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March 19, 2004
Vol. 28, No. 13

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Obesity program shrinks people, expands in state


Weight Control Research Project spreading to central Kansas


By Dan Lara


For more than 18 years, KU exercise and weight management researcher Joe Donnelly has guided a successful program to help the overweight combat obesity, America’s second leading cause of preventable death.


Donnelly’s program, called the Weight Control Research Project, not only has assisted hundreds of individuals since 1985 to lose weight, but it also has provided valuable data for Donnelly’s efforts to research obesity and weight management. The program has three clinics in the Kansas City metro area and one in Lawrence.


Donnelly, director of KU’s Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management, recently announced that the successful program would expand into central Kansas within a year, starting with Hays and Salina.


“We are excited to bring this program to western Kansas,” Donnelly said. “Obesity is the great disease of the 21st century. It will kill more people than any other chronic disease, but it is preventable and treatable through alterations in diet and physical activity.”


The program has proved so popular that there is a waiting list of more than 300 people, Donnelly said. KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway was part of the program last year when he lost 55 pounds.


To be accepted, participants must be overweight but otherwise in good health. The program lasts a year, and the goal is to get participants to lose 20 percent of their body weight.


During the first phase of the program, which lasts 12 weeks, participants are put on a strict liquid diet that Donnelly calls “a very aggressive liquid protocol.” The liquid comes in the form of a specially formulated shake with 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of minerals and vitamins. The shakes are milk- or soy-based and come in chocolate or vanilla flavors.


Each shake is 104 calories, and participants drink five per day. During this phase, each participant is medically monitored to make sure his or her heart, blood pressure and body chemistry are normal.


In addition to the diet, exercise is a major component of the program. Participants must exercise 300 minutes a week (or burn 2,000 calories).


“In this field of study, it’s really about energy expenditure,” Donnelly said. “We want participants to walk, jog and be active.”


During the second phase of the program, which lasts 40 weeks, Donnelly teaches participants to maintain their new weight. The focus shifts to making lifestyle changes.


The program carries a fee of $1,500.


“That may seem expensive, but most comparable commercial weight loss programs cost between $4,500 and $5,000,” Donnelly said.


In 2000, Donnelly attempted to contact 500 people who were participants in the early years of the program. Donnelly reached 138 and found that 38 percent were within 10 pounds of their lowest weight achieved while in the program.


Anyone interested in learning more about the Weight Control Research Project may call 864-0782 in Lawrence or (913) 588-9422 in Kansas City.

   
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