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Village on a Diet - Boundary style
by Mona Mattei on 10 Jul 2011
A revolutionary new diet program that may well change the way Canada looks at their eating habits has helped Midway, B.C. shed over 665 pounds.
Many have seen or heard about the CBC show, Village on a Diet, where fitness gurus, medical doctors, psychologists, dieticians, and chefs team up to help the village of Taylor, B.C. lose weight.
Well, 34 people in the Village of Midway, supported by public health nurse Julie Damore, her husband James Graham, and local doctors, are on a different kind of weight loss program that isn’t in the spotlight – yet.
For Damore, the journey started as a personal goal to shed pounds. Frustrated with typical diet and exercise programs, Damore heard about Dr. Stephan Du Toit’s success helping over 100 people in Valemount, B.C. lose weight.
“In February I was feeling severely unhappy with my own self. I had been to see Dr. Ooi (her family doctor), and he put me on a scale and at that point I was 188 and I thought I would die!” explained Damore. “Within a day or two, we were watching The National and he was showing the progress of Village on a Diet, the people in Taylor exercising with personal trainers and cutting calories. He also profiled what was going on in Valemount. Then they interviewed Dr. Du Toit. For me something clicked on and went that’s what I’m doing."
Damore called around the next day until she could find the clinic. "I said, ‘How do I get into this program? I’m from Midway and I’ll drive to Tuktoyaktuk, I don’t care, tell me please can I be a part of this.’”
Damore started by driving up to see Du Toit, and then following the diet with support from her doctor, Dr. Ooi. After seeing her success on the program, Dr. Ooi of the Midway Medical Clinic, asked her to share with the community.
Since Damore and her husband volunteered to help a group in Midway, 53 people started on Du Toit’s eating program. The eating plan is focused on a low-glycemic, low-fat model that Du Toit used to lose weight himself several years ago. Meals are mainly low-carbohydrate foods including proteins, vegetables, and some fruits. Everyone in the program is being supervised by their family doctor as a part of the requirements to participate.
“The unexpected spin-off benefits are starting to happen here – people are getting of their medications, that they were told they were on for life,” Damore explained. “My friend is off her lipitor (cholesterol medication) – she was told she would never get off her lipitor. She’s lost 30 pounds and is off the meds. Some people are getting off their insulin. They’re changing they way they feed their body, they’re changing their weight – if you have less weight you need less medication.”
Since the program started in early May, 34 people, a mix of men and women, can lay claim to losing 665 pounds – no small feat in itself.
The Midway group meets each week either on Wednesday or Friday to weigh in and share their struggles and successes. In listening to the group, it quickly becomes clear that this program is helping not only shed weight, but change people’s lives. Many of the participants are seniors and have been on medication for different problems from high blood pressure to asthma who have had to lower their prescriptions as they lose weight. For everyone the group meetings for support are as important to their success as the eating controls.
“I’ve been really good sticking to the diet because I’m not hungry, I’m never hungry,” shared Grace Hart in Midway who has lost over 30 pounds on the program. “I find a lot of my battles, if anything, are psychological. That I’ve got to work through having a cup of coffee without having something to eat, a snack. I’m still working on trying to have ham because I can’t have it without peas! It’s the psychological thing for me to get through all of these.”
Once the weight is gone, the key challenge for the group is not to change their eating patterns. Not many of the Midway group have reached their goal weight and started on a maintenance program that is in the works by Du Toit, but when they do heavy starches are not in the picture. Du Toit also recommends not exercising during the weight loss period as it encourages appetite and the desire to eat. But once at your goal weight, healthy exercise is important.
Du Toit’s program has received national coverage with CBC and other media, and has attracted the attention of Dr. Jay Wortman. Wortman is a Metis physician from Alberta. For the past ten years, Dr. Wortman has served in senior management positions in the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada where he is currently the Senior Medical Advisor.
Wortman recently completed a two-year research interchange at the UBC Faculty of Medicine where he studied the role of traditional diet in the prevention and treatment of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in First Nations. He was recently featured in the documentary My Big Fat Diet where he worked with the First Nations village of Alert Bay to address obesity and diabetes levels that were five times the national average.
Wortman visited Midway on Tuesday Jul. 5, along with Dr. Du Toit, to talk with their group on a tour of Du Toit’s diet program sites. On his blog, Dr. Jay’s Blog, he talked about his trip:
“I have just returned from a visit to two small towns in southern British Columbia, Midway and Grand Forks. Firstly, I have to say that this is a beautiful part of the country and is well worth a visit just for the surroundings. However, my time there was not for tourism but related to, what else, diet. Something interesting is happening.
“You will recall that I was recently in Valemount, B.C. where Dr Stefan Du Toit has been running a highly successful diet program for the local population. Although the diet he is using is more restrictive than what I would recommend in terms of calories and fat, and although it is not as low in carbs, his dieters routinely achieve significant weight loss and usually correct their metabolic problems while getting off their meds.
“I recall one gentlemen telling me he is saving $500 per month on meds. Another woman showed me her before photos and told me she had lost half her body weight. One of the most remarkable aspects of Dr. Du Toit’s approach is that he gets very high rates of compliance on a diet that I think is not that easy to follow…..I will continue to study Dr. Du Toit’s diet and perhaps we will eventually publish something. If he has solved the problem of what a physician in a general practice setting can do about reversing obesity, he will have done everyone a huge service.”
Wortman asked the Midway group to provide their statistical information to him to help change the way the country changes the way it looks at eating – perhaps even the Canada food guide – along with stats from the villages of Valemount and McBride.
Dr. Du Toit seems to be able to succeed where other programs have failed for many physicians. Damore continues to maintain contact with him to guide her in the support of the Midway groups.
The success of the program has also caught the eye of Interior Health Authority, where Damore works. Her support of the groups is now a part of her regular job in the capacity of community outreach and preventative support and her department head is watching closely to see if they can use the diet in other communities.
Du Toit said that he doesn’t want to see his program commercially available, but would rather see it become a routine part of training for doctors and nurses so they can monitor patients on the diet.
In the meantime, Midway continues to lose weight – without the browbeating seen on CBC’s version of dieting.
“We are making history here, I’m not fooling around. It is the absolute truth. We are part of something that’s going to change the way people diet. It’s very exciting,” Damore added.
Grand Forks - are you interested in starting a group? Contact the Sentinel at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see what we can start!