Weight loss patient hopes his story inspires others

By The Health News Team | January 25, 2024
SRS Paul Westhoff Weight Loss Story HN3557 Cover Sized

After a health warning from his doctor, Paul joined the medically supervised weight loss program at Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management.

Many weight loss journeys begin with a defining moment. For Paul Westhoff, it was the realization that he needed to make a change for the sake of his health and family.

At age 59 and 570 pounds, Paul was at his heaviest. While busy supporting and caring for his family, he had set his own health on the sidelines. He was experiencing mobility issues, had lost most of his independence, and his loved ones were becoming increasingly worried.

“I couldn’t do anything anymore,” Paul says. “I couldn’t fit in a car. I couldn’t get up from a chair without help. It was awful.”

After a severe fall and a health warning from his doctor, Paul joined the Medically Supervised Weight Loss Program at Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management. To date, he has dropped 162 pounds in less than a year. With dieting, exercise and the support of his wife, son and health coach, Paul has taken back control of his health and found a new lease on life.

A grim health warning

In February 2023, Paul suffered a fall in his home that nearly sent him to the hospital. Luckily, his wife Kristen and their son, age 18, were nearby, but they struggled to get Paul up. Kristen, a lead clinical nurse at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, called 911, and six firefighters were finally able to lift him off the floor. The whole ordeal left Paul and his family shaken and extremely concerned about his health.

A few weeks after his fall, Paul spoke with Dr. Firas Gorges, his primary care doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. Dr. Gorges ordered some tests to assess the condition of Paul’s health. The news he got back wasn’t good.

“He told me point blank that if I didn’t lose weight, I wasn’t going to be around much longer,” Paul says. The worst part, he adds, was seeing the look on his wife and son’s faces when they learned how grave the situation was.

To jumpstart his weight loss efforts, Dr. Gorges put him on a 1,500-calorie-per-day diet and referred him to the physician-supervised weight loss program at Sharp Rees-Stealy. By the time Paul started the first phase of the program in April, he had already shed 20 pounds.

The power of a support system

Paul wasn’t exactly thrilled about joining the program, but he was determined to get his health back on track. The structured weight loss program uses a comprehensive, personalized approach that includes dietary changes, health education, individualized coaching, meal replacement plans and weekly meetings.

At first, Paul wasn’t sure if it was the right fit for him. That all changed once he started working with Haley Guiffrida, MPH, CWHC, a wellness education specialist at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management. In Haley, Paul found not just a health coach, but also a lifelong friend.

As the two got to know each other, they discovered they had a lot in common — including similar family backgrounds and a shared sense of humor. “We began having more one-on-ones, where I was able to support him and cheer him on as he inched toward each new physical and mental milestone,” Guiffrida says.

The strong bond they formed helped Paul push forward. “I call her Mary Poppins,” he says. “You couldn’t find a nicer, more positive person. We have a shared appreciation for music, so she started sending me a song each week to celebrate my wins and keep me motivated.”

Reaching a record-breaking milestone

Paul started dropping weight fast. In the first week of the program, he lost 14 pounds. By the third week, he was down 43 pounds. Then, Paul set his sights on beating a program record.

“No one had ever lost 100 pounds in the first 12-week phase,” he explains. “I was going to do it.”

His wife, son and health coach were incredibly supportive of his goal, he says. He continued following his meal plan and became more active. He also started exercising consistently, despite dealing with a bad shoulder injury.

Paul Westhoff of San Diego with his wife, Kristen Westhoff

Paul Westhoff with his wife, Kristen.

“My son is a world-class athlete and we started working out in the garage together,” Paul says. “He had me doing boxing workouts on a punching bag, and I was walking laps in the pool. He also helped prepare my meal replacement shakes and helped me in and out of the pool.”

At the three-month mark, Paul reached his goal of losing 100 pounds — setting a record for the most weight lost during the first phase in the program’s history. For Paul, the accomplishment was bigger than himself.

“One of the reasons I did it was to show my son that he can do anything he sets his mind to,” Paul says. “If I could do this at my age with an injury and all the challenges I was up against, he can accomplish anything.”

A new lease on life

Today, Paul is in the second phase of the weight loss program. He has lost a total of 162 pounds so far — but it’s what he’s gained from the experience that means the most.

Paul’s health transformation has improved his life significantly. The sleep apnea, acid reflux and walking difficulties he experienced prior to his weight loss are gone. He can also travel in the car again and recently enjoyed a night out to dinner with his wife.

As the next step on his wellness path, Paul plans to have bariatric surgery and looks forward to what’s ahead. He’s also determined to inspire others on their quest to better health and hopes someone breaks his weight loss record.

“Paul’s weight loss journey has been incredible,” says Guiffrida. "But it’s the growth of his mental mindset — and his passion for sharing this with others in the program — that truly highlights his success."

Paul hopes his story will serve as a reminder to people struggling with their weight that there’s support available. With determination, commitment and a mindset for success, they can be successful too, he says.

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