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Madigan nutrition classes can help patients drop weight

Lessons on eating for quality, quantity

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Shedding those extra pounds can be beyond stressful, and often, asking for help can only add to that stress.

"I want to be clear, I don't judge," said 1st Lt. Paula Beer, Outpatient Nutrition Clinic chief at Madigan Healthcare System. "I eat cake, too. I like to talk about why they are eating the way they are, and then work with them to change it."

That strategy is clearly working for TRICARE beneficiaries. According to a recent report to Congress on the TRICARE system, the number of military beneficiaries who are obese is substantially less than that of their civilian counterparts. While the average rate of obesity in the country for 2011 was 33.8 percent, within the military health system, it was only 22 percent. 

In addition to classes about specific nutrition topics like high cholesterol or impaired glucose tolerance, the Madigan clinic also offers two weight-control classes. The first is solely for active-duty Servicemembers who have either not met their height and weight requirement and been sent to the clinic via their command, or those who have concerns about their weight and opt to enroll.

The other class is for retirees, dependents and all other beneficiaries, who may attend the clinic's monthly Adult Weight Control class. In order to reserve a spot in the class, which is limited to approximately 20 patients at a time, you must first request a referral from your primary care manager at Madigan. Once you have obtained a referral, you can call the main appointment line within 48 hours to get registered for a class.

While the classes are not personalized for each individual, those with other issues, like Celiac disease for example, can attend one-on-one sessions with a nutritionist. However, Beer still urges that everyone attend one of the general classes before seeking other treatment.

"I want the patients to try to make the changes we talk about, and then it will be easier when he or she comes to a private session with the nutritionist to fine-tune the plan," she explained. "We focus on small-goal settings and remind them that there is no quick fix."

The initial class lasts about 90 minutes, and follow-up classes can be anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes each.

"We don't have much of a wait right now," said Beer, adding that the clinic is considering adding another class for dependents since demand is always in flux.

"Everyone is also welcome to come in and ask questions and see if we can help," she added.  "We're friendly, I promise."

The Outpatient Nutrition Clinic is located in the Madigan nursing tower near the chapel. For more information, visit or call (253) 968-0547.

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