An Interview with Mary King of MD Weight Loss and Wellness Center
In August of 2019 I joined a newly formed group of local business owners and professionals that is called Community Builders Mastermind Networking Group. I’ll write more about the group in upcoming issues of this newsletter. Through the process of building this group I’ve gotten to know some awesome small business owners and entrepreneurs in our area. One of these people is Mary King, who is a nurse practitioner and part owner with her husband Dr. Dennis King of the newly formed MD Weight Loss and Wellness Center that is located in west Knoxville.
Mary and Dennis are operating their clinic in a new, unique way that seeks to empower the individual who struggles with their weight by focusing their practice on being affirming and nonjudgmental. As someone who has struggled with my own weight and understands the societal pressures that come with being overweight, I knew this unique approach should be covered in this newsletter. In mid-January I had the privilege of interviewing Mary for this newsletter. The interview follows.
Cameron: I’m here with Mary King. She is a nurse practitioner and one of the owners of MD Weight Loss and Wellness Center. How long have you been a nurse practitioner?
Mary: About two and a half years. I was a registered nurse for 21 years before that. So overall I’ve been in health care for 25 years.
Cameron: Where did you go to school?
Mary: I went to school in Lexington, Kentucky at Midway University back in 1995 for my undergraduate degree in nursing and I recently went back to school, maybe five years ago, for my nurse practitioner degree at Walden University. And I did all my clinicals in downtown Atlanta.
Cameron: Your husband is Dr. Dennis King and he’s the other owner of MD Weight loss and Wellness center. Have the two of you worked together before in this capacity?
Mary: No. We have actually tried to work together for twenty years but have never been able to work in the same office together. We just moved back to the Knoxville area after living in Atlanta for six years, and the opening of this clinic will be the first time we have been able to work together.
Dr. King has been a family doctor for almost 25 years. He did his residency at UT in Memphis and he also has a master’s degree in clinical psychology.
We have wanted to work together for a long time. So the opening of this clinic will give us the opportunity.
One of the main reasons we are opening this clinic is because in primary care you have to see one patient after another and it is a rushed process. Continually over the years we have been seeing this problem with weight in people. It is getting worse and worse. 70% of the population is either overweight or obese. And young people are now starting to get diabetes and high blood pressure. The problem is worsening.
We wanted to move away from the situation of seeing one patient after another and telling those patients, “You need to lose a little bit of weight. Come back and see us in six months.” And what happens a lot of times after that is the patient walks out of our office with their head held down and their confidence shaken. They feel badly and they don’t know what to do. We just told them they are overweight. No one wants to hear that. And oftentimes we would see them come back in six months and they end up weighing more, their blood sugar is higher as well as their blood pressure.
This practice will be focused on helping each individual get healthier in a nonjudgmental environment that isn’t rushed. Our main passion is helping people get healthier. It is not all about “how does my body look in these jeans?”
There is a lot of fat shaming going on in society. This clinic is going to be a safe place for people to come. They will feel very welcomed here and they will feel that they are cared for and listened to. And every person will be treated as an individual, wherever they are at and whatever their motivation is, and whatever their struggle is. We want to help.
Cameron: When you say fat shaming, where are you seeing that?
Mary: It is widespread in society. Our goal is to make people feel more comfortable if they do have excess pounds. And to make them feel like they are a valuable human being.
In medicine you may go to a doctor or nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant and they may say, “Boy you’ve really put on the pounds.” Does the person not know that? That is not our approach. Our approach is to say how can we make you healthier?
It sounds really silly but I have this play list of 80 songs that we’ll play at the clinic that are positive, empowering songs that make people feel better through music.
We are very passionate about this. And we love our patients. We don’t like what we see is happening.
Cameron: This reminds me of Planet Fitness and how they like to be known as a “No Judgement Zone.”
Mary: That’s perfect. We are a no judgment zone.
Cameron: Digging deeper, why is that important to you?
Mary: It is important to us because we really care for our patients. When you see someone on the street you really have no idea what they are going through. Someone could be depressed, they could have anxiety, or even just be having a bad day. And despite all of that we want them to know that they are welcomed. You have to understand where each person is in their life and what’s going on with them. And it is most important not to judge.
Cameron: How would you say your clinic is different from other ones out there?
Mary: We don’t want to say anything derogatory about other clinics. Every clinic has their place. But for us Dr. King and I belong to the Obesity Medicine Association and the Obesity Society. Both have a lot of guidelines that we follow that are based in science. It is called Evidence Based Practice. If there is no scientific evidence behind a treatment we won’t be promoting it in our clinic. There are many treatments out there that are not based in science. Those are not something we will be doing.
Cameron: Can you speak more to that?
Mary: Back in the day it was called snake oil. And there is still some snake oil being sold. We encourage our patients to really do their research and use sources like the Obesity Medicine Association and not sources that aren’t reputable.
Cameron: I remember going to one of those little clinics about eight years ago and they gave me a vitamin B-12 shot.
Mary: We will probably offer vitamin B-12 shots. Some people are deficient in vitamin B-12 and some people feel a lot better after having those injections. That is different from other injections that are out there that there is no science behind.
Cameron: The other thing that clinic was prescribing were those diet pills that kept you hyped up on energy and made you not want to eat.
Mary: There are many medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We will prescribe some of those but only once we have done lab work on a patient and an EKG to ensure it is safe to take a medication. Sometimes that is more of a last resort. There are many other ways that someone can lose a little bit of weight. It is important with the many different types of diets out there to know medically which diet is best for the patient.
The KETO diet is a popular one right now. We are definitely not against it. We’ve even tried it ourselves. But someone may have high cholesterol and they probably shouldn’t be eating a ton of eggs or meat. I just met with someone this morning that has a problem with low blood sugar. For someone like that it may not be good to totally cut out carbs as they will feel a little shaky. It is important to figure out where each person’s health is at the moment.
Not everyone has to look like a model or be shaped like a model. But the fact is that even just losing 5% of your body weight can make you feel a whole lot healthier. That’s really our goal to try to do that.
It is a lifelong thing too. We want our clinic to be a place where patients will come back and see us once a month. But if they want to come in every week and get on the scale they can do that too.
Cameron: Do you have success stories of people in the past that you have helped lose weight and get healthy?
Mary: In our practices we have. But unfortunately in primary care practices, which we both worked in, a lot of times you are only scheduled to see a patient for 15 minutes, and then you are rushed on to the next one. So if we discover a patient has high blood sugar we are having to discuss what medications they might have to start taking, which leaves little time for getting to the root cause of the high blood sugar.
This clinic is a brand-new way of doing things.
We encourage everyone whether they are our patients or not to start eating better. You can still eat at Cracker Barrell, but you have to watch what you eat and choose wisely. Same goes with other restaurants. Though it is always better to cook at home.
Cameron: What are some goals you have for your new clinic?
Mary: Some goals that we have is that we want to see patients be transformed a little bit from where they are currently at. Our website says, “Transformed Lives.” If someone can lose just 5% of their weight it may mean they don’t have to take blood pressure medications. Or they may not become diabetic. And they would feel better.
So that is a goal, to try to help people make real doable changes that will start letting them feel better.
We also want to have a presence in the community as a place that’s trying to do that. We are going to be co-sponsors of Farragut’s first ever annual health and wellness expo in March. I’m also hoping to do some health fairs for different companies.
We want to be known as a place that helps people really start thinking about their health. Not so much about how they look in a certain outfit but for instance am I going to be a diabetic?
Cameron: Are you going to be connected to any mental health professionals?
Mary: We are working on some connections right now with Dr. King. He actually was an administrator for a mental health facility in California and also here. So he does have a background in clinical psychology. He actually did that for fourteen years before he went to medical school.
We both have treated in our practices depression and anxiety, but we also will be finding good referral sources if there’s something we can’t do.
Depression is one of the things we will talk to patients about. If someone is depressed, they can eat more carbs and not eat in healthy ways. This issue is very important to us. On a patient’s first visit we will talk to them about their mental health in a non-threatening way that won’t put people on the spot.
Another thing we are going to be checking is vitamin d levels. If someone’s vitamin d is very low they can feel sluggish. That’s a tiny thing that can make a big difference.
Cameron: What do you do if someone has a vitamin d deficiency?
Mary: You can do vitamin d supplementation. Usually you do 50,000 IU’s (international units) per week and do that for 12 weeks. And that usually takes care of it. My vitamin d was low and I didn’t even know it. That one issue could change your whole everything.
Cameron: Have you heard of the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek? The book asks questions of people that are fundamental to who they are, to help them on their mission in life. Do you have a why?
Mary: Yes. Years ago I lived in Massachusetts and I was a clinical manager for a home health agency. I printed out the word “why” and put it up inside my office. A lot of nurses in the office would walk by and looked at in in a weird way, wondering why I had that on the wall. Eventually they started asking me why is that “why” on your wall. And I said it is because I always wanted us to be thinking about our why. Why we do something.
My husband and I are at the age that we could probably start thinking about retirement. But instead we are opening a clinic. Because it has made such an impression on us seeing people hurt from being overweight and feeling badly. It is something we wanted to do for a long time.
When my husband Dr. King saw something written on his own chart that said he had too much weight on him it made him stop and think that this shouldn’t happen to him because he was a doctor and that he shouldn’t have a weight problem. And it made us understand that none of us are exempt from this. We just don’t see enough being done. I guess that would be our why.
It is not the fault of our primary care providers. They are running their heads off. Physicians that we know, nurse practitioners that we know, they are working their tails off. They are going home exhausted every night. Just by having to check all the boxes and cross all the t’s. They really don’t have a lot of time to focus on somebody’s weight.
Cameron: With regards to weight loss and improving one’s health, what would you say are the top three roadblocks that stand in the way of achieving that goal?
Mary: One of the things is they are not ready. They are not ready to start thinking about their health. It’s not necessarily being in denial but they may feel they have too many things going on in their life. They may have family members that want to have certain unhealthy foods prepared for them. Basically they just are not in the right place yet in their mind to do that.
Sometimes it is related to economics. We used to say that good food is more expensive than bad food. That’s not so much the case anymore. If you go out to the drive through you’ll see the increasing prices on food. Recently my husband and I went to a fast food restaurant and ordered two grilled chicken sandwiches and two diet cokes. And the total was fifteen dollars. I wonder what you could buy at the grocery store for that amount. But I do believe economics is a factor. They may not feel like they can afford to eat better.
Time is another factor. Nobody has time. But the problem with all of those things is that at some point your body stops you. If you don’t stop everything and say wait just a minute, I need to get healthier, eventually your body will stop you. I don’t mean to say that to sound like the end of the road. I just mean that if you don’t start making the time and start really thinking about what you are eating and your health and what you are doing and all of this other stuff your body has a way of shutting itself down.
You’ll eventually start having to take medication, and now you are spending time out of your day to go see the doctor to get medication refills. Worse case scenario you may end up having a heart attack and then you are really in trouble. Your body will stop you eventually.
There really are more than three things. But those are probably three of the biggest ones.
Cameron: So if someone has all those things running through their mind, it seems like that can be overwhelming. They know they have the issue but it seems too big to do anything about. What advice would you have for someone that feels overwhelmed by their situation?
Mary: If they came to see us, the first thing we would do is figure out where they are at right now. And then we try to figure out what is the most doable thing for them to do at that moment.
For example, take someone who doesn’t want to give up drinking sweet tea. The dilemma there is eventually your body will decide that you are going to give it up. What we would suggest is try taking some small steps. We would suggest trying for one day to substitute the sugar in a sweet tea with a different type of sweetener- like Stevia, which is plant based. Do that for one day. Then try to do it for the second day, and then the next. Next thing you know you’ve done it for four or five days and you don’t necessarily miss that sweet tea anymore. That may not seem like a big change for some people, but it is huge not to be taking in all the sugar. Over a year we’ve figured out that it’s like ten five pound bags of sugar you consumed if you drink a sweet tea everyday.
Someone who thinks that they can’t make big changes need to start with making small changes like that. That could cause them to lose a few pounds in the first month or so. With that victory they ask what else can I do? That’s probably the best thing. Small doable changes that are not too scary.
Cameron: How does someone go about contacting your clinic and scheduling an appointment?
Mary: They can call our office at 865-392-171 to schedule an appointment. They can also go to our website at www.mymdweightloss.com and use the contact form there to contact us. Our clinic will be open Monday through Friday from 8-5, and then on Tuesdays we will be open until 6.
Just to emphasize the reason we are opening this clinic is because we really care about people and their well being. Being able to help people is very rewarding. And we look forward to helping more people as our clinic becomes established in the community.