Success Stories

Anybody who has struggled with weight knows that weight loss success is about so much more than the numbers on a scale. When guests return home from their Structure House weight loss vacation, they are healthier, happier, and reinvigorated.  Here are a few of their stories.

Mike Theokas

Mike Theokas jokes that he is “half the man I used to be.” Although this statement accurately reflects Mike’s impressive weight loss of 358 pounds, the details of his journey certainly demonstrate his tremendous growth since he arrived to Structure House in March of 2010. Mike initially came to SH because he realized that he was headed for a crisis if he continued to engage in his unhealthy eating and sedentary patterns. He decided that he wanted to start controlling his own actions, rather than allowing food to have control over him.

Over the course of two Structure House stays, Mike adopted the Structure House principle of eating only 3 meals daily with no eating in between. He focused on consuming what his body needed for nutrition rather than relying on food for comfort or entertainment. Initially, Mike did not feel comfortable working out in a gym with people whom he perceived as more fit than himself. Thus, he started to increase his activity through functional activities like walking to do errands or parking in spots a distance away from his destination. Eventually, he gained enough confidence to start a workout program in a gym and he now attends the gym regularly and enjoys it. Most recently, Mike has volunteered to coach his local high school’s football and basketball teams, and he takes pride in being able to complete running drills with the players. Mike also recently completed a 5k.

Mike advises others to stop dwelling on the past and perceived limitations. Now 296 pounds, he found success by starting small, focusing less on the number on the scale and more on healthy day-to-day living. Once he changed his lifestyle, mindset, and habits, the weight loss came with it, and he exceeded many goals and milestones along the way. Mike also advocates using mindfulness and meditation techniques to “press the pause button” and deal with the moment at hand before it spirals out of control. He also keeps in touch with his Structure House support system; the friendships that he developed while on campus have added to the support that he receives from his family and lifelong friends at home. Above all, Mike acknowledges that the prerequisite to his success was being willing to ask for help. He recognizes that once he allowed himself to really listen and fostered a desire to change, the healthy behaviors naturally followed.


John E. (Chicago, IL)

During the Christmas holiday before I finally made it to Structure House, I sat in a chair at this restaurant in Rockefeller Center…  watching the ice skaters at Christmas…  The chair broke, I fell to the floor, VERY embarrassed…. but otherwise uninjured. It was a seminal moment in me getting motivated to change. While at Structure House I followed the program; though a physician, I found that I learned a tremendous amount in the lectures. I also realized that stress in my personal life needed to be addressed, and after Structure House, I went about making major changes.

Now, I enjoy my food, but it’s not a source of high pleasure.  I cook much, much more, and am very demanding in restaurants about preparation.  I travel with my food.  I eat before going to functions. I also exercise consistently, and enjoy it.  I also particularly enjoy weight lifting, and I believe this has been a big part of my weight loss and maintenance. I never had a goal weight… my goal was to eat “right” without being hungry and to exercise, and see where that led me. I’ve been between 208-219 lbs over the last year (generally 212 lb), down from 337 in April 2008.

In general, my life is SO much better.  I no longer have sleep apnea (no more CPAP), high blood pressure, or pre-diabetes.  The challenge is that it took me 18 months to lose the weight – I changed my life and did NOT go on a diet.  At first, I did not believe it possible – but I kept the faith. I now find that fruits taste very sweet – I don’t need added sugar.  I look forward to my exercise.  I enjoy compliments.  I hope to live longer, and better.

*Check out Dr. E’s blog www.howilost100lbs.com


Marci W. (Denver, CO)

After a blind date’s hurtful words and rejection, Marci knew she had to do something about her weight. “I was not familiar with those words,” Marci recalls. “That was the breaking point…no more fat!” Although Marci was fit throughout her youth, she began struggling with her weight after giving birth to her two sons. Like so many, Marci had lost herself in the joy, and stress, of motherhood. “I was in love with being a mom, but my life was out of balance,” Marci says. Life stresses, including full-time motherhood and a divorce, were taking a toll. Prior to entering Structure House, she carried about 170 pounds on her petite 4’11″ frame, and had multiple weight-related health concerns, including warning signs for Type 2 diabetes and higher risk for heart problems.

Since Structure House, Marci is maintaining her goal weight of 110 pounds, and seeing significant improvement in her health. She can keep up with her dog who likes to run during their walks and everyday movement is much easier. Now 55 years old, she has discovered carving out time for herself has enhanced her ability to be a great mother to her sons, now both adults. “They are a huge part of my life,” says Marci. “I want to be a role model and teach them healthy habits, live longer, and be able to keep up and spend time with them.”

With a renewed focus on maintaining a healthy life, Marci keeps active by working out with a trainer twice a week, riding her bicycle for errands, and using tennis, snowshoeing, hiking or walking for exercise. Marci has also developed a passion for tap dancing, and has taken several jazz and tap classes at local universities.


Jenn L. (New York, NY)

In 2010, then 17-year-old, 294-lb. Jenn Little was surprised to be sitting with Dr. Phil on national television discussing her weight. After appearing on the show, Dr. Phil sent Jenn to Structure House to help her in her weight loss struggles while giving her the tools to keep the weight off on her own. Now, as the one-year anniversary of her stay at Structure House approaches and her total weight loss nears 60 pounds thus far, Jenn continues to benefit from the lessons she learned during her visit.

She attributes her success to a positive attitude and diligent note-taking. “I keep a food diary, eat slowly, plan meals, cook my own meals and am open about my weight,” she said of her new routine. Jenn also follows a regimen of five hours of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and one outdoor walk per week. She also takes advantage of Structure House’s “Not Home Alone” program, which connects her to a Structure House professional whenever she has questions about diet or exercise. The program is one of many that Structure House offers to assist participants in making permanent lifestyle changes.

Her support system has also been invaluable to her. Parents, friends, MMA instructors and fellow Structure House participants keep her focused on her goals. Clear signs of success, such as becoming more toned, feeling better about her body and wearing a tankini bathing suit, also serve as terrific motivators. While she still plans to lose another 60 pounds, Jenn is committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and looks forward to running a 5K race in the future!


David W. (VA)

David Wolfe was determined to lose weight. At the age of 42, he weighed 288 pounds and had a variety of health problems associated with his obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux disease and migraine headaches. The numerous medications David took to control these conditions made it difficult to sleep — which meant yet another addition to his prescription cocktail: sleeping pills.

A sudden escalation in weight-related health issues prompted David to research various diet programs in the Raleigh/Durham area. He chose to attend Structure House because it was residential and offered so many beneficial behavior modification, nutrition and fitness classes, which went beyond merely adhering to a strict diet or counting calories.

“I just decided, now is the time,” said David, an entrepreneur and private equity investor.

Prior to his Structure House visit in April 2005, he shared his goal of losing 100 pounds in one year with everyone he knew. David called and emailed more than 50 family members, friends and business partners to inform them of his intentions.

“By making my weight loss goals public, people could encourage me,” said David, a United Kingdom (UK) native who now resides in Virginia. “When you make a public appeal, you’re much less likely to fail.”

Friends pledged money per pound that he lost — and the results have been amazing. To date, he has amassed over $10,000 in pledges. The proceeds will go toward starting a foundation to support families facing childhood obesity problems.

David lost 12 pounds during his one-week stay at Structure House. As the year progressed, he continued to implement the lessons he learned, achieving and maintaining a “structured” lifestyle. Now, over a year later, David is 100 pounds lighter and in great health.

“I’m in the best shape of my life, my heart rate has gone down, and my blood pressure is lower than ever,” David said. “And best of all, I am off all the medications”.

David’s lifestyle has changed drastically from a year ago. He now goes to the gym regularly, runs three miles a day, and lifts weights at least three times a week. David, his wife, and their two daughters enjoy exercising together, too.

“The kids love it because we can work out together. We even go to the gym as a family,” he said.

David is also an avid cyclist. He rides 30 miles every weekend, and does a spinning class two to three times a week. Most recently, David and his 13-year-old daughter, Sophie, ventured to Israel for the Arava Institute & Hazon Israel Bike Ride, a five-day biking excursion. From May 9 through May 16, they rode a total of 300 miles from Jerusalem to Eilat, the southernmost city of Israel on the coast of the Red Sea.

“I heard about this ride four years ago and knew I’d get to it if I could get my weight under control,” David said.

David’s completion of the 300-mile bike ride is a testament of his extraordinary progress toward achieving a healthier lifestyle. Yet unlike the ride across Israel, David’s quest toward optimal health and physical fitness will not cease after he reaches the “finish line” of his ideal weight.

“Weight loss is truly a journey, not a destination,” David said. “And it has been an amazing journey so far.”


Sheryl L. (Schaumburg, IL)

In just a little more than a year, Sheryl Le Vine lost 115 pounds and drastically cut down daily medications. Her diabetic A1c level is back in the normal range and her blood pressure is nearly perfect. An elementary school teacher from Schaumburg, Illinois, Sheryl said, “I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve remained on this journey for over a year and I’m making it a lifestyle.”

Last summer, Sheryl had a very different story to tell. Like many others, she was overweight as an adult and maintained that weight for years. Sadly, she lost both parents and another loved one within an 18-month span and gained more weight. A few years ago, she became allergic to something in her classroom, making her progressively more ill and, partly due to medication, unable to control her weight gain. “I was larger than ever before, I couldn’t breathe, and was increasingly immobile. I was in a constant state of pain and exhaustion. The person in the mirror was not me.”

After finding Structure House online, Sheryl arrived for her first of three visits in June 2008. “It provided me a safe, nurturing place with a warm, caring, knowledgeable staff where I could concentrate on nothing but myself. I took advantage of a good balance of three daily nutritious meals, classes in nutrition, behavior, physical fitness, therapy, group support, and an up-to-date gym. I was able to change my relationship with food and take more time just to take care of myself.”

Sheryl, now 47 years old, lost 30 pounds during her first six-week stay and received her 100-pound jacket in July 2009, just one year after her first visit. “Many people have commented on how I’ve become a new person, but that’s not true…I’m just myself again. Most of all, I’ve established a lifestyle that has balance. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun…but it’s working and it’s worth the effort.”

Sheryl explains that her watchword this past year has been balance. “I strive for balance in my life: body, mind and spirit, but also balance in how I structure my day. I work, I work out, I try my best to create downtime, and I make sure to spend time with friends.”

After struggling with her weight for so many years, Sheryl learned to become her own best advocate. “I did most of this by myself and for myself, but was lucky to have a few wonderfully supportive friends and professionals, both at home and at Structure House. Big influences at Structure House are Randy Weiss, my personal trainer, and Nancy Freeman, one of the nurses. They helped me more than they will ever know, and I am so grateful. I also want everyone to know, that if I can do what I’ve been doing, despite some recent unexpected losses, as well as some injuries, that you can do it, too. We all have it in us…we just have to reach out and grab our lives back.”

During the past year, Sheryl started a program called, “Mega Minutes of Movement” with her 3rd grade classroom to teach the importance of exercising your brain AND your body. Sheryl and her students kept track of all their activities, such as bike riding, walking the dog, playing tag, sports, and other exercise. All the minutes were logged and charted on a huge thermometer on the wall. By the end of the school year, her classroom logged more than 75,000 minutes of exercise activity at home. “Most importantly, as my students watched me continue to lose weight in a healthy way, they were able to learn about the balance I always talk about and how to make it part of a healthy lifestyle.”


Additional Weight Loss Success

Roni, 49, Arizona:

“Before I came to Structure House I tried most diets and pills known to mankind. I tried it all and the results were devastating resulting in the much anticipated Yo Yo effect: lose weight and gain it back plus few more for good measure. Nothing worked.

“Being at Structure House made me re-examine my life and focus on what was really important. Slowly, as I began to shed pounds and I cleaned my own house, my state of mind shifted as well. I felt that I was given a new lease on life one more time.

“Structure House helped me change my life 180 degrees and put me back on the road of longevity. Again I cannot say thank you enough to each and every one of the staff for helping me achieve my goal.”


Robert, 46, Real Estate Developer, New York:

“I have had a weight problem (actual and perceptual) since childhood. My father was very overweight and died of heart disease at age 62. I had been exercising regularly for the past 20 years but was unable to control my weight. I spent one week at Structure House three years ago and as incredible as this may sound, that one week changed my whole outlook on food. I was able to understand the concept of creating structure in my eating habits, in the way I exercised, and in dealing with emotional or psychological elements that are necessary for maintaining a healthy and balanced existence.

“I spend a total of 45 minutes each week organizing my food intake and exercise regimen for that week. I lost 27 pounds with in six months of my visit to Structure House and most important, I have been able to keep the weight off. The concept of structuring one’s eating and exercise habits is a very practical and effective means for successful weight reduction and achieving a better quality of life.”


Robin, 53, professional pianist and piano teacher, Washington:

“My four weeks at Structure House were among the most valuable weeks of my life. I learned to eat in a structured manner and to exercise with some enthusiasm. I lost 23.3 pounds while at Structure House and have continued to lose steadily in the five months since. I have lost more than 80 pounds now, and I know that I will be able to lose the last 20 pounds using the same principles learned at Structure House.

“The Structure House staff is outstanding. Nutrition, exercise and psychological counseling are all done by compassionate professionals who specialize in treating overeaters. At Structure House, I learned to change my relationship with food for life. I learned that I don’t have to overeat, that emotional needs can be met in far more constructive ways. At Structure House I learned what I need to change to make my lifestyle a much healthier one. My life has improved immeasurably by what I learned at Structure House. I have found that as a healthier, more fit person, I have more confidence and a much more enthusiastic outlook on life. Plus, I look good!

“The atmosphere at Structure House is very conductive to making positive changes. A great variety of exercise is offered, and many classes dealing with all aspects of lifestyle change are held each day. Apartments are comfortable, and the grounds of Structure House are very pretty. I thought of it as a “working vacation”, and I am so glad I went!”


Teresa, 31, Teacher, Dallas:

“Structure House offered me the opportunity to leave my chaotic world of eating and go to a safe place to build new habits that would last a lifetime. An initial four week stay and two additional visits over a one year period helped me to lose 170 pounds and learn lifelong habits to continue being healthy.”