Meal replacement treatment helps former college athlete lose weight

This former athlete achieved lasting results without surgery at Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Weight Loss Solutions, with offices throughout Chicagoland.

Before: 268 lbs. | After: 191 lbs. | -77 lbs.↓

Dave has many fond memories of his days as a competitive athlete in high school, and as a defensive back at Northern Illinois University. In 1986, his playing weight was 195 pounds, and his body fat was a mere 7.4%.

Those days don't last forever.

"As my white-collar management career progressed, workouts became a secondary priority. My meals were based on corporate and social activities, not fitness," Dave explained. "Recreational activities were followed by a night at the bar. My weight began to inch upwards, but why worry? My friends were all gaining weight, too."

For a variety of reasons, including family genetics, Dave's bathroom scale hit 268 pounds in December 2018.

"I realized I needed professional help to better manage my weight and lifestyle," Dave confessed. "I wanted a medically supervised program where I could ask questions and challenge recommendations.

"I found just what I was looking for. The Ascension Illinois program is tailored to each individual."

Benefits of a meal replacement treatment plan

Just as Dave benefitted from great coaches during his sports career, he was guided in his weight-loss journey by a medical team with its own "head coach," the doctor that Dave calls "Dr. A": Anthony M. Auriemma, MD, a board-certified obesity medicine specialist at Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Weight Loss Solutions, which operates from 10 locations throughout the Chicagoland area. A week after they met in January 2019, Dave joined the program and began his recommended meal replacement treatment.

"Using meal replacement is one option, and most patients use them as a complete or partial meal replacement plan," said Dr. Auriemma. "This method has a proven track record since 1974. It simplifies decisions around food and nutrition to get the weight-loss ball rolling."

"The first few months were hard, but very successful," Dave said. "My meal replacements became part of my new nutrition regimen. It helped me lose about 70 pounds during my first 18 months in the program."

Dr. Auriemma emphasizes that the program is much more than simply a meal replacement plan. The Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Weight Loss Solutions team includes exercise physiologists, registered dietitians and clinical social workers. Lifestyle management classes, anti-obesity medications and bariatric surgery are all important tools for consideration, depending on the individual needs of each patient.

"Obesity is a complex and chronic disease," said Dr. Auriemma. "My role is to look for medical conditions that can contribute to obesity, or result from obesity. Relapse is common, and it can lead to strong feelings of failure by the person struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is best treated by a complete team of healthcare professionals."

Dr. Auriemma brings a personal perspective to his interactions with patients. He has three family members that have been treated for the negative health effects of being overweight. Their journeys are among the reasons why he chose to specialize in obesity medicine.

Compassionate care that supports lifelong changes

According to Mary Failla, registered dietitian and program director for Ascension Medical Group Illinois - Weight Loss Solutions, people often look at obesity as a character flaw that requires a short-term fix. 

“Our weekly classes help support lifelong changes. Dave embraced this idea of lifelong change and weekly class attendance; this is a big reason why he has been successful," she said.

Dave appreciated how patient and understanding his care team was during his time in the program, which helped him stay motivated in the process. 

"They understand the different mental and emotional states of people going through,” Dave said. “Knowing what to do and what to eat is of course important, but why something works helps me stay disciplined.”

Dave has been able to stay within a healthy weight range ever since, and his diligence has paved the way for other health improvements. For example, his weight did not disqualify him from a knee replacement procedure he underwent in early 2023. "My wife, Sherry, loves that I've become our [household’s] grocery shopper. After all my classes, I am the nutrition expert in the family," he said. Dave is currently in physical therapy and reports being well on his way to recovery. He credits his progress to listening to the advice of his weight management team.

To learn more about your medical weight loss options with Ascension Illinois, visit

Weight loss results may vary depending on the individual. There is no guarantee of specific results.