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'Dr. Phil Show' nutritionist to promote healthy lifestyle website

Robert Reames' career as a nutritionist and trainer began when he was an adolescent.

"I was a heavy kid," said Reames, an author as well as head trainer and nutritionist for the "Dr. Phil Show." "It wasn't really due to anything else than I loved to eat. I ate too much. Pizza and fries was one of my favorite meals."

But by age 15, Reames realized he was "the nice fat kid, but none of the girls want to go out with him."

"I learned at a very young age that it wasn't a diet that was the answer, it was a lifestyle change," Reames said.

Reames will be spreading his knowledge on healthy eating and exercise by promoting the Visual Eating and Exercise Program, or VEEP, during a visit to Westmoreland County hosted by Excela Health.

The free public program will be held at 6:30 tonight in Founders Hall on the campus of Westmoreland County Community College, near Youngwood. Reservations can be made through the Excela Health Call Center at 1-877-771-1234.

Robin Jennings, an Excela Health spokeswoman, said the health system began offering VEEP, a web-based program, to its employees and the public in January. About 90 people, mostly employees, have enrolled so far in the $99-per-year program.

Excela employees can pay for the program through payroll deductions and, as they meet weight loss goals, those fees will be reimbursed by the company as part of a wellness initiative at Excela, Jennings said.

The health system has invited companies to a private reception with Reames before the public program tonight. The hope is to get more employers to offer VEEP as a wellness incentive, because the cost of employee health benefits continues to increase.

Reames said he is thrilled to partner with Excela.

"It starts in kind of that grassroots, neighborhood situation," Reames said. "We're touching a lot of people. We would like to go to communities like this all around the country and just get to it on the local level."

Reames is promoting VEEP, an internet-based eating plan developed by Joel Greene.

Users create a profile about their habits and VEEP provides a plan specific to the individual and the goals they need to reach.

Every day, the users' meals are shown on the website visually on a 10 12-inch standard plate, which provides the portions in a true-to-life size. If a person doesn't like a particular item, they can substitute another in its place.

"It's sort of like if I was following you around meal by meal and you'd say, 'Robert, what do I eat now?' " Reames said.

If someone goes "off track" and has a big steak dinner with wine, the program will adjust their meals to get them back to where they need to be.

"The program is based not on what you should do but what you are doing," said Greene, its creator.

Excela Health wellness advocate Carrie Weis, 31, of Greensburg plans to be at the presentation.

She enrolled in VEEP on Jan. 15 through Excela because while she exercises regularly and is very active, she couldn't seem to lose weight.

VEEP has educated her about her eating habits.

"I was eating the right foods but not in the right combinations together," Weis said.

Weis, who would like to lose 60 pounds, has lost 16 pounds so far.

"It seems like the more weight I lose, the more energy I get, too," she said.

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