Weight gain has been a common side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, as exercise and other healthy habits have taken a back seat for many people.
Medi-Weightloss of Lutz owner Gerri Willett says the pandemic initially caused a lot of uncertainty for her small business, but ultimately has driven many new patients to the practice, located on S.R. 54, two miles west of where it meets S.R. 56 (near the Tampa Premium Outlets).
In the 15 years since it opened in 2006, Gerri says Medi-Weightloss of Lutz has helped patients lose nearly 130,000 pounds. It’s easy to get started, as completely free assessments are always offered.
Today, while there are 91 Medi-Weightloss locations nationwide, Gerri owns the locations in both Lutz and Brandon, operating the two as a local, family-owned business, which has been her passion for the past 15 years.
The success patients see when they try the Medi-Weightloss program is what continues to drive people to the practice.
“Our patients refer their friends because they know we do a really a good job,” Gerri says.
The Medi-Weightloss program is supervised by Andrew Weitzman, M.D., who is Board-certified in Internal Medicine. The program combines diet and exercise with supplements, managed by a doctor, to help people lose weight and keep it off.
Like most businesses, Medi-Weightloss has had to make adaptations because of the Covid pandemic, creating virtually touch-free visits, while keeping its doors open to better circulate fresh air, providing clean pens, taking temperature checks, having hand sanitizer available and other precautionary measures.
“We also offer telemedicine,” says Gerri. “We do whatever you feel comfortable with, whether that’s telemedicine, or coming in to be weighed when we’re otherwise closed to patients, so you’re the only one in the office, or driving through the parking lot to pick up a prescription.”
The staff is compassionate and understanding, cheering their patients on to reach their goals.
“It can be very difficult for people to step foot into a weight-loss clinic because, a lot of times, they have already tried so many different things,” says Gerri. “People beat themselves up horribly about their weight.”
Whether it’s newfound weight gain as your body changes due to age, weight that was lost in the past but has crept back on, or pounds put on during the pandemic, Gerri says, “We want people to know we’ll figure it out and we’ll get them to be successful.”
How It Works
During the first phase of the program — also known as the acute or weight-loss phase — clients come in once a week.
After an initial consultation with weight measurements, blood work and an electrocardiogram (EKG), patients receive a binder to store educational handouts, recapping the information shared at each session. They also receive recipes for delicious, healthy meals, with ingredients that are easy to find. Patients also start a detailed journal to log their eating, drinking and sleeping data. They also receive vitamin supplements, a food scale to help with portion control and ketone sticks to detect their level of ketosis.
(Note: Physiologic Ketosis is a normal response to low glucose availability, such as low-carbohydrate diets or fasting.)
Medi-Weightloss has many ways to help during the weight-loss phase, including injections of Methionine Inositol Choline (MIC Combo) to put B12 vitamins and amino acids into the bloodstream, both of which help with fat metabolism, liver function and fat excretion. Patients also receive Vitamin B6 and B1 injections, which help reduce water retention and keep your energy up, while battling food cravings.
Dr. Weitzman says the goal is always to reduce medications that patients may be taking. “One of my favorite things is getting someone off of blood pressure medications,” he says. “You lose 20 pounds and, all of a sudden, your blood pressure goes down.”
After the acute phase of the program ends (once ca client reaches his/her target weight), they check in less often during the maintenance and wellness phases.
But, if a client should re-gain weight after completing the program, Gerri says there’s no reason to worry.
“Life happens and we are here to help,” she says. “It doesn’t mean you failed. It means you had stress in your life, or something happened. Just pop back into the program! There is no restart fee.”
Caring, Helpful Staff
Medi-Weightloss of Lutz has a staff of caring professionals who truly understand what it’s like to be in their patient’s shoes. In fact, some are former patients.
Erin Jones had lost her husband in 2010 and then, she says, “I ate for a year.”
In 2011, she started the Medi-Weightloss program and lost 50 pounds.
After that, she joined the team. Erin is now a full-time medical assistant and the office manager at Medi-Weightloss of Lutz and Brandon.
“Patients can take comfort in knowing that we’ve been down their road before and that we can truly say we know what they’re going through,” Erin says.
Medical assistant Patty Pinson has been with Medi-Weightloss for a decade and is a retired Registered Nurse (RN). Other Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) include Karina Gonzalez and Alex Pierantoni, while Raquel Sanford manages the front office.
Dr. Weitzman is a Board-certified Medical Doctor who earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel, and completed his residency at Nassau University Medical Center in Long Island, NY. He operated a primary care practice in New York, then moved to Manatee County, before coming on board at Medi-Weightloss more than four years ago.
He says there actually are many similarities between primary care and weight loss.
“The main difference is that with primary care, you’re already treating a patient’s disease. Here, we’re working strictly with prevention.”
He stresses all three legs of the weight-loss process: diet, exercise and appetite suppression. “You must do all three in order to succeed,” Dr. Weitzman says.
Sally Morrison is a Medi-Weightloss patient who has found success. In the past nine months, she’s lost 90 pounds, just in time to celebrate her 70th birthday in early February.
Before Medi-Weightloss, Sally says she felt terrible. As a former nurse, she knew the consequences when she saw how bad her lab results were after a checkup, so she decided to make a change.
A friend had success with Medi-Weightloss, so Sally decided to try it, too.
“When I was in my 30s, I was an operating room nurse in the Army. I ran every day back then,” she says, “and I feel almost as good now as I did then.”
She says she had tried a different program about 10 years ago, but the weight crept back on. And, the clinic she went to had closed, which left her feeling abandoned.
This time around, Sally is confident she has the support and resources she needs to keep the weight off. “They’ve been my cheerleaders and my mentors,” she says. “I’ve had long talks with the doctor and he’s fabulous. They all are. I highly recommend people go there.”
To schedule a free assessment at Medi-Weighloss of Lutz (24420 S.R. 54, Lutz), call (813) 909-1700. The office is open five days a week: 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Mon.; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tues., 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wed; 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on Thur.; and 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m on Fri. More information is available at MediWeightloss.com/locations/lutz/.