Losing Is Winning

Custom diet program reverses diabetes, sparks weight loss.

Outside of the coal mines that her father and first husband labored in, not much remains of the unincorporated community of Sharples, West Virginia that Charlotte Durkee called home for the first 32 years of her life.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Charlotte Durkee

The junior and senior high school she attended are gone and so are most of the homes that once dotted the area, all of them swallowed up by the expansion plans of the coal companies that came in, bought up the land and sparked the exodus.

Charlotte was among the first to leave, departing nearly 40 years ago and moving to Florida, where she eventually remarried and worked as a grief counselor before settling into retirement with her second husband on the couple’s 3,000-acre estate.

“Now, I’m seventy years old, and I have two grown daughters, three grown stepchildren and I’m a grandmother and a great-grandmother,” says Charlotte, who has just one complaint about the life she’s built since moving to the Sunshine State.

“When I married my second husband twenty years ago, I weighed one hundred seventy-five pounds,” Charlotte relates. “Since then, I’ve put on a considerable amount of weight. I didn’t realize how much until just recently, when I found out I weighed two hundred eighty-eight pounds.”

Charlotte believes a lack of proper exercise has contributed to her weight gain. Though she is a member of the SilverSneakers® Medicare fitness program, she’s limited in what she can do because of knee problems that require her to use a walker.

“I’ve had two knee surgeries because the first one didn’t work,” Charlotte explains. “So, I’ve been trying to do some other things to lose weight, but I knew I needed help with it. Then one day I saw this article in the newspaper, Florida Health Care News.

“The article was about a man who once weighed almost six hundred pounds and lost a lot of weight after he started to see a doctor who had a special diet plan. After reading that, I thought to myself, If this can work for him, it can work for me.”

Encouraged by what she read in the Florida Health Care News article, Charlotte made an appointment to visit the doctor who was featured – Eihab H. Tawfik, MD, of West Florida Internal Medicine & Multi-Specialty Group.

Been There, Done That

Dr. Tawfik is a board-eligible internist who, based on his own experience with excess weight, developed a weight-loss program that uses a combination of diet, exercise and proper doses of appetite suppressants and vitamin injections to control metabolism.

“During medical school and my residency, I found it very difficult to lose weight,” Dr. Tawfik recalls. “I was overweight, and once I started practicing, I realized the importance of controlling what I was eating and the size of the portions as well.

“I’m not eating as much as I used to, and I have a lot more energy. I also have a better outlook on life . . .” – Charlotte

“I also realized that a patient should not come to a weight-loss center and see a doctor who is overweight himself. So, I did something about my weight because I want to be an example to all the patients I serve.”

Dr. Tawfik’s program calls for patients to spend the first five days eating a very lean protein-based diet. That is followed by another five-day stretch in which the patient eats a higher-calorie-protein diet.

“Patients typically lose up to ten pounds that first week, with an average weight loss after four weeks ranging between twenty and thirty pounds,” Dr. Tawfik says. “In addition to the weight loss, this program changes our patients’ eating habits, which supports the development of a longer, healthier life.”

Shift into Reverse

Prior to placing a patient on his program, Dr. Tawfik always meets with the patient and reviews their medical and dietary histories. He measures their weight, body fat index and performs an EKG to help develop a diet tailored specifically to each patient’s needs.

In Charlotte’s case, Dr. Tawfik’s interview and examination revealed that Charlotte had Type 2 diabetes. When treating patients with Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Tawfik typically seeks to “reverse” the diabetes first.

“By reversing the Type 2 diabetes, I can actually help the patient lose weight,” Dr. Tawfik says. “That is done by using a series of medications to reverse the diabetes, and most patients lose their first twelve to fifteen pounds through the diabetes medication alone.”

To reverse the diabetes, Dr. Tawfik prescribes a combination of Victoza® and metformin. Both drugs reduce the production of sugar in the liver, but Victoza also increases insulin in the pancreas, while metformin increases the sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin.

“This combination helps a patient with Type 2 diabetes lose weight because it decreases the amount of glucose produced by the liver,” Dr. Tawfik educates. “The Victoza also helps to keep food in the stomach longer so the patient feels full most of the day.

“I use two other medications as well, INVOKANA® and FARXIGA®, that work directly on the kidneys by blocking the tubules that absorb glucose into the blood. When you have all these working together, the patient naturally ends up with less glucose and more insulin.”

The combination certainly worked for Charlotte. When she first visited Dr. Tawfik, she was taking more than 300 units of insulin per day, the doctor says. By taking the combination of Victoza, metformin and INVOKANA, she soon reduced that to 20 units per day.

Charlotte is now off the insulin completely and has moved into the traditional weight-loss phase of the program that also includes daily injections of the hormone HCG, which is believed to boost metabolism and decrease appetite.

Charlotte lost about 15 pounds while Dr. Tawfik worked to reverse her diabetes. Her goal is to lose at least another 150 pounds over the next six months to a year. She’s confident that by sticking to Dr. Tawfik’s program, she’ll meet that goal.

“I haven’t been on the program for long, but I can tell you I’m not eating as much as I used to, and I have a lot more energy,” she says. “I also have a better outlook on life, so I really think this program is going to work for me and help me.

“I’m very happy with it, and so is my primary care doctor. She thinks it’s a great program, and it’s working because I’m not hungry all the time anymore, and I don’t have the craving for sweets and potatoes that I used to have.
“I’m impressed with the program, and I really like Dr. Tawfik. I recommend them both.”

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