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Side of Ranch

Lakewood Ranch businessman makes large-scale attack on weight loss

Rich Medford started the business Americas Wellness Group to combat obesity.

Concerned about Americans' problem with obesity, Lakewood Ranch's Rich Medford started Americas Wellness Group.
Concerned about Americans' problem with obesity, Lakewood Ranch's Rich Medford started Americas Wellness Group.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Those who wrestled back in the 1970s or 1980s understood that wrestling coaches always knew the best ways to lose weight.

You didn't see the word "healthy" in that sentence.

So the night before a tournament, I was a 158-pound kid (normally) who was competing in the 142-pound class. And I needed to lose those pesky 2 pounds that just wouldn't peel off, even though I hadn't eaten anything solid for two days.

I grew up in a dairy farming area, where wrestling was king on campus. Weight loss was an important part of the deal, and most parents went along with the program. How you did it didn't matter as long as the official cleared you to show up on the mat.

Starvation and working out in sweat shop conditions were the preferred weight loss treatment, but sometimes you just needed to go above and beyond to hit the mark.

On this night, my coach had a solution. He brought me to his home, and set up a makeshift bed in his laundry room. I laid on the floor, and once an hour he would show up to start the dryer, which would run the next 60 minutes, increasing the heat in the room, and sweating the final 2 pounds off me.

It worked, but I doubt it did my overall system a lot of good.

After wrestling through high school and college, I eventually hated anything to do with weight loss, and therefore did what I could to gain weight. For years, it was hopeless, as I couldn't get close to my goal of 200 pounds.

Then I turned 55, which signaled my body to produce all the extra pounds I thought I wanted. They came in a hurry. Not exactly in the form I desired.

A Harvard study says 69% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
Photo by Jay Heater

All of a sudden, it was a problem for me. What were these bumps on my side? Why did I grow my dad's beer belly?

I started to read about diets.

There was the one where you ate grapefruits all week. Considering that I used to suck on oranges when I was a wrestler on the days I was eating solid food, this one did not appeal to me.

I read about an ice cream diet, which though appealing, seemed stupid. Then came the cabbage soup diet, which might have worked if I didn't hate cabbage soup.

A master cleanse diet feeds you a two-week diet of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Talk about heartburn.

Then there was a wide assortment of diets that preached a regular workout schedule and a steady stream of healthy foods, such as green vegetables, fruits and nuts. Hmmmm. If I could do that, I wouldn't have the problem in the first place.

Of course, I haven't even mentioned the diets that include premade meals that, for my taste, take the joy out of eating. It is, indeed, one of my life's joys.

I quickly understood why people with substantial weight problems could become discouraged. And I might add that any medical solutions seemed to be extreme and very expensive.

Lakewood Ranch's Rich Medford might have shared many of the same concerns when he did a little research about the proper, or healthy, weight for his 6-foot-2 frame.

Many people in the community probably know of Medford as a businessman who owns two area Sirius Day Spas with his wife, Karen Medford. He obviously is a health conscious guy who certainly never looked like he needed to lose any weight.

Then he learned his frame wasn't supposed to support the 223 pounds he was carrying. He started to look into all those diets that just aren't right for many of us.

He began to read about semaglutide, a peptide which became a hot item after being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021. 

Medford kept reading positive reports about the drug, which injected once a week, allows the person to enjoy all the same foods, but lose the need to overindulge. Therefore, the meal becomes half what it was previously.

Among the reports was this one by UCLA Health:

"There have been several anti-obesity medications that help suppress appetite and achieve weight loss. But semaglutide performs on a new level. An early study of 2,000 obese adults compared people using semaglutide plus a diet and exercise program with people who made the same lifestyle changes without semaglutide. After 68 weeks, half of the participants using semaglutide lost 15% of their body weight, and nearly a third lost 20%. Participants who incorporated only lifestyle changes lost about 2.4% of their weight."

Semaglutide was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021.
Photo by Jay Heater

Impressed by the many positive reports, and knowing that the market was about to explode, Medford pulled together some investors and created Americas Wellness Group, which launched four weeks ago at 7614 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota.

He since has opened new stores in Jupiter and in Willowghby Hills, Ohio. He will open an Americas Wellness Group in Denver in six to eight weeks.

"It is going so fast that nobody knows where it is going," he said.

It all intrigued me because so many diets, whether medically related or not, tend to come and go.

He explained that the more than 100 clients who have signed up at his East County store come to have a shot once in a week, in the thigh, butt, hip, arm or leg, depending on their preference. Medford staffs the business with registered nurses and medical technicians.

The injection under the skin layer causes the body to process it as a peptide.

He followed the program himself so he could explain to possible clients about the effects.

"I weighed 223," he said. "Now I weigh 205. I did it in five weeks.

"I wanted to do it because I wanted to experience how it changes the way you think about food. Everything tastes the same, and I really didn't believe it until I did it. I still eat the cheeseburger, but I only eat half of it. It limits my intake."

Medford stressed that it doesn't make a person nauseous or make the food taste crummy.

"It is just that your hunger is gone," he said.

But why gamble on such a drug?

"I didn't do this for the money," he said. "In my family, most are overweight. Sixty percent of Americans are overweight or obese (a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report says the number is 69%). This is an actual epidemic nobody wants to deal with."

So if the big drug companies put the smaller Americas Wellness Group out of the business, so be it. He said he will continue to help as many people as possible to live healthier lives.

"There's got to be some intervention," he said of so many people being overweight. "This is the beginning of a medical breakthrough. You can take somebody with demons, and help them. People are so happy when they get weighed to see the results. It's shocking in a good way. And the people who use us know they have a partner in this."

The once-a-week treatment costs $299 a month. It is not covered by insurance.

Medford said a Lakewood Ranch clinic is his next target.

"This industry will continue to evolve," he said.

It's way better than the laundry room.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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