by Jill Ragar Esfeld
TOPEKA — Weight loss after a pandemic is no joke.
But that doesn’t keep Stephanie Sisk, a parishioner of Christ the King Parish in Topeka, and her partner Dr. Karli Alderson from taking a light approach to their new program: Prevail Weight Loss.
They even thought of a slogan. “Fifteen weeks to smaller cheeks!” said Sisk with a laugh.
After many years working in the field of weight-loss management, the two know how tough people find this topic.
“So many people act like weight loss is torture,” said Sisk. “We want to take that away.
“You don’t have to be miserable to lose weight.”
Their light attitude is coupled with a real passion for helping people.
“I want to give people peace, that’s really why I’m doing this,” said Sisk, a nurse practitioner who is a certified specialist in obesity and weight management. She is also the program manager of Stormont Vail Hospital’s Weight Management Center in Topeka.
“People are here for a purpose,” she said. “They’re beautiful and God loves them, and he wants them to love themselves so they can do what he created them to do.”
Alderson agreed. A primary care physician board-certified in family medicine and obesity medicine, she knows from years in practice that patients rarely cry — unless they’re talking about their weight.
“You would be shocked at how many people tear up in an appointment,” she said. “Weight is so sensitive.”
“We as a society tell people that being overweight is their fault,” she continued, “and it’s not. Weight is a metabolic and hormonal issue. And while there are things you can do to improve your health and your weight, it’s not your fault.”
Oddly enough, the pandemic that turned the health care system on its ear actually inspired these two providers to create their program.
“You see,” said Sisk, “God really can bring good out of a bad situation.”
When Covid-19 reached pandemic status, Stormont Vail entered the world of virtual health care.
“The Weight Management Center became 100 percent telehealth,” said Sisk. “That was completely new to us.”
Once they were comfortable seeing patients virtually, Sisk and Alderson realized it could open the door to helping people outside their geographical boundaries.
“So many people don’t have access to someone who specializes in weight loss,” said Sisk. “They’re dependent on going to the internet, going on fad diets or the same old programs they’ve done before.
“We wanted to provide to people, no matter where they live, the information you would get at a weight management center with an obesity specialist.”
“Telehealth made us see this possibility,” added Alderson. “You don’t have to be in person to change someone’s trajectory.
“We wanted to reach western Kansas,” she continued, “where there is limited access to obesity specialists.”
Add to that the fact that, as the pandemic continued, they knew from their practice that the struggle to maintain a healthy weight had escalated.
“So many people last summer were like, ‘I’m not getting in a bikini in front of anybody so I’m going to enjoy a few more calories,’” said Sisk.
Those few more calories turned into the notorious “COVID-15” — the 15 pounds the average American gained over the pandemic. And people began searching online for quick fixes.
“Now we’re playing catch-up because we realize the world is not ending,” said Sisk. “We’re surviving this!”
“People are grasping at anything that will give them quick results, which the internet is happy to provide,” she added. “And in six months, they’re going to end up right back where they started.”
That’s a scenario these specialists want to stop. And they believe the key is education.
No magic pills
Sisk and Alderson have been on the frontline of the battle against weight for many years.
“This is all we do,” said Sisk. “We know it inside and out. We know what works and we know what doesn’t work.”
They looked at what strategies were most effective in giving their patients sustained weight loss and discovered three key components for success.
Then they designed the Prevail program around them.
“This no gimmick,” said Alderson. “It’s reality — what we’ve seen in our clinic where we’ve had success.”
Sisk and Alderson don’t pull punches. They admit weight loss takes commitment, hard work and changes in behavior. But they also know what they recommend works.
“We’ve laid it out in a short, simple and entertaining way,” said Alderson. “So, participants can be successful within 15 weeks.”
The program is online and video- based with a workbook participants receive in the mail.
“The passion behind this is to provide clarity,” said Sisk. “It’s so sad that people are confused on what the heck to do because there is so much information out there.
“They deserve to know what works and what doesn’t so they can’t be tricked.”
Throughout the program, participants can join in the Prevail Community online to interact with Sisk, Alderson and other participants.
“I think a lot of people with weight issues feel isolated, even though they know multiple people are struggling with it,” said Alderson. “It’s a very individual, lonely disease.
“And even your doctors or your friends or your family don’t understand. They think it’s a willpower thing. We wanted a place where people could go on their own, but still feel connected.”
The program is currently finishing its trial stage and thus far the results have been outstanding.
Participants are on track to lose their COVID-15.
Sisk, whose confirmation saint is Rose Philippine Duchesne, feels like she has found her purpose.
“St. Rose was a teacher,” she said. “So, I thought that’s what I would be. But I was called to nursing.
“Now, I guess I’m doing both.”
Alderson feels the same.
“Helping people feel better and be healthier is part of why I was born,” she said. “And I’m very passionate about it.
“We’re excited for people who are going to start Prevail because it’s opening a new chapter in their lives, and it’s [going] to be fun.”