Whole-Person Approach to Health Helps Patient Lose 195 Pounds
May 30, 2024
Sutter Health
Patient before and after losing 195 pounds

SEEING HALF: Maureen Hagar is about half the size she used to be thanks to a whole-person health approach that included diet, exercise and emotional healthcare.

By Debbie Ritenour, Vitals contributor

Maureen Hagar of Citrus Heights, northeast of Sacramento, has used food as a coping mechanism for as long as she can remember. As a child, Hagar would devour candy bars in her bedroom when she was upset. As an adult, she turned to food to deal with the loss of her mother and the stress of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder.

Those unhealthy eating habits caught up with her. By the age of 65, Hagar weighed 395 pounds. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, took multiple medications to control her cholesterol and blood pressure, and had to use a walker to get around. When Sutter Medical Foundation family physician Dr. Swathi Reddy suggested she join a weekly nutrition group, Hagar decided she was ready to act.

Maureen with son Evan, left, and with physical therapist, right

Maureen Hagar with her son, Evan, during her heaviest, left, and with personal trainer Derek Conway at right after losing 195 pounds.

“I was determined not to have gastric surgery or try weight loss drugs,” Hagar says. “I knew that hard work would yield the most promising results if I wanted to get healthy.”

Joining that group turned out to be the first step in a 195-pound weight loss journey. Today, at 73 years old, Hagar is down to 200 pounds. She’s off her diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure medications, and her confidence increases every day. Sutter’s whole-person approach to care has helped Hagar address her physical, mental and emotional needs, ultimately improving not only her health, but her overall quality of life.

Identifying Choices and Triggers

Dr. Reddy is one of many Sutter providers who have supported Hagar on her journey. Others who have played a key role include Dr. Manish Upadhyay, the endocrinologist who helped her manage her diabetes; Dr. Jarrod McGahan, the urgent care physician who suggested she try an aqua aerobics class; and Kathie Peterson and Paul Rosenberg, the physical therapists who are helping her improve her mobility.

Sutter Medical Foundation registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Gina Whiteley began working one-on-one with Hagar in 2019. Hagar had lost a significant amount of weight after participating in the nutrition group and implementing many of the suggested changes, and she wanted to maintain her momentum. Whiteley encouraged her to keep a food journal and helped her identify healthy food choices. She also helped her pinpoint emotional triggers that caused her to overeat.

Physician assistant, patient and dietitian

Maureen Hagar. center, received assistance in her weight-loss journey with a host of Sutter providers, including Sutter physician assistant Hannah Guletz, left, and Sutter registered dietitian Gina Whiteley.

Hagar’s progress hasn’t been completely linear, as weight loss rarely is. At one point she lost 85 pounds, only to gain almost all of it back following two unrelated surgeries and the closure of her gym during the pandemic. Whiteley says the fact that Hagar has lost those 85 pounds again (and then some) is proof of her commitment and dedication.

“Everybody falls off, but she always gets back on,” says Whiteley, who continues to check in with Hagar every six weeks. “She’s the poster child of how you’re really in control.”

Hagar’s primary care provider, Sutter Medical Group physician assistant Hannah Guletz, sees her about every three months. She says Hagar’s increased confidence is as exciting to witness as her physical transformation.

“When I first started seeing Maureen, her husband would wheel her into the room in a wheelchair,” Guletz says. “As she started losing weight, she became much more mobile. She’d come in using a walker, and now she only uses a cane. It’s just amazing to watch.”

Moving Forward

Hagar experienced another breakthrough when she began working with Derek Conway, a certified personal trainer at a local gym. Conway not only helped her nail down a nutrition plan and develop a solid exercise routine, but also listened to and connected with her in a way that allowed her to process her emotions and begin to heal.

Maureen Hagar works out

Certified personal trainer Derek Conway assists Maureen Hagar in her exercise program. Hagar exercises at least three hours every day.

“We found a nutrition plan that worked for her, and she was checking her glucose level after every meal and taking her medications and doing all those different things that she learned from Sutter,” Conway says. “When we combined that with her fitness routine and emotional work, all of a sudden the weight just started falling off. It was unbelievable.”

Hagar currently exercises a minimum of three hours every day. That includes a combination of attending an aqua aerobics class and walking in the pool four or five times a week, doing strength and conditioning exercises with Conway three times a week, and going to physical therapy twice a week.

“Maureen shows up early and stays late,” Conway says. “She’s so driven to lose the weight. She’s always looking for more challenge. You ask her to do 20 crunches, and she does 40.”

Hagar’s goals include walking without a cane and reaching 170–180 pounds. Thanks to the support she has from her friends, family and Sutter care team, she is confident she can get there.

“You can’t give up. It’s hard, but you stick with it and you adapt,” she says. “I didn’t know I would get this far. I had no idea. But it’s been great, and I’m not giving up.”

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