TMC Athletes: Employee Loses Nearly Half Her Body Weight: “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

For Barbara Philipp, obesity was nearly a lifelong struggle.

Various weight loss support programs didn’t work, and the weight piled on even faster during the grief-filled time after her mother died.

Topping out at 385 pounds on a 5’10” frame, the 54-year-old medical transcriptionist at Tucson Medical Center faced many painful moments: needing an extra seat belt when flying, having strangers evaluate what was in her shopping cart, dealing with stares.

The final straw, though, was when she realized she could barely walk from her car in the parking lot to the front door of her apartment without needing oxygen.

Philipp’s story, however, is one of victory, continuing a series that features TMC athletes in a nod to the Olympics season and demonstrates the multitude of ways to embrace an active lifestyle.

Two years ago, Philipp decided she’d had it. After consulting with her doctor, it was determined she would be a good candidate for bariatric surgery, which limits the amount people can eat and reduces the absorption of nutrients.

It wasn’t a simple decision. It also required a major diet overhaul. Carbonation is frowned upon, so soft drinks are a no-no for the woman who used to be able to drink a case of soda in a day. She can no longer tolerate greasy food, yeast bread, peanut butter and pizza, but instead focused on fruits, vegetables and proteins. She has to eat slowly and chew well to aid digestion. She surprised herself by learning to like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

But boy, did the weight come off. She was losing 18 pounds a month for the first 5 months. And she’s still losing about three pounds a month. Now at 199 pounds, she’s well on her way to her target goal of 175.

“Talk about a confidence boost,” she said. And the more confidence she gained, the more active she became.

To get in shape for her surgery, she had started walking with a friend around the block. “I got hooked. I could not get enough of it,” she said. “It was amazing how far I could go once I got some of the weight off me.” Every other day, she now walks 4.5 miles.

In March, she took a class to learn how to run. “I was sore and achy at first. Even my eyelashes would hurt,” she said. She started running for one minute and walking for three, working up to running 4 minutes and walking for one. “Pretty soon, you realize you’re running more than you’re walking. And when they talk about runners getting an endorphin rush, I can now say that’s a fact.”

She said she might be slow – running a 13-minute mile – but she’s doing it, and she’s up to 5 miles every other day. She even did the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k in early June.

She’s off blood pressure medication. She’s no longer borderline diabetic. She’s become more outgoing with strangers.

“This is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I did it for me, and not for anybody else,” she said. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines of life anymore. I needed to be a participant.”

TMC Athletes: Systems Analyst and Marathon Runner Suggests Trying Variety of Activities

Kimberly Huffman, business systems analyst

A snapshot:

I’ve been running for almost 10 years now and I participate in as many of the TMC sponsored races as I can throughout the year. I’ve done one full marathon, and 12 half-marathons and two sprint triathlons. I also did my first 42-mile El Tour last year.

Why do you do it?

Running is definitely my fitness choice. I like to eat – I would say chocolate is my downfall – so it’s important to get out there and burn some calories. I love to go on bike rides and I love to swim, but running is still my favorite. I just like being outdoors and enjoying the fresh air and scenery. And it just makes you feel better and more energized to have a healthy lifestyle.

What has been your biggest obstacle?

I recently read a book that inspired me about running, but I also felt after reading it that I needed to change my running style. After running the same way for nine years, I guess my feet were happy with the way I was running, so when I changed it up, I ended up spending six weeks with plantar fasciitis and then followed that with a stress fracture. I’m fine now, but my motto now is: Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.

What is your best tip to others interested in becoming more active?

Try a variety of activities. Something will just click if it’s the right thing for you. And then when you find it, start out slow so you don’t risk injury.

Did You Know? Stretching Works to Prevent Injury, Improve Athletic Performance

Did you know that stretching can help improve flexibility? Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities and decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints retain fluidity in their full range of motion.

A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make daily living activities easier – whether that be doing simple exercises at your desk to reduce the risk of work-related repetitive stress injuries or taking part in an organized yoga class.

“Flexibility is just one component of yoga, along with balance, strength, precision, alignment and endurance,” said Terese Ireland, a nurse at TMC who also teaches weekly yoga classes for employees on campus.

Even so, she said, flexibility is key in helping to prevent injury by keeping the body more supple and nimble. A flexible spine also helps in preserving posture, since slumping forward and downward can lead to neck and shoulder pain and an eventual rounding of the spine.

Her students have reported less pain in their lower back or hips with regular practice. One of her students, who lifts heavy loads throughout the day, has reported having to take less ibuprofen.

Dr. Matt Heinz, a hospitalist at TMC, said as we age, our connective tissues change and we become less limber. “If you have maintained those soft tissues and connective tissues and joints, you’re going to not only better tolerate a workout regimen, but you’re also more able to respond to a sudden change in position, like a fall,” he said.

It also helps with stress reduction, Dr. Heinz added. “Stress worsens your immune system, increases your blood pressure and makes you have a more rapid heart rate,” he explained. “Anything that reduces stress is generally going to make you healthier.”

Diana Streitfeld, a volunteer who works in the nursery at TMC for Children, reported she’s noticed a big improvement in her alignment and posture since she began practicing yoga, adding she also feels more in tune with her body.

Her flexibility has improved as well. “I had lost some of that flexibility over the years and now I’ve noticed that it’s coming back and I’ve gotten a lot more flexible,” Streitfeld said.

Aside from the physical aspects, Ireland noted yoga is also good for the mind and spirit. “It’s an absolute stress reliever and energy builder. You can walk into class, exhausted, and walk out feeling two inches taller and energized.”

As a clinical nurse leader, Ireland said yoga has helped her find another kind of flexibility: “I’ve always loved what I do as a nurse, but it’s really helped me find even more compassion and flexibility with patients, nurses and doctors.”

Ireland said the No. 1 reason people are reluctant to try yoga? They fear they aren’t flexible enough. Her response?  “Then yoga is perfect for you. It will take time, but if you consistently stick with it, you will gain that flexibility,” she said, cautioning not to let ego reign over patience, since improvements take time.

The other misconception, fueled in part by media images of lithe yogis, is that a person has to be thin to participate. “The intention of those who brought yoga to America was to help all people. Yes, it’s an art form, but it’s also for overall health, and one of the great things about yoga is that it helps people find their way to a healthier lifestyle over time. It’s not about walking in and starting a diet.”

Peripheral arterial disease is no walk in the park

Between 8 million and 12 million people in the United States, especially those over age 50, suffer from peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, but many people are unaware of it because the disease, which raises a person’s risk of stroke or heart attack, doesn’t always have symptoms.

September is Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month and we encourage you to learn more about this condition. According to Healthwise Knowledgebase “PAD is narrowing or blockage of arteries that results in poor blood flow to your arms and legs. When you walk or exercise, your leg muscles do not get enough blood and you can get painful cramps. PAD, also caused peripheral vascular disease, is a common yet serious disease that raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

PAD does not always cause symptoms, so many people may have PAD and not know it. People who do experience symptoms, such as pain or cramping in the legs, often do not report them, believing they are a natural part of aging or due to another cause.

“If you have any risk factors for PAD or have any unexplained pain or cramping in your legs, you really should discuss this with your healthcare provider,” says Karen Reinhard, N.P., vascular surgery nurse practitioner. “PAD can not only affect your quality of life but can lead to more serious complications and there are a number of lifestyle changes, treatments, and interventions that can really make a difference.”

Food and Mood: 6 Ways Your Diet Affects How You Feel – US News and World Report

Eating right is an essential component of healthy living. But sometimes figuring out the rights and wrongs can be difficult.

We all know a little chocolate might make us happy, but too much chocolate will leave us with the sugar blues.

In fact,  “[d]ietary changes can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that alter our behavior and emotions.”

Find out more at Food and Mood: 6 Ways Your Diet Affects How You Feel – US News and World Report.

TMC hosts Southern Arizona Roadrunners’ Labor Day event

A perfect way to spend Labor Day: a morning run on a rolling 8-mile and 5K course looping through a cactus forest in the foothills of the scenic Rincon Mountains at Saguaro National Park East. The TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler and 5K Walk/Run will take place Monday, Sept. 5, at 6:30 a.m., in Saguaro National Park East. More information is available at

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461