On the path to wellness

By Phyllis Steinberg

My journey to wellness actually began six months before my wellness vacation. My husband and I went on the “Rice Diet” which began at Duke University in Durham, NC and we both lost 20 pounds in less than a month.

The diet was discovered in 1939 by a German-born Duke University physician, Dr. Walter Kempner, who was treating a woman for high blood pressure, renal disease and a gamut of other medical problems. The physician learned that his diet not only caused her medical condition to improve, but she also lost weight!

We followed the diet from an out-of-print book that was written by one of Dr. Kempner’s patients in 1986 and decided to travel to Durham to visit weight reduction programs in search of a successful approach to diet and wellness in the 21st century.

During our visit to Durham, we learned that health care is Durham’s primary industry with 300 companies related to diet and medicine. Thousands of people travel to Durham each year from around the world to participate in a diet program.

In fact, our hotel, The Millennium, offered a free shuttle service and made stops at the various diet and medical facilities.

We visited three diet facilities in Durham, all equipped with important health, diet and wellness information. We started our path to wellness at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center where the “Rice Diet” originated.

The Duke facility is designed to provide an intensive educational experience which emphasizes key components of successful lifestyle change through nutrition, fitness, behavioral health, medical management and lifestyle coaching. They still use many of the principles of the rice diet program but have expanded their menus to appeal to a larger group of overeaters.

We had a tasty low-calorie lunch in the lunchroom with the group of participants in the program, but were asked not to talk to them.

The facility has a variety of classes, a state-of-the-art fitness facility and an indoor swimming pool with pool exercises being conducted as we toured. The Duke Diet & Fitness facility was once a YMCA and has ample room for the program and can work with the Duke University Medical Center to treat people with various health problems.

The Duke program has no lodging facilities but participants can stay at a motel across the street from the program. The Duke Diet Center is not luxurious, but for those interested in learning more about weight loss diet, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, from professionals in the field, it has the credentials to lead those with obesity problems on the path of wellness.

Our next stop was the “Structure House,” located on a 21-acre wooded campus. The facility provides a comprehensive, multi-component, residential weight-loss program that strives to help patients break the patterns that prevent them from overcoming obesity by teaching them the techniques that will allow them to make healthy food choices.

There are dieticians on staff, lectures, a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and apartments where patients and their families can stay as they begin to shed excess pounds. The diet is based on caloric content and learning to make wise food choices.

The Structure House was founded in 1977 by Dr. Gerald J. Musante, a clinical psychologist, who began his career working with overweight patients in a hospital-based program. He observed that patients who lost weight while in the structured medical environment regained it when they returned home to their unstructured home life.

“Overeating is caused by more than appetite alone. A person’s relationship with food is like other relationships. Some people have a good relationship with food. Some have a dysfunctional relationship with it and some have a crazy relationship with it,” Musante said. At Structure House we were encouraged to talk to patients and met someone who had successfully lost 50 pounds and kept it off, but was returning for a refresher course, to play a little golf and also eat healthy meals at the facility.

We saved the “Rice House” for last because that was the program where we had successfully lost our weight and wanted to learn more about the diet.
Dr. Robert Rosati and his wife, Kitty Gurkin Rosati, are in charge of the program. Dr. Rosati is associate professor emeritus of medicine at Duke University and board certified in cardiology and internal medicine. Kitty Rosati is a registered dietitian who specializes in the prevention and reversal of obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases, and formerly was the Nutrition Director of the Rice Diet Program at Duke University.

The Rice House is located in a home in a wooded area surrounded by trees. It is not luxurious in décor, but functional for the purpose of learning more about diet and disease.

The dining room has an assortment of tables of various sizes. Participants in the program write down their choices for meals from a selection on a chalk board and servers bring the food to them.

No, the rice diet is not just rice but consists of mainly vegetables, fruit and rice or pasta. The Rice Diet strictly limits salt and sodium-rich ingredients. We were free to talk to the patients, who were happily losing weight on the program as well as learning lifetime lessons on how to shed pounds and avoid diseases caused by obesity. In group therapy sessions, we heard their stories.

We found the staff to be top notch, from the dieticians and psychologists, to the yoga instructors. The Rice House is a place where people come and literally change their lives as they lose weight.

We asked a lot of questions about diet and disease at the Rice House and feel confident that we can make the necessary lifestyle changes to keep off the pounds that we lost on the diet.

Kitty and Dr. Robert Rosati have written a new book about the diet. It is called “The Rice Diet Solution,” The World-Famous Low-Sodium, Good-Carb, Detox Diet,” published in January, 2006 by Simon & Schuster. Kitty Rosati is also the author of “Heal Your Heart.”

All three of the diet programs in Durham offer sessions of varying lengths from a week to several months. Usually the first week is higher and the price gets lower with longer programs.

Although, the diets differ between the three weight loss centers, the theme of each of them is the same. That theme is to make a lifestyle change in our eating habits. We learned that if we eat the way we did before we went on the diet, we would eventually gain all the weight back. What my husband and I are prepared to do is to make lifestyle changes and incorporate healthy food choices in our lives with the knowledge we acquired in Durham.

For more information about Durham diet facilities and prices, check the numbers and websites below:
Duke Diet and Fitness Center, 1-800-235-3853, Structure House, 1-800-553-0052, Rice House, 919-383-7276, ext. 2

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