Tharawal AMS has ‘outstanding results’ from weight management program

26th May 2021

Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) at Campbelltown has so far seen ‘outstanding results’ in clients participating in a trial to show type 2 diabetes remission can be achieved through a weight management program provided in primary care.

Eight Tharawal AMS clients aged 49 to 63 are participating in the DiRECT-Aus research trial in two phases, with clients in the first phase already experiencing weight loss of up to 15kg and improving their glycemic control without the use of diabetes medications.

The trial is a partnership between Diabetes NSW & ACT, five primary health networks, including South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN), and the University of Sydney. Five general practices in South Western Sydney are participating in the trial.

It is looking to replicate the active arm of the DiRECT-UK Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial which saw type 2 diabetes remission achieved in 67 per cent of participants with weight loss greater than 10kg.

We spoke to dietitian Renee Zahar (pictured below) who is part of the specialist team – including GP, Dr Eva Constantinidis and practice manager/registered nurse Joanne Ross – overseeing the project at Tharawal AMS.

Ms Zahar said Tharawal AMS got involved in the trial to provide clients with access to a free diet replacement product, the support of a specialist team and education about healthy food choices.

30.3.21 - Tharawal - Direct study - Renee Zahar (17)

How does the diet replacement product work?

The diet replacement product is designed to cause rapid weight loss. It is used during the first three months of the trial in addition to low energy foods like stir-fries. The diet replacement product provides all the vitamins, minerals and protein that your body requires and is typically used by people who are significantly overweight, particularly when there is another condition that is impacting on their health. Also, it’s typically used prior to having to surgery to reduce operating times, recovery times and reduce some risks associated with surgery.

The diet replacement product is a tool for achieving short-term weight loss only and long-term weight control. Keeping the weight off depends on the long-term changes, behaviour change and attitudes to eating and exercise habits. For this reason, we also include an education element each week. Participants said this was the most valued part of the program in the UK.

The diet replacement product is used for medical reasons and its use should be medically supervised by a healthcare team.

What results are you getting?

The results have been outstanding. With the initial group I have seen weight loss of up to 15kg and excellent glycemic control without the use of diabetes medications. With the second cohort, after the first four weeks there was already weight loss of up to 7.7kg and a drop in blood glucose levels, again without medication or greatly reduced doses to get started.

However, what is most thrilling is the positive impact mentally it’s had on the patients. What I have observed is the sense my patients feel they can take some control back from their diabetes. While some have had huge gains in weight loss and improvements in their glycemic control, the attitude, behaviour change and relationship with food has been incredible from all participants. Not only that, it has had a profound impact on their individual family units and family members have also lost weight because of healthier food choices.

Also, what has been amazing is the support and ideas shared by clients when I developed a WhatsApp group called the Tharawal DiRECT Warriors. It’s been priceless.

What feedback are you getting from patients about the ease/difficulty of sticking with the weight management program?

Client 1

Number one thing is you have to want to do it. The program is magnificent, the encouragement too. I have found it super easy to stick to. The first week I was hungry but it’s mind over matter, getting rid of old unhealthy habits. The healthy options are great too. I’m feeling on top of the world today and have had a massive burst of energy.

Client 2

I wanted to do the program due to the support I was going to get and education to train my mind to choose healthier options instead of quick on-the-run foods. So far, the support and guidance have been really good. I’m not hungry but still have cravings. I’m training my mind to eat something healthy or use movement (walking or cleaning). I’m learning a lot about healthy eating.

Client 3

I have really enjoyed this. I have had so much support which has made it so easy to stick to and I feel great. I find the shakes are nice and all the other people around who are doing the same thing as me will feel the same. I just love it, I have tried everything and nothing has worked until now, so thankyou Renee.

Client 4

I am determined! I haven’t strayed from the program, even refusing chocolate. I love the convenience of this program, how easy it is to have my shakes or bars instead of going to all the takeaway food outlets that I used to. How easy is it to make a lovely vegetable stir-fry? I’m choosing healthy options now. My sugar levels are great at the moment with no medication and it’s because of this wonderful program that has me accountable every fortnight. I love the support groups as well, as they also give me motivation to get healthy and improve my quality of life.

30.3.21 - Tharawal - Direct study - Renee Zahar (14)

Enquiries about the DiRECT-Aus research trial can be directed to SWSPHN’s Vitor Rocha via email



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