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Retired pharmacist and pharmacy professor Lois Garland-Patterson, 72, of Naperville, Illinois is no stranger to health battles. She has battled hypertension for 30 years, stage II breast cancer in 2005, and diabetes for the past five years. In February 2018, she faced another battle.
After retiring from her position as associate Dean of a pharmacy school in Fresno, California and moving to Illinois a few years prior, Garland-Patterson was cleaning snow off her car one day when she strained her shoulder.
Without a primary care physician, Garland-Patterson asked her friend for the name of a doctor. Her friend recommended Emela Vukomanovic, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Elmhurst Clinic.
A pharmaceutical scientist with a Ph.D. in health economics, Garland-Patterson says she is careful when choosing a doctor: “I’m extremely critical of my physicians. I ask many questions. I know that the most important person on the healthcare team is the patient. Because we know our body more than anyone else.”
Garland-Patterson made an appointment with Dr. Vukomanovic. “I liked her. We hit it off. She’s very good. She’s straight on,” she says.
Each time Garland-Patterson saw her, Dr. Vukomanovic would urge her to lose weight. “I had put on weight gradually over time — since 1985. That’s 33 years. I was very frustrated because no matter what I did, I would always lose weight and gain it right back,” she says.
Finally, in November 2017, at 316 pounds, Garland-Patterson realized she needed to make a change. “It was not about ego, not about vanity. It was about health,” she says.
Dr. Vukomanovic referred her to Omar Shamsi, M.D., a bariatric and obesity medicine specialist with Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health. “I didn’t want them to do a bariatric procedure, but Dr. Vukomanovic reassured me that Dr. Shamsi could give me good weight management techniques,” she says.
Garland-Patterson made an appointment for Feb. 7, 2018. “Dr. Shamsi was so animated and so passionate about what he was trying to do. I like that. He wasn’t patronizing. He didn’t have an attitude. He said 'we have a problem and we are going to find a solution for it,'” she says. “He was honest. He walked me through what we would do and how.”
The first thing Dr. Shamsi did was adjust Garland-Patterson’s medication for hypertension, since the one she was taking was causing her to gain weight and hold water. He prescribed one that didn’t have that side effect. She lost 10 pounds within the first week.
Garland-Patterson also met with bariatric dietitian June Zaragoza. “She gave me really valuable information. She gave me tips for how to manage the diet versus just following a diet,” she says.
Garland-Patterson started eating a low-carb diet. She was allowed a maximum of 100 grams of carbs a day, but averaged about 45-60 grams. She received a chart that told her what foods to eat and the carb count on the foods. She started drinking low-carb protein drinks, and cut out her daily glass of orange juice
She also realized she needs to have quick and easy options for meals. “I learned that every morning I wake up, I should figure out what I’m going to eat that day because I don’t want to accidentally eat something because I’m hungry,” she says.
Garland-Patterson says that she can still have the things she likes, for example, loves, like pasta and rice, she just has to eat it in small quantities. “This is not a punishing diet. It’s not that at all. You choose what you want. Just control the amounts. It’s a choice diet,” she says.
Garland-Patterson knew she was losing weight but didn’t know how much, since she only weighed in at the doctor’s office. “I was always overwhelmed and delighted when I stepped on the scale.”
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In May 2018, Garland-Patterson was featured in a Naperville Sun article titled “Suburban Cooks: Need for a low-carb diet challenges scientist to come up with new recipes.” It included two low-carb recipes she had created herself.
“I set a goal to lose so I can get healthy. Just lose. Then my ego kicked in. I thought, ‘I look nice. This is fun.’ It was just falling off of me. And it was self-fulfilling. The more I was losing, the more I wanted to stay on track,” she says.
Garland-Patterson also learned what exercises she could do — even while sitting in her chair. She increased her one hour aqua aerobics class twice a week to two hours twice week at the YMCA in Naperville. “I don’t like exercise. I’m clumsy. But I found something I liked that worked,” she says.
When she isn’t taking water classes, she does 30 minutes of weight lifting each morning. “I realized I don’t have to approach it like I have to become a gym rat. Even a little bit helps,” she says.
Garland-Patterson says that she had the option to take medication to curb cravings, but she didn’t want to take any more medication than was necessary. Between eating a low-carb diet and small amounts of exercise, Garland-Patterson was able to lose 60-68 pounds in nine months.
“I didn’t realize how much my weight impeded my lifestyle, my mobility, until I started losing it. I can walk faster. I have energy. It doesn’t hurt to bend over now. My feet aren’t swollen. I can wear rings because my fingers aren’t swollen. I can do so many things. The rewards are great,” she says.
Her advice to others who are struggling with their weight? “Be honest with yourself about what’s really going on so when you tackle the problem, you can really tackle it. You don’t have to share with anyone but your healthcare provider. Don’t be scared. Tell them everything. Just be honest — that’s the biggest thing.”
Of the team at Edward-Elmhurst, Garland-Patterson says: “They are not going to be patronizing. They are going to work with you and help you based on your health. They don’t make a value judgment. They want you to be healthy.” She adds, “Dr. Shamsi is a miracle worker. Look at what he’s done for me!”
Garland-Patterson recently checked in with Michael Brottman, M.D., an independent cardiologist on the medical staff of Elmhurst Hospital, who she says was very pleased with her weight loss. She can now see Dr. Brottman yearly, rather than every six months, to manage her hypertension.
She also checks in yearly with her oncologist, Hollis Walker, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist with Elmhurst Memorial Hematology Oncology.
Garland-Patterson is no longer on medication for her diabetes.
“To me it was effortless. I feel good. I’m healthy. Life is wonderful,” she says. “I was never able to control my weight before and now I have a solution. It’s how you live. Health is my primary goal,” she adds.
Garland-Patterson’s next appointment with Dr. Shamsi is in January.
Her plan for the future? “I started this journey on Feb. 8, 2018. On Feb 8, 2019 I will evaluate where I am, what my health status is and where my ego is, and that’s when I’ll decide,” she says.
Lois did it, and you can, too!
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To learn more about your options with Endeavor Health® Weight Management, call 331-221-6100.
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