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At 67 years old, Rick Buscemi had spent most of his adult life overweight. During regular checkups over the years, doctors would share test results that included rising blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but he never felt inspired to make the necessary changes that would allow him to lose weight and take control of his health.
Until he did.
Buscemi weighed 421 pounds in December 2017 when he met with Omar Shamsi, M.D., a physician who specializes in bariatric and obesity medicine.
“When Mr. Buscemi came to me, he was diagnosed as prediabetic and I could see in his eyes that he was ready to focus on his health,” says Dr. Shamsi. “He wasn’t interested in surgery, instead he wanted to make diet and lifestyle changes.”
Dr. Shamsi felt Buscemi would be a great candidate for the Jumpstart your Health program to get the support he needed to develop and maintain healthy changes.
Jumpstart your Health is a yearlong diabetes prevention program based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved curriculum. Working with a lifestyle coach for guidance and encouragement, participants learn the information and skills needed to lose weight, be more active, manage stress and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Sixteen weekly group classes are followed by six monthly sessions to help participants maintain new lifestyle changes.
Before Buscemi could secure a spot in the class, on the day after Christmas he was admitted to the hospital with weight-related heath issues that warranted a five-day stay. When he left the hospital, Buscemi was 100 percent committed to getting healthy.
Once he officially began the program in spring 2018, Buscemi says everything just clicked. “It was kind of simple, I just never really looked at things like calories and fat grams before,” he says. “The program taught me why and how to do it, and once I started, I lost weight week after week.”
After one year in the program, Buscemi lost more than 150 pounds. He has graduated, but still participates in group sessions every other month to help him stay on track.
Buscemi’s story is a bit more unique than just counting calories and fat grams, however. He lost his weight while also eating out at fast food restaurants for nearly every meal.
“At his starting weight, the odds were against Rick to lose the weight with diet and exercise,” says Julie Sanfilippo, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian who leads the Jumpstart program and worked directly with Buscemi. “In addition, Rick shared early on that he didn’t cook at home or plan to, that he keeps very little food at home and eats at restaurants several times a day.”
Sanfilippo admits she had concerns about whether successful weight loss could be achieved this way, but supported Buscemi in his plan to be diligent with calories and fat grams while still eating out.
"I said to myself, 'I’m going to work on this, but I have to do it in a way that fits into my lifestyle,'" says Buscemi, who describes his pre-program fast food breakfasts as more than 1,000 calories.
Once committed, he diligently researched calories and fat grams to learn what he could eat while staying within target calorie and fat goals. Although he loves eating at fancier restaurants, he learned that the detailed nutritional information fast food restaurants provide made it easy to plan his daily allotment of fat and calories, which now includes fast food breakfasts around 250 calories.
With consistent effort, the pounds came off week after week. The more success he experienced, the more motivated Buscemi felt. While the majority of his meals continue to come from fast food, he has started to keep some healthy foods at home and incorporate regular exercise, prioritizing 75 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, six days a week.
Throughout Buscemi’s weight loss, Dr. Shamsi and Sanfilippo have closely collaborated on his progress, making changes where needed and celebrating his ongoing success. They regularly work together to help patients prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea or other weight-related diagnoses.
Dr. Shamsi says his patients typically deal with one or more issues related to struggles with weight loss: stomach hunger, where a patient feels hungry all the time; brain hunger, where patients overeat for emotional reasons and/or a lack of physical activity.
“Sometimes people don’t fall into just one category and need to fine tune their lifestyle in many ways,” says Dr. Shamsi. “In collaboration with the Jumpstart program, we may use a combination of medications, behavior health therapy and increased physical activity to help our patients achieve success.”
Today, Buscemi has achieved all of his initial weight loss goals, but has one more on the horizon. He is 9 pounds away from his lightest adult weight and less than 50 pounds away from his high school weight. He fully intends to get there.
“There’s a right time and a right place for everything,” says Buscemi. “For me, this was it.”
Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help you achieve permanent weight loss and the healthy, active life you were meant to live.
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