NEW ORLEANS -- One woman's life changed when she lost weight. Her doctors say it was life-changing for her health as well.

But after a lifetime of trying every diet plan, exercise program and supplement, she says a medically proven program worked for her. And what got her there was insurance paid for the program.

It's hard to imagine that Christine Watkins grew up overweight. But she changed her life through knowledge and commitment to programs that worked and took it all the way to winning in fitness and body building competitions.

'I've done it my whole adult life and even as a teenager. It's pretty much been a passion of mine. I struggle with my weight myself, so it's obviously one of those things where I want to help people if I can,' said Christine Watkins, President and Founder of MetabolicRx Therapy.

And now she's doing just that in a new phase of her life. From her home in Newport Beach, California, she created a program where people can lose weight and get in shape, and insurance pays for it.

'MetabolicRx Therapy is really designed specifically for individuals who are struggling with diseases such as diabetes or diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, hypertension. It's really exercise, diet, and physical therapy,' she explained.

The MetabolicRx Therapy Program is now run out of 54 different physical therapy centers in 17 states, and is just opening in Slidell and Harvey. Gwen Brooks, 63, uses the program in Houston and in nine months is down 75 pounds.

'I have been in and out of programs since I was 13 years old. I have tried every diet in the book. I have tried every supplement in the book. I have tried every kind of exercise program in the book. And I probably gained over 1000 pounds,' said Brooks who works as a mammographer and Ultrasound technician in Houston.

But she says MetabolicRx Therapy was different with its team approach designed specifically for her age and medical needs.

You are referred by your doctor because you have a medical condition which requires physical therapy. Most overweight people already have some sort of pain, or diabetes that needs treatment. A team of wellness coaches works with you on a program designed by a team of nationally renown experts. There are personal trainers, registered dietitians, endocrinologists and even psychologists to help with behavior change.

Gwen remembers being discouraged when her weight hit a plateau.

'One thing she told me, that kind of surprised me, but it works, she said, 'Play Beethoven's Fifth,'' Brooks said, laughing. 'She said that that's proven to help you when you're feeling like you need the little boost on you diet plan. But she also talked to me about 'Why do you feel like a failure here? You've lost this much weight.''

The program involves complete medical and physical evaluations to make sure you are losing fat, but gaining lean, strong, functional muscle. It's an environment where beginners feel comfortable and where experts can fix any aches and pains before they get serious.

'Some people go into a gym they feel intimidated. You got guys waking around in muscle shirts, girls with their six-pack abs and stuff. I'd turn right around and leave. And it can be loud and noisy or they are going up to a machine and they are not sure how to use it,' said Bill Owen, Jr., who is a MetabolicRx Licensed Physical Therapist in Houston.

'Most of the diagnoses that come are people that are going to have muscular skeletal problems, shoulder pain, neck, back pain, hip pain, knee pain,' explained Maria Adams, a physical therapist who owns Professional Therapy Services in Harvey, the business where the new MetabolicRx Therapy Program is located.

There's a computer program where you can keep a food diary that does all the calculations for you.

'Everyday I can look at my little graph and I know where I am and I know how, and I know how many calories I've ingested, and I know how much fat I've ingested, and I know how much carbs I've ingested. So if I'm off, I know why,' said Brooks.

Local doctors say obesity is a complex disease, and that's why the team approach works.

'I think it's exactly what the doctor ordered. It's every literature that you read on the subject says that you need a multidisciplinary team and that the procedures and processes need to be based on scientific evidence. So it's evidenced based approaches and it needs to be individualized and tailored and that the client needs to have support from a team of experts,' explained Dr. Melinda Sothern a professor and clinical exercise physiologist at the LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health.

'It appears to be a well thought out, medically recommended program of diet and exercise and I've been recommending that for many years. And I think sometimes people need motivation because you go to your doctor and he says, 'Listen, you need to diet and exercise.' Well most typical doctors will just say you need to start dieting and exercise and that's it and you don't really get a regimen,' said Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc the head of the Department of Family Medicine and expert in nutrition, exercise and sports medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.

'I think this is one of the really valuable and brilliant additions to the program is incorporating a life coach or wellness coach, somebody who can really help people keep on track. You know, most people know what they are supposed to do. It's really hard to be on your best behavior over the long term. Sometimes that means you need to pay people.' said Dr. Henri Roca, in the department of Family-Integrative Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.

There are people in the program who stay with it and pay out of pocket after the program where insurance pays is over.

Gwen wants to lose 25 more pounds, but already her life and her future have changed.

'Resting heart rate went down, her blood pressure went down, her forced vital capacity the amount of air in her lungs went up, her endurance and stamina went up, her strength went up, the measurements, the inches went off,' noted her trainer, Bill Owen.

'I can run, I can hold my grand baby on my lap and actually hug my grand baby without having her out here because my stomach is out there. I can walk for four or five miles. I can do anything,' exclaimed Brooks.

Both private health insurance and Medicare pay for MetabolicRX Therapy. It is best for people with problems from diabetes, pre-diabetes and who have weight problems.

There are three locations in the New Orleans area:

Harvey: 504/366-3302

Slidell: 985/641-2866

Superior Rehabilitation
6820 Veterans Blvd
Suite A
Metairie, LA 70003

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