Beyond diets: Program helps people take shape for life

Published on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

Read More News

For Shelly Smits, 62, of Ferndale, weight gain came as a bit of a surprise.

After spending most of her life as a “skinny girl” several events happened that changed her physiology including the birth of her children and a hysterectomy. The pounds started packing on and she didn’t care.

“I’ve never been an exercise person,” she said.

But one day, she decided she wanted to take it back. After being disappointed by several diet plans, she learned about Take Shape For Life, a weight-loss program used at Johns Hopkin University weight-loss center in Baltimore.

Nine months later, Smits was down more than 75 pounds from her original weight of 210 and feeling better than ever.

Not only was she able to come off her blood pressure medication, but she had a tremendous boost in energy and the mental satisfaction of knowing she was doing something good for her body.

“Before I had a hard time if my husband and I would walk somewhere, and now he has a hard time keeping up with me,” she said. “I have much more energy and I can move better.”

In fact, Smits said she enjoyed the program so much, she retired early and became a health consultant for the company and has a client base of 20 individuals.

“I enjoy this job,” she said. “To be able to help other people get from where I was to where I am now is very rewarding.”

Now nearly two years later and at a lean 135 pounds, she’s in the maintenance phase of the plan but still uses the program’s prepared Medifast foods as a backup to keep it down.

“It was easy,” she said. “The food was right there, you didn’t have to think about anything, just eat the pre-packaged meals and have one of your own, it just made it really easy. I guess this time I had the determination. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was just ready.

“Now I need to get into the habit of exercising. I’m still working on that one,“ she said, laughing.

Birch Bay consultant Leigh Robinson, who introduced Smits to the program, said individuals lose an average of two to five pounds per week. And while some say losing weight that quickly isn’t healthy, Robinson said said they’re wrong.

“It’s actually not unhealthy because the diet is nutritionally sound and protein-balanced, you’re losing fat and not muscle,” she said.

An average day, for example, might include their Medifast oatmeal in the morning, a Medifast cappuccino in the mid-morning, Medifast soup for lunch, a Medifast bar for a mid-afternoon snack, a salad and chicken breast for dinner and a Medifast brownie or soft-serve for dessert or evening snack.


Robinson said the plan is usually “cost-neutral” and individuals usually spend about $8 a day on meals. Beginners are offered discounts on their first few weeks, as well, she said.

Part of the program includes regular one-on-one health coaching sessions, omega 3 oil supplements and suggested reading materials. Options for vegetarian, Kosher and gluten-free customers are available, she said.

Generally, individuals stay on the program several months until they reach their desired weight. After that, they are encouraged to re-introduce their regular foods.

“It’s not meant to be a permanent program, except for in the sense that it teaches people to still eat small portions several times a day,” she said. “We’re teaching people to change their eating habits as a way of life. You won't hear me use the word diet because we don't see it as that.”

Robinson said the main difference between Take Shape For Life and other programs like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers is that participants aren’t required to attend group meetings. Instead, they have a one-on-one relationship with their health coach.

She added that a lot of participants experience less hunger than traditional portion-control diet programs.

“We've had people who have done programs like that and they were hungry all the time. With Take Shape For Life, you shouldn't be hungry at all,” she said.  “There are people who have to set their cell phone alarm to eat every two or three hours because they forget. That’s actually a rule.”

For more information, call Leigh Robinson at 360/201-8528 or; or Shelly Smits at 360/319-4730 or visit 


Note: In the printed version of this story, we incorrectly listed Shelly Smits' name as Shelly Smith.