Doctors' Notes

True Story: A 200-Pound Weight Loss

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our contribution from Urban Health correspondents (and husband and wife) physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


After experiencing the premature death of multiple family members to obesity-related illnesses, Paul West knew it was time to make a change in his own life. At the age of 33 and well over 400 pounds, he didn’t want to be next. Armed with just a sheer motivation to live, West has lost more than 200 pounds and has kept it off for more than 5 years. Now a personal trainer, he is on a mission to inspire as many people as he can about their power to change.


JET: What motivated you to lose the weight?

Paul West: I lost three of my immediate family members due to health issues relating to obesity. Realizing my own potential for an early death, I was inspired to change permanently.

JET: How did you go from morbidly obese to personal trainer?

PW: During my weight loss journey, I went through so many emotions like doubt, fear of failing, wanting to give up, and loneliness. But I also felt encouragement, excitement and relief as I saw the scale moving in the right direction. I then realized that there was a great need for personal trainers and lifestyle coaches who had experience and testimonies due to struggles with their weight.

JET: For someone who has never had a fitness routine, how do you start?

PW: I advise to always start with actually writing down your goals. Once this is done, start with no less than 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity at least five days per week. Resistance training should be added as well at least three to four days per week.

JET: What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight?

PW: One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen is participating in “fad diets.” I was 400 pounds or more, on two separate occasions. I lost an excessive amount of weight the first time using a fad diet, and gained all of the weight back, plus an additional 50 pounds. Look to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead of looking for a quick fix through fad diets. Another big mistake that I’ve seen is not incorporating enough physical activity into their daily routines and lack of consistency.

JET: How did you incorporate dietary changes when starting your exercise routine?

PW: I started with subtle changes like eliminating fried foods, beef and pork, substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes, and whole grain products for white products such as rice and breads. I also gradually eliminated butter and mayonnaise from my diet as well. I ate smaller meals throughout the day and drank more water. Before I bought or ate anything, I read the labels. This process is now a permanent part of my lifestyle.

JET: What is your advice about weighing in?

PW: Weighing in is very important. I advise weighing yourself at least once per week, but twice per week (typically Monday and Friday) is a great plan. You should also measure your critical areas (midsection, chest/back, buttocks, thighs/calves and arms) monthly. This will ensure that you are tracking your progress entirely and not just through your weight loss.

JET: For those like yourself who have lost massive amounts of weight, what do you recommend for the extra skin that’s left?

PW: The objective is to build the elasticity back into the skin. Incorporating nutrition rich in vitamins B, C and E, and minerals such as zinc and manganese and other foods that promote collagen and elastin production such as beets, dark leafy greens, eggs, fish and chicken are essential in rebuilding skin health. Moisturizing the skin before and after cardiovascular activity and resistance training also builds the skin’s resilience. The best way to avoid loose skin during weight loss is to incorporate resistance training along with cardio and proper nutrition while losing weight. Resistance training aids in the toning process and also builds resilience in the skin.

JET: For those who may feel that they are not able to invest in a gym, or a personal trainer to reach their fitness goals, what are some ways we can use what we’ve got around us to get fit?

PW: If a gym is not in the budget, a brisk walk/jog through the neighborhood or at a community track will assist in beginning an active lifestyle. Jumping rope is a great source of cardiovascular activity. Engaging in resistance training that incorporates your own weight as resistance like push-ups and sit-ups are also a great additions. If you want to utilize some other things around the house, using refilled milk jugs as substitutes for dumbbells.

JET: What is the best piece of advice you can offer to people who know they need to make a change in their lifestyle, but they feel like it is too great of a task/challenge?

PW: You are greater than the challenges that you are facing. Don’t wait until you are physically ill to attempt to make healthy changes. As long as there is life in your body, YOU CAN CHANGE.

JET: Tell us about the community projects you are involved in.

PW: While continuing work with my nonprofit, MATE Health Promotions Corp in North Carolina. The project that we are currently undertaking within the community is the Sisterhood HOH (Health Over Hair) Challenge. This is a “grass roots” national health promotion challenge for African-American women. If we can raise awareness and inspire change within the African-American woman, then we will raise awareness and inspire change within the African-American household and community as a whole.

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!