Like many others, Kim Vogle put on weight during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I already had an unhealthy relationship with food and when I couldn't go to work, I stayed home and ate what made me feel good," says Kim, who works as a bus driver for the Wichita school system. "My self-esteem plummeted and my blood pressure and cholesterol skyrocketed."
Concerned, Kim asked her physician, Scott Hane, MD, with Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, about bariatric surgery.
"I was thinking that a quick, 'easy' fix would be what I wanted," says the 64-year-old. "Dr. Hane suggested I try the surgery-free route first."
So on June 16, she gave herself an early birthday present and enrolled in Ascension Via Christi's non-surgical HMR Weight Management program. She started the program weighing 277 pounds.
Phase 1 of the structured eating plan focuses on education and support through group classes led by Suzanne Neville, a long-time instructor of the program, launched locally by Ascension Via Christi 18 years ago.
"You could not ask for a better cheerleader and if she can do anything to make your life easier in the way of the program, she'll try to find a way," says Kim. "She cares with genuine empathy and compassion."
Initially hesitant about the classes, Kim could imagine herself being successful in losing the unwanted pounds from the moment she stepped in the door of her first support group class.
"I quickly found that there's no shaming by the participants about how heavy you allowed yourself to become," says Kim. "And I had done that enough already to myself."
While Kim finds transporting children with physical or mental disabilities emotionally fulfilling, being on a bus all day poses a challenge to healthy eating and physical activity.
"Convenient foods, like chips, become the staple," says Kim, who prior to going to work for the school district six years ago was a stay-at-home mom.
Now, with the help of the program, her Sunday ritual includes preparing healthy meals and snacks for the week. Throughout the week, she arrives at work before others to walk laps around the large bus parking lot.
"The program opened my eyes like, 'Gosh, there's a whole bunch of different good vegetables that I had never even tried,'" says Kim. "It's even been wonderful to see how spices and seasonings can make cauliflower a good go-to after-work snack."
After 44 weeks into the program, Kim has lost 110 pounds and is continuing to draw upon the education and support she had received through the program to lose additional weight.
"Choosing this route was life-changing, especially since you're taught life-long skills and not just buying into another diet," says Kim. "I hope that my story can impact others."
"If I can do it, anyone can!"