A Lighter Journey

An extra large pair of black trousers hangs on the wall of Lisa Crawley’s business, reminding her of the weight she’s lost. Photos of Lisa on the wall of her office barely resemble the lovely, lighter, medium-framed woman she is today.

Tanya Eierdam, 29, enjoys playing on the floor with her two toddlers. A few months ago she was barely able to make it to the top of her stairs without huffing and puffing.

In Carol Bailey’s Italian American family, eating was a way of life. But one day, she changed her relationship with food for good.

Pam Phillips responded promptly to a potential health crisis by becoming the first patient in Bon Secours’ new medically supervised weight loss program. She’s dropping dress sizes.

And Arbonne Vice President Nancy Wilcox stays the course on a self-designed healthy eating plan, but don’t call it a diet. She’s committed to thinking about food as optimal nourishment.

There’s no way around it. We face challenges with weight at all stages of our lives. From the time we are little girls, following our moms around the kitchen, joining our families at mealtimes, we build a relationship with food. And for some, that relationship gets out of balance.    

While each woman’s journey toward a lighter life is as unique as her fingerprints, some steps are the same for us all. Here in Tidewater, we don’t have to be Superwomen to make changes that result in healthier bodies. There are many helpers along the way—businesses, clinicians, physicians, fitness centers, and medical facilities—designed to support weight loss. Anyone of any age or size can create a new picture for herself.



“I woke up in middle age,” said Nancy Wilcox, 56, who’s one of the top Arbonne consultants in the nation and a busy mother of six. Nancy’s work is geared toward helping people look their best, using products that enhance health and vitality inside and out. But a few years ago, she looked at herself in the mirror and didn’t like what she saw. “I didn’t want to become old and fat,” she said. At 5’4” Nancy was not clinically obese, but she was definitely carrying more pounds than she needed to. She was tired of dieting and knew what it felt like to deprive herself of favorite foods.

During a business trip to London, Nancy’s schedule kept her from eating regularly, and she lost a few pounds, which encouraged her to try to lose more. She also read a book called Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. It made her laugh out loud with lines like, “Soda is liquid Satan.” By the time she came to the ending, Nancy decided to take a serious look at her diet. She became vegetarian, mostly, gave up all fast food, all prepared foods, switched to organic produce, read labels, and added jogging to her life. “I like to get out in the fresh air,” she said.

Over a period of eighteen months, Nancy dropped 36 pounds, slowly, deliberately, and cheerfully. She makes sure to enjoy the food she fixes, including the butter on her daily whole grain English muffin, and to focus on the health value of her meals. Nancy cites more books that helped her change her eating style: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual and Super Foods Rx: 14 Foods That Will Change Your Life by Steven G. Pratt, M.D.

Nancy believes that specially designed foods can help people “get over the hump” like Arbonne’s protein shakes and energy drinks, which she uses daily. Yet these are not “the magic bullet,” she said. “It takes discipline.” The bottom line for Nancy is she eats to stay healthy, and weight loss is the bonus.



For some women, will power and reading are not enough to change their relationship with weight.

Pam Phillips, Bon Secours Medical Center’s vice president of mission, got a shock after a round of blood work in July. She was pre-diabetic. The 5’1’’ 57-year-old had been a physical therapist early in her working life, and she had seen the devastating effects of the diabetes. She was a veteran of popular diet programs, experiencing significant back and knee pain, and her grandmother had died of morbid obesity. Pam was worried and scared, yet she had become resigned to being overweight herself.

However, this pre-diabetic condition shook her into action. She asked a colleague at Bon Secours Weight Loss Center for help. She wanted an outpatient program, no surgery, and whatever it would take to lose between 60 and 70 pounds. Fortunately, the hospital was gearing up for a new weight loss program, and Pam volunteered to be the first patient.

Beginning with an overall assessment, Pam worked with Phillip Snider, D.O., and agreed to an intensive, 800 calorie per day, high protein, low fat, low carb liquid diet, including vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. She completely replaced her table food with these meal substitutes and says that after 2-3 days, she felt completely full after each protein drink.

“The thing I feared, being ravished by hunger, never happened,” Pam said. “The protein drinks were very filling. And after about a month, I realized how much of our human psyche is involved in mealtime socializing,” She would often have her protein drink before her colleagues gathered for lunch or bring a protein bar, so she could munch along with her friends.

Pam was determined. In nearly six months, she lost 60 pounds, and went from a size 20 to a size 12. She’s hoping to lose another 20 pounds.

“This program is specifically for people who want to lose 40-50 pounds or more and have a BMI of 27 with at least two other health factors, like high cholesterol, acid reflux, or joint problems, or with a BMI of 30,” said Dr. Snider. It is also designed to help patients who had bariatric surgery and who gained weight back again.

In Pam’s case, she was able to see Dr. Snider once a week at the hospital. Once a class formed, she visited to give the students updates and insights on her own journey. A person of faith, Pam also believes she has been helped spiritually.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ask for God’s help. And I know now that whatever you can put your mind to, you can do it,” she said with gentle assurance.

A recent plane trip brought Pam’s weight loss into clear focus. Her suitcase weighed exactly 50 pounds. “It dawned on me: this is how much weight I have lost,” she said. “It was my ‘Aha!’ moment. I had been carrying around that much weight for years!”



Another woman in midlife, insurance coordinator Carol Bailey, faced her weight issues after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She lost energy, stopped wanting to exercise, and said she tried all the “over the counter crap” over a period of years to try to lose weight. At 5’2’, she had been as “thin as a zipper” as a young woman, but in her family, everyone was encouraged to eat, eat, eat! And after giving up smoking more than 20 years ago, she had a different shape.

Near her office off Lynnhaven Road, Carol noticed a new business opening: Beach Weight Loss, a Wellness Fitness Spa owned by Lisa Crawley. The business promotes the use of Lipo-Laser, a cold, low laser technology that refines and reshapes the body.

“I kept driving by thinking, maybe that’s a place that could help me. But once I decided and I met Lisa, I made progress,” she said. “The whole thing is really in your head.”

In a little more than a year, Carol has lost more than 20 pounds, slowly, and kept it off. She’s delighted to be wearing a size 10. Carol explained how it happened: “For two weeks, there was a very strict plan with very little food. I detoxed first: more salads, no sugar, watch the flour, smaller portions, as with any diet. Then Lisa started me with the Lipo-Laser. I agreed to it because it was non invasive; I could be there an hour, and I was losing inches. It really worked.”

Beach Weight Loss offers multiple tools to assist weight loss with a foundation of nutritional guidance. Lisa and her staff recommend—but do not require—weight- loss support products, foot detoxes, body wraps, sauna, and Lipo-Laser treatments. It’s a virtual weight loss service buffet. While some people are interested in shaping a particular area of the body, many add treatments that help speed things along.

“We see people who have reached a plateau in weight loss,” Lisa said. “Once they do a body wrap, it pulls toxins out of their body and then they can continue with losing weight.”

Now in her mid-forties, Lisa was motivated to open her business because she had a lifetime of experience with weight issues. She tried many diets, received lots of advice, and watched others lose weight. Once she opened her own center, with the help of a generous benefactor, she decided to try the Lipo-Laser herself.

“In the first month, I went from a size 18 down to a size 14,” she said, “and once I started seeing the difference, that got the whole ball rolling.”

Lisa’s desire for weight loss accompanies her wish to be fully present and capable for her children and grandchildren, to be able to move and play with them, and to live a long and productive life. She also serves as an inspiration for her staff of young women, encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyles and modeling acceptance of every client who walks through the door.



When people have weight issues that cannot be helped with diet and exercise, it may be time for medical intervention. Jennifer Pagador, M.D., was a family physician for more than 14 years, treating many patients with obesity-related illnesses. She knew that the diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis that they experienced were directly related to their weight, and yet, many patients were not able to look at the issue directly. She also lost friends and family members to obesity-related diseases.

Last summer, she opened a bariatric and family medical practice called Seriously Weight Loss in Virginia Beach. In her office, patients can receive the caring, patient counsel of the doctor, share their medical histories, get lab tests, and receive prescription medicine to help bring their weight out of the danger zone. Dr. Pagador says there may be one or several underlying medical conditions which can lead a patient to obesity.

“For example: depression. If that is the cause of obesity or a consequence of obesity, if we address that, they lose the weight,” she explained. “We consider possible causes of why they are gaining weight, for example, the thyroid, Vitamin D levels, etc.”

One of Dr. Pagador’s recent patients is 29-year-old Navy wife and mom, Tonya Eierdam. She sought treatment after her second child, born just one year after her first. Tonya was holding onto too much “baby weight.” She was exhausted and had a hard time keeping up with her busy toddlers. She had experienced success with Weight Watchers at another time in her life, but wanted to lose more than a pound or two a week. Dr. Pagador prescribed an appetite suppressant and herbal supplements for Tonya, resulting in a 30-pound weight loss in less than half a year. Though she says it took about a week to adjust to the medicine, she has learned how and when to take it for the fewest side effects.

“All my clothes are too baggy now and I feel healthier,” she said. She’s determined to follow a better eating plan after she has completed her meds. She’s already planning all the outdoor activities she and her family can enjoy once the weather turns warmer.

All these women will agree that losing weight isn’t easy. It takes years to put the pounds on, and it will take time and determination to make them disappear.

“You can’t just say to someone, ‘Go eat and go exercise and go your merry way,’” Dr. Pagador said. People who have become overweight and obese require intense counseling, and many of them may require medication for years, as they integrate a different way to be with food.

The information is all around us: diet commercials, books, quick weight loss fads, and long-lasting programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. But the secret is mostly between our ears, according to Carol Bailey and Nancy Wilcox. It’s how we think.

“I made up my mind this is how I want to live,” Carol said. “I eat what I want, but in smaller portions now. And I do it for me.”

“I was tired of dieting. That’s deprivation,” Nancy said. “You just have to focus on good nutrition, change your habits, and learn to love eating well. Be patient, and be conscious of everything that goes into your mouth. Over time you will feel and look great!”

“The alarm has been sounded about obesity and disease,” said Dr. Snider of Bon Secours. And when our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and friends speak about their journeys toward weight loss, now is the time to listen.

For more information:
• Beach Weight Loss - www.vabeachweightloss.com
• Seriously Weight Loss - www.seriouslyweightloss.com,
• Bon Secours Weigh Loss Institute - hamptonroads.bonsecours.com/our-services-weight-loss-institute.html
• Arbonne - Call Nancy Wilcox: 757-623-8015; www.nancywilcox.myarbonne.com.

Kathleen Fogarty writes regularly for Tidewater Women. She lives on a farm in Virginia Beach with her husband, John.

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