Noah Aiken, 16, has struggled with obesity since he was a young boy. He spent years trying different diets and exercise programs, even professional dieticians and trainers. His overall health was declining. He experienced depression and anxiety, especially related to attending school, where he said he just didn’t “fit.” After his freshman year of high school, he quit.
Last fall, Noah met Dr. Jeannine Cobb, Mercy certified obesity medicine physician, and everything changed.
Finally, this teen found hope, confidence and success.
Since September 2013, Noah has lost 108 pounds working with Dr. Cobb’s weight-loss program. The program includes optimal protein, high fiber and carefully controlled carbohydrates, with a reduction in refined sugar and starch to eliminate empty calories.
After being referred to Dr. Cobb by his Mercy primary care provider, Noah and his mother, Rose, decided to give it a try.
“At the time, our attitude was ‘What could it hurt to try one more thing?’” Noah said.
He tried several dieticians and physical trainers over the years. “They told me to eat everything, but just a little bit of everything, watch portions. I wasn’t getting full, and I would just give up,” he said. “Today, I eat more than I used to eat, and I’m losing weight. It’s amazing!”
Dr. Cobb’s plan is customized for each patient based on his or her needs and is patterned after the Harvard Diabetes Prevention Program, with influences from the Mediterranean diet. The key, Dr. Cobb explained, is optimal protein and fiber help patients feel more satisfied after eating. Reducing sugar intake helps the body produce the appropriate amount of insulin to keep fat burning functions and energy levels in balance. In other words, patients just feel better.
“I have a lot more stamina,” Noah said. “I don’t get tired. I don’t wheeze. I can pretty much do everything I couldn’t do before.”
Noah found Dr. Cobb just in time. He said he had some pretty bad nutritional habits like “stuffing his face” with breaded cheese sticks and chicken strips he could pop in the microwave. And the unhealthy eating was jeopardizing his overall health.
Upon Noah’s first visit to Dr. Cobb, blood testing indicated his body was experiencing insulin resistance -- he was on the road to developing diabetes. With his new diet plan, the insulin is more regulated.
Noah also suffers from asthma, and those symptoms also diminished as he lost weight. He also finds he sleeps better, snoring less.
Though Dr. Cobb’s program turned Noah’s life around, she gives Noah all the credit.
“He’s really an inspiration to us,” Dr. Cobb said. “A lot of the success is based on determination, and it’s just come naturally to him. He’s willing to keep track of his carbs and work hard. It’s like pulling teeth to get some patients to do that.”
Working hard paid off, she said, noting that Noah has recorded a loss at every weigh-in throughout his 10 months on the program. The 108-pound weight loss includes more than 69 pounds of fat and a 12-inch reduction in his waist measurement.
Dr. Cobb has been thoroughly impressed by Noah’s milestones. “Losing weight is not easy. There are ups and downs.”
Noah experienced those, too, said his mom Rose, who has been Noah’s constant rock of support.
“He has gotten discouraged a time or two,” she said. “We take baby steps but we get there.”
And no one knows the trials better than Dr. Cobb. She shares a common bond with her patients, having struggled herself with obesity in years past as she managed a demanding career as an obstetrician. It was her quest for a personal weight loss solution that motivated her to branch into the field of obesity medicine several years ago and now share the formula with her patients.
For Noah, the program, camaraderie and guidance he found in Dr. Cobb’s office have helped him make huge strides toward better health. But he knows he still has a ways to go. In a recent visit with Dr. Cobb, he discussed his extended weight loss goals as well as how to establish a regular exercise regimen and long-term maintenance plan.
It’s all very do-able for Noah, now that he has a fresh outlook on life and his future. He recently experimented in the working world,helping out his grandfather on his local farm. Last month, he completed coursework and testing to earn his GED (general education development) certificate, and he’s considering community college in the fall.
But while higher education and more lofty ambitions may be on the horizon, Noah is still a 16-year-old boy. There are some simpler things on his agenda – things he missed out on when his weight was holding him back.
“Once I lose my weight, I would like to ride [carnival rides], I was always too heavy to ride them before,” Noah said. “I would like to keep up with the other people in my family and do what they do -- jump up on truck beds like my cousin does on my grandpa’s farm.”
And Noah’s advice to other teens battling their weight and struggling with motivation and setbacks: “Just do it, that’s the thing at the end of the day. You just have to get started.”