The Panakos Program

How a doctor concerned about his patients' weight problems, as well as his own, helped one man lose 135 pounds.

In August 2011, Jeb Ball went to see Dr. Constantine Panakos at the McFarland Clinic in Jefferson, complaining about plugged ears and a cough that wouldn't go away.

Panakos and Ball

Dr. Constantine Panakos (left) helped
Jeb Ball drop more than 130 pounds.

The results of other basic measures of well-being were troubling: Ball's blood pressure was 180/110, and his weight was 375 pounds. Panakos asked Ball if he was ready to do something about his weight.

"I always knew I was overweight, but I started that day," says Ball.

What Ball started was a life-changing, three-phase eating and exercise plan developed by Panakos. Over the years, the family practitioner had seen patients with a collection of conditions—high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, to name just a few—and obesity, says Panakos, is the
number one cause of those conditions.

Panakos also has a personal connection to the struggles people experience with weight.

"Just about everyone in my family—including me—has struggled with weight," he says. "Last year, I was getting close to 40, my knees and back hurt, and I had blood pressure issues. So I started researching weight loss for myself and my patients to find something that was simple, that worked, and that didn't cost a lot."

A Phased Approach

Panakos dove into the research. What he found was that sugars, carbohydrates and processed foods can make it difficult to lose weight, but there are other foods that can help control hunger and increase metabolism. He doesn't take credit for inventing anything new, but, like a cook personalizing an existing recipe, he's tweaked what other physicians have done and made it his own. He assembled a couple of different handouts describing his plan and displayed them in his office to figure out what would connect with patients.

"People like the simplicity of it," says Panakos. "If they see a 300-page
book, they get overwhelmed. We've made it easy to understand.

The Panakos plan is broken into three phases.

Phase 1, called rapid loss, lasts for three to seven days. It restricts sugar and increases water. Allowed foods include certain kinds of meat and nuts, no- or low-fat dairy, eggs, oat bran and fiber, among others. Walking each day is also recommended.

Phase 2 includes alternating days of food from Phase 1 with a day that includes proteins and certain vegetables. The final phase, stabilization, allows patients to add fruit, high-fiber cereals, beans and whole grain breads back into their diet in limited quantities. There are also celebration meals and "days off."

Panakos believes the plan is different because it includes a mental aspect that enables people to stick with the diet. "This gets rid of the guilt and shame. If you have a bad day, you start again," says Panakos.

"No one is perfect, so we give people the tools to face those things."

Success Stories

For Panakos, the plan has worked. He has stuck with the diet for a year, losing 30 pounds and lowering his cholesterol. And the curiosity about it has increased to the point that he's now doing group presentations and has created a Facebook page where people offer tips, recipes and support.

Ball has been on the program nine months and has lost 135 pounds. He's moved from 5X to XL shirts and from 40-inch to 34-inch waist jeans. His wife, Diane Conroy, has lost 77 pounds, and has gotten creative with cooking within the guidelines. "In the beginning, it was a little bit hard, getting used to eating differently," says Ball. "But once you get to
that point, you don't crave all that extra stuff, and I like that you don't
have to count calories."

The triumphs keep Panakos motivated to continue to give talks and to encourage the community. "I enjoy getting people off medicine, and
I love the success stories. I just recently had a patient come in who had
been struggling with her weight, diabetes and blood pressure, and within
two months we normalized her numbers," he says. "I hear people say, 'I've been big all my life, and I'm finally at a weight I feel comfortable with.' I will keep doing this until people stop wanting to hear it."

For more information, go to the Panakos Weight Loss Program Facebook page.