Over 70 people were in attendance Thursday night at Jefferson County Parks and Rec to learn how to take charge of their health and lose weight.
The event organizer, Melanie Miller, has been sharing her success story on social media since August. Miller had suffered a fall in 2012, severely breaking her leg and ankle. After surgeries, inactivity, and loss of mobility, she subsequently turned to food to find comfort and self-medication. Miller says that her consumption of sweets and comfort foods made her tired, but seemed to take away the pain, however, her weight steadily climbed to the highest it had ever been.
In late July of this year, Miller was invited to a health care meeting where she heard Dr. Mark Cucuzzella speak about the negative effects of sugars in the body, and if eliminated, better health and weight loss would result.
Armed with information, Miller began her low-carb lifestyle and has since lost nearly 40 pounds, and five dress sizes.
Several others gave testimonies as well, including Jewel Green, wife of NFL Hall of Famer, Darrell Green. Mrs. Green said that she has lost 13 pounds and 8.2 inches in five weeks, and her cravings for carbs and sweets are gone.
Terry Caswell, one of the hosts for the event, shared his story of being in the hospital on April 30 of this year. He was very overweight had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His A1C (test that measures the levels of glucose in the blood) number was 9.7, well above the normal range of 5.7 for a non-diabetic person. Caswell's blood sugars were elevated to 240 (the normal range is typically 100-140). He admits to thinking that maybe the best years of his life were gone.
Caswell received multiple visits in the hospital by Dr. Cucuzzella, who shared with him the benefits of changing his diet to eliminate most carbs. Since that time, Caswell has lost 47 pounds, his A1C numbers have dropped to 6.6, and he no longer has to take medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
The low-carb lifestyle that was made popular with the Atkins diet, is not without controversy. Robert Atkins' book has been a staple in some diet circles for the past 40 years, touting protein and fat consumption, along with non-starchy vegetables, will help a person lose weight and have better health. Other studies that most of us have heard all our lives insist that heavy meats and fats will lead to heart disease.
Dr. Cucuzzella was in attendance as one of the event hosts. Cucuzzella shared his own journey of research, reading dozens of books and thousands of articles about obesity, weight loss, and nutrition.
His findings contradicted what most of us have always been taught about the food pyramid, whole grains, and higher carbohydrate diets, and even exercise in the context of weight loss.
Cucuzzella is working to dispel the notion that if a person is overweight, they're most-likely lazy and don't exercise enough, when in reality, it's a different matter entirely.
Cucuzzella collaborated with leading sports science doctor, Tim Noakes, and another colleague, Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard. Together, they have determined that insulin resistance is a common medical condition, and is present in a majority of the world's populations. In fact, research indicates the over half of the United States has diabetes or pre-diabetes, and this leads to weight gain, particularly in the mid section of the body. Obesity is a disorder of abnormal fat accumulation driven by the consumption of carbohydrates by people whose bodies can't process those carbs properly.
Reversal of these conditions requires the consumption of real foods that do not cause insulin levels to rise, according to Cucuzzella.
"If you eat carbs, you burn carbs. If you eat fat you burn fat," stated Cucuzzella, "and this diet is free."
The most recent data, as of Sept 2015, says that West Virginia has the second highest obesity rate in the nation, only trailing Arkansas by a small margin.
The goal of Miller, Caswell, and Cucuzzella is to bring a lifestyle "revolution" to Jefferson County, and the rest of WV one person, one success story at at time.
Miller and Cucuzzella plan to have monthly support meetings for those adopting a low-carb lifestyle.
More information and resources can be found in the book, The New Atkins for the New You, by Dr. Eric Westman, or on Melanie's Weight Loss Journey page on Facebook.