By Miriam Longobardi
Anyone who has ever struggled to lose weight knows how difficult and frustrating it can be, both losing the weight and keeping it off. Those who have significant weight to lose –beyond a few extra pounds after a vacation–face a greater challenge. Enter Dr. Maria Briones, owner of Dr. Briones Medical Weight Loss Center located in Mt. Kisco.
Dr. Briones began her career as an internist in New York City in 1994 and in addition to her weight loss clinic works at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains. During her career she has always been concerned about obesity and its related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke as well as some cancers. At Burke she also noted that some of her patients who had undergone hip and knee replacements needed the surgery as a result of obesity. “I want to help people before obesity takes a toll on their health and body and possibly avoid surgery and some of the diseases connected to obesity.”
At her weight loss center, Dr. Briones assists patients far beyond helping them develop healthier eating habits to lose weight. Her approach is very personal and addresses the many psychological effects of obesity. “In addition to the effects on the body, being obese changes how people feel about themselves. The most common are loss of self-esteem and depression. As I help them lose weight I didn’t have to use any medication.”
All patients must undergo a health evaluation and obtain medical clearance to participate in the diet plan. After that, patients come for weekly visits to be weighed and spend time being counseled by Dr. Briones. “They need to change the relationship they have with food.” She helps them develop a plan which they must be disciplined enough to follow. Part of her plan involves using Optifast, a meal replacement program that must be medically supervised. “With Optifast patients can see results similar to surgery sometimes in as little as six months,” Briones reports. Depending on the amount of weight to be lost, patients begin with the Optifast meal replacements very strictly for approximately four to six months. “It’s like people that want to quit smoking –they have to really be ready for it and commit to following the program.”
Elysa Belessakos, a patient and one of Dr. Briones’s many success stories, says that working with Dr. Briones changed her life. “The woman is brilliant,” said Belessakos. “She completely devotes herself to her patients and gives us one-on-one personal attention.” While some people relate to group support such as Weight Watchers, Belessakos feels the emotional support she receives from Dr. Briones helped her sort through emotional eating issues that in the past always caused her to gain back weight she had lost. “A lot of people dealing with obesity don’t want to sit in front of a group and talk about their weight loss struggles,” says Belessakos. Through a combination of the Optifast meal replacements, Lipo-Light, which is a machine that burns fat cells in targeted areas of the body, and Dr. Briones teaching her about nutrition and talking her through strategies to avoid emotional eating, Belessakos is down 40 pounds. “I get so many compliments!” she enthusiastically reports.
After sticking closely to the Optifast plan, which also offers nutrition bars and soups in addition to the meal replacement shakes, transitioning back to mainstream food can be challenging. Dr. Briones is considering adding a nutritionist to her staff but Briones helps her patients with meal planning, food shopping and menus to help them keep the weight off and follow up with her for maintenance.
Belessakos says that it is the level of devotion she and the other patients receive from Dr. Briones that gives them the support and encouragement they need to maintain their weight loss. “It’s her personality that sets her apart from other doctors. So much of weight loss is psychological and you get one-hundred percent of her attention. She listens, gives you feedback and is so warm and encouraging that nobody wants to stop seeing her.”
A wife and mother of three children, Dr. Briones continues to learn and explore new medical breakthroughs through professional associations and by attending conferences regularly. She recently added anti-aging and skin care products at her center. Belessakos adds, “She absolutely loves what she does and genuinely cares about each of her patients with compassion.”
Dr. Briones feels that in addition to being healthier physically, one of the greatest accomplishments she sees in her patients is their attitude toward life. “Not only are they active and have more energy but their social and intimate lives improve. It’s amazing the effect weight loss can have on a person’s life.”
For more information, visit http://www.brionesweightloss.com/.
Miriam Longobardi is a freelance writer, fourth grade teacher and single mother of two daughters living in Westchester. A breast cancer survivor, she volunteers for the American Cancer Society, has completed four marathons and travels the world. Follow her on Twitter @writerMimiLong.