RENO, Nev. (CBS 5) – Many people view surgeons as all-too anxious to cut – and reap the large fees that go with performing surgeries, but Reno plastic surgeon Charles Virden takes a different approach, especially in regard to obesity.

For Virden, liposuction is often the least desirable alternative. He’d prefer patients adopt a Paleo lifestyle, changing diet and health routine to lose weight.

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“I think of obesity as a bigger problem than just having to have fat sucked out of you,” explained Virden.

Complete CBS 5 Coverage Of The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet worked for Stacy Cunningham, a hotel manager in Reno who struggled with her weight for years.

“I hadn’t been under 200 pounds since giving birth to my daughter 14 years ago,” said Cunningham.

Once she “went Paleo,” Cunningham lost 55 pounds over a period of six months. She also realized that “Paleo wasn’t just a diet, it was a lifestyle change.”

She worked with lifestyle coach Sandra Bledsoe of Renovation Medical Spa, who said people can take control of their own fight against obesity.

“We may not have charge of a lot of things in the world, but we have charge of what goes into our mouth and how things are prepared,” said Bledsoe.

Cunningham said she liked the simple approach to healthy eating.

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“(dieters are able to) eat as many fruits and vegetables and proteins as you can, stay away from the things that come out of the boxes or the cans, and drink lots of water.”

In a real life example of the old admonition “Physician, heal thyself” Virden said he put himself on the program and lost 20 pounds.

“If I’m on it and I believe in it, it’s a real simple sell,” said Virden. “I like how I feel, so it was a natural.”

Virden said patients are often surprised when he balks at operations and sends them out to get healthier first.

“When you think about a surgeon, you assume our motives are financial,” he said. “I don’t think that way.”

Even for those who end up having liposuction, the results are often better if they have at least stabilized their weight through a Paleo approach.

For Virden, if one revenue stream dries up, others may flourish. Patients who no longer need liposuction have money for other procedures.

“I might be doing their eyelids,” he said. “The money they didn’t spend on liposuction (goes to) another part of their body.”

Stacy Cunningham, for instance, had a breast lift.

She said she feels better than ever. Her cholesterol is now in check and she qualifies for a better health insurance rate because of her weight loss.

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