Ideal Protein: growing slimming program

Local chapters share success stories after program start

Obesity is a problem for many Americans that often leads to other health complications such as hypertension and diabetes.

More than two in five adults are obese, while one in 11 adults are severely obese, according to a 2017 to 2018 report by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Aware of their excess weight, many people have turned to various weight loss programs and exercise regimes to get in shape.

One such growing program in Plant City is Ideal Protein, which was founded over 20 years ago by Dr. Tran Tien Chanh, a general practitioner and sports physician.

Ideal Protein is a low-carb diet, which takes its participants through three different phases.

Phase One helps burn fat by limiting carbohydrate intake and eating whole foods. It lasts until the ideal weight is reached and is monitored by a coach.

Phase two focuses on maintaining the achieved weight, with instructions on how to gradually incorporate healthy carbohydrates and fats when eating whole foods.

Phase three requires visits with a trainer to stay on track and offers helpful tips which can be found in educational brochures.

Dr. Mark Filosi is a pharmacist at Family Care Pharmacy in Plant City, one of several Ideal Protein clinics in the Tampa Bay area that offers the program’s food products as well as its coaching services.

“We’re literally taking people off high blood pressure meds, cholesterol meds, and (and) blood sugar meds,” he said. “We got people off insulin. It was truly remarkable.

Filosi, along with Ideal Protein trainer Warren Dickey, was on a mission to find a metabolic weight loss plan that worked for them before they discovered the program four years ago. Dickey is a retired Marine Corps officer. who served for 30 years but struggled with his weight while in the military.

“That’s how I got into this and that’s why I got into this because it was an absolute necessity to understand this or else I would have been fired from the Marine Corps for being in overweight,” he said.

The transition to healthier eating has gone smoothly, he added.

Carbohydrates such as bread and pasta are everyday foods, however, program participants are taught to steer clear of the types of foods that can ultimately turn into glucose in the body.

The trainer helps with choosing the right foods as well as portion control.

Those who participate in the program can indulge in smoothies, soups, pancakes, oatmeal, muffins, omelets, cookies, syrups, protein shakes, protein bars, pudding, wafers, grapes, sauces and marinades.

These products can only be found in places that have chosen to implement the Ideal Protein program as part of their service.

“We have stuff they can eat that’s sweet, that’s savory, that spans the range of product lines that you might want if you’re going to eat emotionally, because of stress,” Dickey said. “There’s such a variety of foods you can eat on this program that you’ll probably find something to get rid of your itch.”

Deb Cantero was an emotional eater before discovering Ideal Protein. Like many others, she used food as a crutch to cope with stress. As a 40-year-old nurse, she is used to recognizing health issues her patients may have, but in 2021 she began to care about her own well-being.

Cantero suffered from high blood pressure as well as abnormal glucose and hemoglobin levels. She expressed her frustration to her practitioner, who in turn referred her to the Ideal Protein program. With the help of Dickey as a coach, Cantero has been on the program for a year and a half and is currently in phase one. She saw significant results from her work, dropping from 246 pounds to 173 pounds.

Cantero always strives to lose 15 more pounds to reach his ideal weight.

“It was the only program that worked and the reason for that is the structure of the program and the way it teaches you to see food,” she said. “You’re logging your food intake, which is critical to success because you need to be able to watch your calories, your protein.”

During the first phase, participants are encouraged not to do cardiovascular exercises other than walking, as this goes against the program. Intense exercise can cause cortisol to be produced, which would put the body in a state of stress, Filosi said. Additionally, cortisol helps produce fat.

While Cantero has always loved vegetables, she learned different ways to prepare them and make them more edible.

Dale Peterson, who started the program in late 2020, did light exercise like walking and cycling. He is a retired Plant City Police Department officer, having served in the force for 28 years. Although he exercises moderately, he understands that the key to his weight loss success is healthy eating. Peterson cut back on his favorite foods like pizza and pasta and replaced those foods with more vegetables — up to four cups a day.

While he was ready to commit to the program from the start, there were still temptations he had to avoid.

In recent years, the community has shown an outpouring of support for the police department by offering the very food Peterson was trying to stay away from. At home, his wife supports his new lifestyle by preparing meals that match his diet. In fact, he inspired her to participate in those same meals.

“Sometimes people are in the same house and one is in the program and the other isn’t, it hurts people,” Peterson said. “I saw it happen, but when I was doing it myself, she never hurt me, because she supported me.”

In November 2020 he weighed around 300 pounds and in July 2021 his weight dropped to 222 pounds.

Dickey was also his coach and now he’s become a coach, helping others stay on track.

Ideal Protein has its own app that helps create favorite meals and helps trainers track results.

Coaching courses are currently undergoing a pilot program where participants may have the option to meet their instructor virtually or in person.

The program should benefit everyone who tries it, Filosi said.

“After a week or two it becomes – I think, both simple and easy for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s just about taking the first step by trying it and giving yourself permission to be healthier.”

For more information about the program, visit

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