A Sampling of Physician-Run Weight Loss Clinics in Edina

Insight into clinical weight loss methods.
Dietitian Pamela Durbin consults with Dr. Richard Nelson.

Weight loss programs vary in cost, intensity of counseling, calorie restriction and exercise demands. One type of program differs significantly in that it involves physician-guided use of prescription drugs.

A Better Way Health Center

Dr. Richard Nelson is the medical director and owner of A Better Way Health Center (ABWHC) in Edina. He is an internal medicine physician and a specialist in addiction medicine. “There, we were using pharmacological treatment to overcome drug issues. Here, we do the same for food issues,” he says. The prescription drug most often prescribed at ABWHC is a generally safe and effective appetite suppressant called phentermine.

Nelson opened the center in 1999 and has seen about 15,400 patients. The average patient loses 30 pounds in six months, he says. “A third keep the weight off, a third keep half of it off, and a third have to start over.” As to whether there is a certain type of person for whom his program works best, Nelson says ABWHC should not be a first choice for weight loss. “People should try, first, to lose weight on their own,” he advises. According to Nelson, the key to any weight loss program is the behavioral component. “Our patients visit with a dietitian, go over their diet and learn to make healthy changes in food consumption. Exercise recommendations are variable based on the patient. We’re not geared toward rapid weight loss. The medicine is the hook, but it is no magic pill.”

Pamela Durbin has been a dietitian at ABWHC for 16 years. Counseling clients on diet and exercise is a big part of her job. “I try to have people come up with what they want to change” about their eating habits, she says. “We want to meet people where they are, and give them the confidence that they can do this.”

Vivify HCG Weight Loss and Emotional Eating Solutions

Denise Watson is a certified eating psychology coach and has owned Vivify HCG Weight Loss with her physician husband for over seven years. The clinic’s medical director, internal medicine physician David Christianson, oversees the clinic.

HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone normally produced by pregnant women. Watson says, “What it does for a pregnant woman is to assure her baby gets its fuel from her stored fat, even if she is unable to eat. The HCG protocol is based on the idea that with HCG in your system, you can access your own stored fats more easily.” (It should be noted that HCG is formally approved only for infertility, and is prescribed off-label for weight loss.) One dramatic aspect of the Vivify program is that participants are generally restricted to 500 calories or less per day. “That’s typically enough for a person using HCG,” Watson says. In 30 days, most women lose about 10 percent of their body weight. “What we want to do,” says Watson, “is to teach people to eat when they’re hungry, and to stop when they’re full.” Even on the HCG protocol, “if a patient tells me they’re hungry, I tell them to eat.”

Vivify is not only about HCG, however. Kate Rusciano lost 30 pounds three years ago using Vivify HCG and has kept it off. She says, “HCG is just a tool. It takes your hunger away so you can address the underlying psychological issues of your relationship with food.”

Other options for physician-directed weight loss in Edina:

Fairview Southdale Weight Loss Clinic

This clinic offers primarily surgical options for weight loss.

Innovative Directions in Health
This is an anti-aging and preventive medicine clinic managed by board-certified physicians, who use natural hormone therapy to treat symptoms of aging, including weight gain.