After Cheryl Dreasky's son died of injuries he sustained in Iraq in 2006, she began eating more and more to cope with the stress.
Staff Sergeant Duane Dreasky was with the Michigan National Guard/U.S. Army when a improvised explosive device detonated near the Humvee he was in. He died eight months later from the burns he suffered.
By September of 2011, five years after her son died, Dreasky's doctor advised her that she needed to do something to take care of her weight.
So Cheryl decided to try the ReNew program at the Botsford Center for Health Improvement in Novi.
"My mindset was for my health, I had to do it," she said. "In the back of my mind, I knew that my son was looking down and told me I had to do something because he told me a long time ago."
The ReNew program is a 20-week, medically supervised weight loss program. It's heavily founded in education, and participants go to class once a week to learn from registered dietitians.
"You learn a lot about behavior strategies in what we call our toxic world because there's so much food out there, nutrition, exercise, meal planning, all of that," said Denise Marecki, the program manager.
The program is based on meal replacement. Generally, people take four meal replacements a day, comprised of vegetables and fruits.
"Meal replacements allow people to sort of withdraw from a lot of the unhealthy foods, and it's also very succinct and easy to do once you get into the idea of the plan," Marecki said.
Dreasky said following the plan was not a challenge because she knew she had to start taking care of herself.
"I don't feel deprived. I feel like I'm getting everything I need rather than eating a half a bag of potato chips. And we go out, but we go out selectively," she said. "You can figure out how you can eat with your supplements and what you're alloted. And if you can't figure it out, then you're really not focused on what you need to do."
Marecki said some people resist making changes to their diet, but they come around eventually.
"If you stick with it and you start to see success, you start to feel better, you start to get excited about it, then people are more willing to make those changes," she said.
"Once they lose some weight and have some progress, some positive feeling about the whole thing, then they can make that transition back to more regular food. Then their appetite is in a better place and their habits are better," she said.
Marecki said the average weight loss for participants in the first 20 weeks is 17 percent.
Dreasky has lost 30 pounds and loses more every week. She said she will continue to stick with the program to lose more.
After the first 20 weeks, participants can join the "Practice" program, in which they continue to follow a structure using everything they learned.
"I love the program, and you get so much support from the dietitians and from Denise and her staff. It's just unbelievable what you can do if you have the mindset. This is the easiest diet I've ever been on," Dreasky said.
Marecki and Dreasky agree that the program has many health benefits beyond losing weight.
When Dreasky started, her lung doctor didn't allow her to walk more than five minutes. Now she walks an hour or more with no problem. She was even able to walk in the Memorial Day parade in Walled Lake in honor of her son, who graduated from Walled Lake Western.
"He is an inspiration for me because I know he wanted me to lose the weight," she said.
Dreasky has also been able to go off some of her medications, and Marecki said 70 to 80 participants are able to do so. She has also seen 10 participants go off their insulin for Type II Diabetes.
Although Dreasky is busy working full-time and caring for her daughter, husband and mother, she said it is important to take the time to take care of yourself.
"This is my way of doing something for me. This is me time," she said.
Since the ReNew program began in February of 2010, a few hundred people have gone through the program, and most people continue to maintain their weight loss.
"This is a life change. This is not, well I fixed it I can go do what I want," Dreasky said.
Marecki said the program's tagline is "Facts, support and hope."
Facts come in through teaching people about nutrition and how their body works based medical research. Support comes from the involvement with the clients, and hope comes in when people who have never managed to lose weight before are happy when they can for the first time, Marecki said.
Dreasky, for one, is happy that she finally took the time to take control of her weight.
"If I didn't do something for me, I wouldn't be here," she said.