What a difference a year makes: One woman’s journey to weight loss

One woman shares her weight loss journey working with the IU Health Ball Medical Weight Loss Program.

There’s a picture that says it all – a smiling Linda Johnson is wearing a life vest – her son and grandson by her side – as they prepare for a day of kayaking. There’s another picture too of her with her 87-year-old aunt cheering at a Colts game.

A year has passed since Johnson of Gaston, IN. started her journey toward weight loss.

“I had heard of other successes and I really needed something that would work for me. IU Health’s program sounded like the right fit,” said Johnson. “Obviously with my success in it, it was great for me.  I was in a good place in life, spiritually and mentally to make it happen.”

Johnson participated in the IU Health Ball Medical Weight Loss Program, which offers a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss under the supervision of a physician or nurse practitioner. “A very a very low calorie, ketogenic diet is controlled in carbohydrate leading to a breakdown in body fat to produce ketones as a source of alternative fuel,” said Mandy L. Puckett, manager of clinical nutrition & weight management systems at IU Health Ball Memorial Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss Center.

“This approach is considered a tool to promote the weight loss, while working with a team of registered dietitians, exercise specialists, and behavioral health specialists whom provide education and resources to support behavior change to sustain lost weight,” said Puckett.   

Another black and white photo is an image of Johnson before she started the program.  The fuzzy image is a reminder to Johnson of what life was like before she started her weight loss journey.

“I had a tremendous amount of pain daily from my degenerative disc disease and degenerative arthritis, primarily my knees and back. My blood pressure was high and I was on meds and suffered a lot of heart burn/GERD, and was very tired,” said Johnson. “I was limited on the type of physical activity with my family and couldn’t enjoy some of the activities and involvement I wanted to do with son and grandson.”

She calls herself a “farm girl” who lives in the country and loves to be outside. But even the daily chores were difficult to accomplish.

According to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data (BRFSS), adult obesity rates now exceed 30 percent in 29 US states and 25 percent in 48 states. In 2017, Indiana was ranked 12th. It’s estimated one in three Americans are obese (a body mass index of 30 or higher). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following health risks for persons facing obesity:  High blood pressure, Type II diabetes, coronary heat disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and some cancers.

The first step to beginning the weight loss program for Johnson was to attend a one-hour free seminar. From there a program was tailored to meet her goals. The program includes a support team to provide guidance with diet, exercise and strategies for maintaining and sustaining weight-loss goals.  Additional support was provided through groups, social media connections and community events.

In addition to feeling healthier, Johnson, who works as a case manager for the Area Five Agency on Aging and Community Services wanted to resume an active life. “I like to work on household projects, quilt, play cards and I love my family and pets. I am very dedicated to my social services work in healthcare helping other people, primarily the elderly and disabled.  It is God’s gift for me to share.”

So on July 4 when she was able to join her son and grandson for a day of kayaking – four months after she began her weight loss journey – it was a day to remember.

“That would never have happened before,” said Johnson. “I exercise some by riding my stationary bike; but, overall just try and be more active and I look forward to summer when I can be outside. I am off blood pressure medicine, off GERD medicine, and I’ve reduced nearly all Tylenol for pain and can sleep so much better. I feel great.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.