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A physician's story: FitSmart program helps cardiologist lose weight

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Armed with a workbook, pedometer and sample diet menus, Donald Orth began his journey to better health as part of FitSmart at Virtua’s pilot weight loss group. "Weight loss is a very personal issue and for many people it’s been a lifelong struggle,” says Dr. Orth. “I realized that to help my patients lose weight, I needed an approach that could really work.”

The 57-year-old cardiologist was determined to give the FitSmart program a try and to share the experience with his patients. “Hopefully, knowing that I’ve struggled with health and fitness issues myself will help my patients feel comfortable talking to me about their weight problems,” notes Dr. Orth.

As a physician, Dr. Orth is all too aware of the 300,000 premature deaths annually as a result of obesity and inactivity. He also knows that overweight patients are at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes among other serious medical problems. In response to this health threat, Virtua developed FitSmart at Virtua, Center for Weight Management & Longevity.

“As soon as I heard about Virtua’s plan to open a weight loss center, I signed up for the employee pilot group,” says Dr. Orth. “I wanted to be sure it was a place I could feel comfortable sending my patients.” Doctors understand better than anyone that even a small weight loss can improve patients’ health. And they’re often among the first to advise patients of the necessity of losing weight. But, that can be easier said than done.

Physical and emotional issues
After just ten-weeks in the program, Dr. Orth has lost more than 14 pounds. “The program is presented in such a clear, practical manner, addressing the physical and emotional reasons behind eating. I feel more confident when speaking to my patients about diet and nutrition and now have myself to use an example.”

Program details
FitSmart is a 12-week course focusing on healthy eating, regular physical activity, stress management and positive lifestyle changes. The center is located in the William G. Rohrer Center for HealthFitness in Voorhees, where FitSmart participants enjoy full membership privileges during the course. In addition to pre- and post-program assessments, participants meet with life coaches to discuss health concerns, goals, exercise and food preferences and lifestyle issues. They also attend weekly group or individual meetings with registered dietitians, exercise physiologists and health educators, as well as take grocery shopping trips to test newly acquired nutrition savvy.

“It’s the degreed and certified team of experts that puts FitSmart in a different class than other weight loss programs on the market,” explains Paula Konstantines, RN, director of FitSmart at Virtua. “Most weight loss and fitness programs are staffed by company-trained sales representatives instead of experts. These are people with little or no clinical background who are offering nutrition and fitness advice without a doctor’s input.” By contrast, FitSmart is a medically integrated approach based on scientific studies and proven weight loss methods. “We even have a physician medical director who can update clients’ doctors on their progress if it’s medically necessary,” Konstantinides concludes.

Learn more
For more information, or to sign up for an assessment, call 888-Virtua-3.