Knoxville Woman Finds Support at Fort Sanders Weight Management Center
People sometimes joke they’re allergic to stress, but for Michelle Watkins, it’s the honest truth.
Watkins, 42, is a special education teacher in North Knoxville, with an immune disorder related to mast cells in her body’s immune system. Mast cells release substances called “mediators” in response to danger, stress, or allergens such as foods and pollen. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) and was found to be allergic to at least a dozen foods in addition to stress itself.
“When I first got diagnosed with the mast cell issue, I started taking a daily antihistamine and I lost 25 pounds quickly. Then I lost 10 more pounds on my own. I was always healthy. I ran the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, and I was exercising and regularly working out. But my weight had hit this wall and wasn’t going down,” Watkins says.
“I was hoping if I could eliminate more of the physical stress [of extra weight] from my body, my immune disorder would improve,” she recalls.
At the recommendation of a fellow teacher, Watkins contacted the Fort Sanders Weight Management and Nutrition Center. The center provides a medically supervised approach to weight loss that offers each patient an individualized plan for diet, exercise, medication and even weight-loss surgery.
At the center, Watkins worked with Dana Webber, MSN, NP-C, CBN, a nurse practitioner and certified bariatric nurse. Webber designed a plan just for Watkins that involved diet, exercise and two medications.
“I count calories, and it’s all about portion control. What Dana helped me understand is how my metabolism works,” Watkins says.
By the end of December 2019, Watkins had lost 60 pounds. Her goal is to lose 20 more and get back to what she weighed in college.
“I have been more stable with my immune disorder than I have been in three years,” she says. “My allergist is very happy!”
Watkins recommends the Fort Sanders Weight Management Center to anyone wanting to make a lifelong healthy lifestyle change.
“It’s an amazing place,” she states. “The thing about Dana is that you know she understands where you’re coming from. She has been on a healthful living weight-loss path herself. Her empathy is tremendous.”
“If you’ve never struggled with obesity, it’s hard to understand,” Webber says. “Michelle was successful because she was ready to make the change. She followed up, and she comes to all of her appointments. The goals we’ve given her, she’s knocked them out of the ballpark.”
As for Watkins, she is adjusting to being back at school during a pandemic. If there was ever a time to use her stress‐relieving strategies, it’s now.
“This whole stress of going back to school has been hard, but I’m still seeing Dana,” Watkins says. “I wish I would have started seeing her sooner. I never felt bad before, but now I feel really, really good.”
To learn more about weight management options at Fort Sanders Regional, visit FSRegional.com/Bariatrics.