Weight Management Program Takes Aim at Obesity

Vol. 17, No. 1
Winter 2006/2007

  • Advanced Cardiology Techniques Enhance & Expand Treatment Options at Winthrop's Institute for Heart Care

  • Winthrop Elects New Members to Board of Directors

  • Scientific Research is Basic to Winthrop's Mission

  • Weight Management Program Takes Aim at Obesity

  • New Translation Service Breaks Language Barrier

  • Jay's World Foundation Dedicates Fifth Room in Cancer Center Unit

  • Winthrop's Lung Cancer Center: Cutting-Edge, Compassionate & Comprehensive Care

  • Winthrop's Home Health Agency Among Nation's Elite

  • Winthrop's MS Treatment Center Continues to Elevate Standard of Care & Research

  • New Pre-Diabetes Intervention Program Takes Flight at Winthrop

  • Organ Donor Network Medal of Honor

  • McCormack Fund Shows Support for Cardiopulmonary Stress Lab

  • A True Champion

  • Bay's Big Bash

  • The Franceschini Family Supports Colon Cancer Research

  • Evening of Tasting and Giving

  • Lippert Family Dinner Dance Raises $35,000 for Cancer Center for Kids

  • Residency Programs Get the Nod

  • Truckloads of Toys

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  • Walter Strack (above-right), before the Weight Management Program and today, with Program Coordinator, Donna Norkaitis-Gerrity.
    At 49, Walter Strack was a prime candidate for an early death. Weighing 511 pounds, he was vulnerable to stroke, cardiac disease and diabetes. With a long list of ailments, including high blood pressure, he was taking five different medications and needed a cane for support when he walked on his severely swollen legs.

    "I felt old," he said. "I had no energy, it was hard for me to move, I needed seatbelt extensions so I could drive legally, and I couldn't fit comfortably into a chair with arms." Along with about 30% -- 60 million people -- of the U.S. population, Mr. Strack was dangerously overweight.

    Taking aim in the battle against obesity, which the National Institutes of Health claims has reached epidemic proportions, Winthrop's Weight Management Program -- a comprehensive, medically supervised weight loss and health enhancement program for adults -- provides a healthy way to lose weight and develop a new, healthier outlook on life.

    That's just what Mr. Strack needed. "I tried many diets, but nothing really worked," he said. "I even considered surgery, but didn't want to take the risk. One day I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I have seven children, and I wanted to live. It was a no brainer." He joined Winthrop's Weight Management Program, and made what he calls a life-long commitment to improving his health.

    Over the past decade, the Program has helped thousands of people turn their lives around, including Joseph Greensher, MD, Winthrop's Medical Director, and Valerie Terzano, RN, the Hospital's Vice President for Nursing. "As a role model for nurses, I had to set a positive example," she said. "It gets easier every day. The important thing is to keep your goal in mind."

    The Program's weight-loss process begins with a referral from the participant's primary care physician and includes blood tests, an EKG and medical clearance from one of the Program's physicians.

    After orientation, the next 12-16 weeks focus on initial weight loss. Participants follow a liquid "Full Fast," including a minimum of five daily shakes, or the "Healthy Solutions" program, a modified diet involving a mix of shakes, entrees and fruits and vegetables. "Our diet provides structure and adequate nutrition while eliminating the need to weigh or measure foods," explained Donna Norkaitis-Gerrity, MS, RD, CDN, Program Coordinator and Director of Nutritional Counseling.

    "When the plan is followed, participants are successful," she added. "Their success touches me on a personal level. One little girl sent me a note after her father lost weight, saying, 'Thanks for giving my daddy back to me.'"

    Joan Cotelidis is another of the Program's many success stories. "I've gone from a size 18W to a 12," she reported. "Now, I hold my head up higher and feel more confident. Donna has taught me a lot, especially that you must be physically active otherwise the weight will come back with a vengeance."

    To help maintain their successful weight loss, participants also are required to attend weekly counseling/behavior modification sessions, where they find support and discuss a wide range of topics.

    "Not only does our Program lead to weight loss, but more importantly, participants can gain control of their lives," said Ms. Norkaitis-Gerrity.

    "It forces them to step back and take care of themselves for a change."

    Mr. Strack has certainly been taking care of himself. Not only has he changed his eating habits, but he's also transformed his attitude toward physical activity. As an electronic surveillance specialist in New York law enforcement, his workday is sedentary. "When I started the program, I couldn't do more than five minutes on my bike; now I do an hour-and-a-half a day of cardiac exercise, and sometimes more, if I'm listening to good music."

    So far he has lost close to 200 pounds. "I'm not finished yet, but I know I'll be successful," he said. "It wasn't easy at first, now it's not hard. I feel like I'm 25 again. My energy level is unbelievable. I'm off meds entirely. I don't need to go to the Big Man's store anymore, and best of all, they had to downsize my bulletproof vest three times."

    For more information about weight loss at Winthrop, call (516) 663-DIET.

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