interest this time of the year," said Kay Patterson, a licensed dietitian who manages the health education department of Anne Arundel Medical Center, which offers a weight reduction program.

The program, LifeSteps, was developed by the National Dairy Counsel, she said.

The hospital modified the program to include low-impact aerobic exercise as well as the classes on diet and nutrition.

"We always plan to start two to three new classes during January," said Ms. Patterson, who added that the program attracts dieters ages 25 to 65 who want to lose anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds. "The holidays are a tough time for most people. There are so many traditions that involve food. It's easy to gain."

At the Diet Center of Severna Park, owner Nana Whalen said she expects at least twice as many new dieters this week as she normally gets during the fall.

Many are former clients who are re-entering the program after putting on pounds during the four-week holiday season.

"People know when they have really gotten off track over the holidays. They want to get back in control," she said.

"A lot of people sign up in December, but they don't want to start till January," said Laura Philbrick, an area supervisor for Physicians Weight Loss Centers in Glen Burnie and Annapolis. "They want to lose the weight, but they also want to enjoy the holidays. They'll worry about it Jan. 1st."

Early Monday morning, Severna Park resident Betty Eby arrived for her scheduled appointment at the Diet Center, eager to restart the program.

Mrs. Eby, who lost 38 pounds at the Diet Center two and a half years ago, said she has been "totally out of control" with food for at least three weeks.

"I knew when I gained I'd have to come back in," she said. "I have 4, maybe 5 pounds to lose."

Although 5 pounds may not sound like a lot, the diminutive Ms. Eby -- who stands 4 feet, 11 inches -- said that on her small frame, even five extra pounds is too much.

Plus, having lost eight times as much under doctor's orders, she guards against inching back up the scale.

"It's much easier to catch it at a few pounds than waiting till you have a lot to lose," she said.

Diet experts said as difficult as losing weight is, a far tougher challenge is keeping it off.

"Don't get me wrong, it's certainly not fun losing weight. But the hardest thing by far is maintaining it," Ms. Philbrick said.

"Only 2 percent of all dieters keep the weight off. It's really depressing," said Ms. Whalen, who started out as a Diet Center client herself, losing 50 pounds.

Both Ms. Philbrick and Ms. Whalen recommend finding a program that not only helps clients lose weight and modify their eating habits, but also offers a supportive maintenance program. The chances of keeping the weight off are greatly enhanced by a maintenance program, they said.

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