Fit for the Future
Signature Medicine’s Newtown Weight Loss Center is helping patients shed pounds and move their lives in healthier directions
by Jenny Graham

According to the National Institutes of Health, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to one’s overall health. Excess body fat has been linked to diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and high blood sugar; yet, while such correlations are fairly well known, approximately two-thirds of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

This is often due to far more than just overeating, however; lifestyle, activity, stress, diet and genetics can all have a hand in determining one’s body mass. While increasing exercise and decreasing caloric intake are positive steps, these steps aren’t quite enough to get everyone to their goal. In these cases, many turn to physician practices, such as Signature Medicine in Newtown, for help.

Ashish Sitapara, M.D., owner of Signature Medicine, has extensive experience helping such patients take steps to improve their health. Dr. Sitapara holds an undergraduate degree from Philadelphia’s La Salle University and he completed a fellowship at prestigious Boston University. In addition to possessing top qualifications, Dr. Sitapara, as head of the practice, ensures that his expertise is available to his patients 24-7.

Like Dr. Sitapara, nurse practitioner Allison Prabhakar has impressive credentials. Prabhakar, whose designations include CRNP, RN, MSN and AOCNP, holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in nursing from the Jefferson School of Nursing at Thomas Jefferson University.

Prabhakar, who is certified in adult health and oncology, has worked with numerous nationally renowned institutions during the course of her 20-year career in medicine. These include The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, The University Medical Center at Princeton, Yale New Haven Hospital and Chandler Hall Wellness Center. Notably, she has taken the lead with Signature Medicine’s medical weight-loss program, the Newtown Weight Loss Center. In this capacity, Prabhakar works closely with Dr. Sitapara to devise and implement nonsurgical plans to put patients on track to lose weight and live better.

Individuals visit the Newtown Weight Loss Clinic for a variety of reasons and with a spectrum of goals, Prabhakar explains. “We have patients who are just looking to lose 15 or 20 pounds, and some who are looking to lose upwards of 80, maybe just for a specific occasion or maybe for health reasons,” she says.

Assessing a patient’s weight-loss needs is a key factor in success, she says, as is teaching patients skills such as how to choose healthy options at restaurants, how to manage stress, what types of groceries to shop for and how to cook healthier meals at home.

Prabhakar says that while her primary mode of management is behavior modification and stimulus control, Signature Medicine’s methodology also puts great emphasizes education. A popular treatment is the OPTIFAST medical weight-loss program, which utilizes products such as weight-loss shakes, meal replacements and supplements to help patients drop pounds.

“The OPTIFAST products are all high protein,” Prabhakar explains, “and they have been tested and proven safe and effective. They are meant to be part of a medically supervised program. You can’t just buy them from Target or Walmart. The products are medical grade, and feature vitamins and minerals and a [measured] ratio of fats to carbs to proteins.”

Patients who struggle or hit plateaus have still more options. These include FDA-approved drugs such as Belviq and Qsymia.

Prabhakar explains that a number of benefits can be seen once a patient reaches a healthy weight. For some, the changes can be as small as ankles and joints that are less swollen. For others, the changes can be drastic—a decrease in dizziness, improved cholesterol and blood work, better heart rate, or an increase in the patient’s overall sense of self-esteem and well-being. Certain patients can even stop taking potentially problematic drugs they’d been using to manage diabetes or blood pressure.

“For some people, the struggle with weight loss is chronic,” she says. “High blood pressure can need to be treated for years; weight loss is the same way.”

But even patients who experience chronic weight issues needn’t fear. “We like to follow patients for weeks, months, even over years to make sure they’re staying on track,” says Prabhakar.

One patient whose life changed as a result of Signature Medicine and the Newtown Weight Loss Center is Cheryl Schrier.

Schrier, who is the proprietor of her own business, has a background in nursing and thus looked with great care and scrutiny when seeking out a practitioner of concierge medicine. Dr. Sitapara made a great impression right away. “I wanted someone who respects me as a clinician,” she says, adding, “I appreciate and value the fact that he took well over an hour to sit and meet with [my husband] and I to really invest time with us as patients.”

She admits that while she and her husband “had neglected our health for a number of years,” they both came to Signature Medicine ready to make a new start. After she and her husband underwent “executive physicals,” which are a particularly thorough round of tests and screenings exclusive to Signature Medicine, Schrier got unfortunate news: a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Yet, she did not let this stand in the way of her journey to become fit and get healthy. In fact, she says that mentally committing to beginning a weight-loss program after her cancer treatment gave her something positive to look forward to.

“It was the best thing, mentally, for me ever,” she says. “It mentally and emotionally helped me get through. … And, after my thyroid cancer surgery, I started the OPTIFAST program and lost 62 pounds in about six months.”

Andrew Sheriff is another patient who saw a dramatic upturn in his quality of life after he embarked upon a journey of weight loss using the OPTIFAST program.

“I’ve always been really conscious of my weight on a personal level,” Sheriff says. “I’ve tried losing weight before and it never really worked out. I definitely couldn’t have lost weight without this program.”

Before starting the weight-loss program Sheriff, who weighed approximately 320 pounds at his heaviest, says he ate the caloric equivalent of up to two large pizzas a day. Now Sheriff weighs closer to 220 pounds, and his diet consists of grilled proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Having successfully lost nearly 70 pounds since this summer, Sheriff is now in the process of enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. If all goes well, he says, he’ll be heading out to boot camp in the spring.

“It was a big shock to my system, going from such an unhealthy diet to a much healthier one, but I lost 15 pounds the first week,” Sheriff says. “It’s a great program. It worked for me, and I’m just really happy it did. It pushed my life in the direction I wanted it to go in.”

Signature Medicine Center for Wellness & Healthy Living
770 Newtown Yardley Road, Suite 220a
Newtown, PA 18940

* Signature Medicine works in conjunction with Signature Practice Management LLC, where the yearly fees pay for enhancements not covered by insurance.

Photograph by Allure West Studios