Photo courtesy of Steve Margita
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Barry Beni needs to lose weight before undergoing knee surgeries. Doris Weaver wants to lose weight just because.

Both are heading in the right direction thanks to Why Weight, a weight loss program offered by Weight Management Services of the Indiana Regional Medical Center through the S&T Wellness Center.

Beni tipped the scales at 388 and has lost 40 pounds since January. Doctors want him between 250 and 300 before his knees can be replaced.

“It’s hard for me to exercise because I have to be sitting because there’s so much pain in my knees,” Beni says.

Fortunately, weight lifting and exercise machines that allow users to sit are accessible at the Wellness Center.

Beni’s knees went bad several years ago because he carried too much weight. He retired early because he couldn’t climb into the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation vehicles he drove.

The Wellness Center has been a blessing, he says, because it offers a place for him to exercise where he feels comfortable and he can receive professional input from dietitian Lori Smith.

“It was great working with Barry because he came in and was very motivated to lose weight,” says Smith, who instituted a low-calorie plan and focused on meal replacement items that could be found at the local grocery store. “We completely changed his eating habits.”

The $350 fee for Why Weight covers a six-week program that includes three one-hour sessions with a dietitian, meetings with an exercise physiologist and membership to the wellness center.

Beni’s weight loss lowered his A1C from 6.7 to 5.4. He is now pre-diabetic and no longer needs medication. Beni says his wife, Christine, has been supportive and her A1C has also dropped.

“I’m very proud of him,” she says. “This is the only program that worked for him. We’ve had to learn to say, ‘That’s it, this is our portion.’ You have to help each other out.”

Why Weight has changed Weaver’s life, too. She’s gone from 225 pounds to 170 in six months.

“I feel great,” she says. “I’m walking two to three miles a day. This all started with meal replacement, eating right.”

For Weaver, breakfast typically consists of two slices of toast and a hardboiled egg. Lunch is a protein drink. Dinner? She’s like Elvis, craving her peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches.

“They tell me it’s healthy,” she says. “I throw in yogurt, a cheese stick or almonds on the side. I had both hips replaced in the last three years and wasn’t walking much,” Weaver says. “I had got back to walking, and with the weight-loss program came the gym membership, so I was able to hit the gym three or four times a week. My husband, Perry, went with. We both benefited.”

Last Christmas, Perry gave her gift cards for new clothing with the condition that she lose weight. She’s now happily using the cards.

Weaver, who is a secretary for the Indiana County Head Start, says folks at the Wellness Center are supportive and notes that Lori Smith has been a great resource.

“We’d meet with her once a week for six weeks and go over the list,” Weaver says. “I’d recommend the program. It’s a little pricey, but you have to be dedicated to it.”

Smith says Weaver continues to lose.

“I modified her eating habits and have her exercising more,” she says. “She was at our Wellness Center on a regular basis. She’s outside walking more in the summer. She is very focused.”

“Food is everywhere and our work schedules sometimes make it hard to have time for exercise. We fall into bad habits. It’s about undoing and learning.”

This article originally ran on communityhealthmagazine.com.