Easing the Burden
In the care of Dr. Marcus R. Williams, patients suffering from obesity, metabolic syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea regain control of their lives
by Bill Donahue

Having recently dipped under the 200-pound mark, Marcus R. Williams, M.D., is just fine if someone tells him he’s half the man he used to be. Considering he once tipped the scales at more than 500 pounds, his accomplishment is nothing short of remarkable.

Dr. Williams will be the first to admit he has struggled with obesity for much of his life—and he is hardly the only one. The majority of the nation suffers from the debilitating effects of obesity-related diseases, meaning the next generation of Americans could be the first in U.S. history to lead shorter and less fulfilling lives than their parents. But Dr. Williams believes the battle is not lost and, in many ways, is just beginning. His Exton-based practice recently adopted the program he has been using to shed excess pounds—W8MD Medical Weight Loss—and is now offering it to current and prospective patients.

An internist by training, Dr. Williams provides primary care and adult preventive medicine. In addition, he screens patients for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, which is extremely common among obese people, and also provides customized treatment for erectile dysfunction “beyond Cialis and Viagra,” he says. His interest in issues associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome has become “razor honed” in the past few years, in part because of his own life experiences.

Dr. Williams’ interest in medicine began early in life. As the son of a nurse, he grew up in North Carolina and cut his teeth as a nursing technician, providing day-to-day patient care in a 40-bed hospital on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains. He ultimately decided to pursue a medical degree at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and the residency that followed led him to focus on adult internal medicine—a discipline in which he later became certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Like his interest in health care, his personal battle with obesity has been with him since childhood. He believes he was born with a certain level of food addiction, which in turn stoked his metabolic syndrome, a serious health condition that leads to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. By his early 30s he had Type 2 diabetes and had reached a peak weight of more than a quarter of a ton.

“I like to tell people that I was fat before it was ‘phat,” he says. After the birth of his daughter, however, he decided he “wanted to live” and committed to losing the excess weight.

He opted for gastric bypass surgery, which was successful, but he found he began to gain back unwanted pounds within a few years of the procedure—a common occurrence among bypass patients. It was then he discovered the progress being made by Prab R. Tumpati, M.D., a board-certified physician and Fellow of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and also the founder of W8MD Medical Weight Loss Centers of America. Dr. Williams liked the fact that patients of all ages and income levels can benefit from the program, which is physician designed for maximum safety and effectiveness, using research-based appetite suppression to ensure sustainability.

“What drew me to the program was knowledge of the founder,” Dr. Williams says. “He knows his medical science backwards and forwards, and I’m impressed by the way he structured the program. Until now, the real problem is that medicine has not taken leadership in weight management, but science has gotten to a point where we can.”

The program is based on rigorous testing performed under the supervision of Dr. Williams. “We don’t guess at how many calories you’re going to burn; we know,” he says. “This is the first time in treating patients that we have the capacity to measure every parameter and know they are going to lose weight. We give them supplements and make calculations based on daily activity and exercise levels, so you can predict when you’ll arrive at your goal weight almost exactly.”

Obesity and obstructive sleep apnea often go hand in hand, according to Dr. Williams. By his estimation, as many as 20 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can be life threatening. Despite the prevalence, the overwhelming majority of men and women with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. He encourages people to visit his website to learn more about the condition and its risk factors, as well as how to request an at-home screening to help address the disorder.

An Unnecessary Tax

By Dr. Williams’ estimation, as much as 70 percent of the U.S. population has some form of metabolic syndrome, which he believes has been driven largely by the excessive intake of starchy carbohydrates. The problem began in the 1970s, when the Framingham Heart Study proposed that a high-cholesterol diet contributed to heart disease. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture guided Americans toward a diet rich with whole wheat, pasta, rice and potatoes—carbohydrate-dense foods that throw insulin levels out of whack and tell the human body to overeat.

“Our out-of-control appetite keeps the body in a constant state of fat storage,” he says. “By changing our insulin peaks, we can retrieve stored fat and get rid of it. I don’t believe in a ‘diet pill,’ which is an obsolete term, but I do believe in using medications to control appetite the same way we use medication to control glucose. … It’s about understanding what’s going on in our bodies and knowing how to change our diet. With appropriate medications, we can assist you in doing so.”

Dr. Williams won’t dissuade someone from gastric bypass surgery, but he does suggest appropriate candidates for the surgery enter a 12-step program such as those offered through Overeaters Anonymous. Doing so, he believes, will help them get control over their cravings as well as help them avoid a pitfall that many bypass patients face: alcoholism.

“Most people who are morbidly obese are true food addicts, and their substance of abuse is food,” he says. “The surgery fixes the physical problem of calorie absorption, but it does not touch on the spiritual or psychological problem. In many ways I’m grateful I ended up in a 12-step program—the same program taught me a great deal about how I ate.

“My food cravings are gone, because my insulin mechanism is functioning in a more normal fashion,” he continues. “I don’t think adjusting your diet means we have to eat food that we don’t like, because you can prepare foods in a delightful and delectable way. Some people say it’s too expensive to eat healthier, but the obese individual taxes himself $2,000 to $4,000 a year [in health care costs, etc.], so it’s probably a wash when you eat correctly.”

Considering the results he has experienced, Dr. Williams is understandably excited about the W8MD system. By mid-January, after following the program for just three months, he had lost approximately 30 pounds. He also has gotten his diabetes under control and is almost off insulin completely. Finally, he no longer suffers from obstructive sleep apnea and, therefore, no longer sleeps using a dreaded CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Other, less tangible benefits have arisen, too.

“It used to be that when I went shopping for a car, I had to have a fitting,” he says, half-jokingly. “It also used to be I would shop only at Big & Tall and Men’s Wearhouse. The joy of shopping at Banana Republic for me has been a great reward.”

New Path MD, P.C.
Exton Medical Arts Building
80 W. Welsh Pool Road, Suite 101S
Exton, PA 19341
484-483-2745 | www.extonmd.com


Photography by Jody Robinson