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Last updated: Fri. Sep. 05, 2014 - 01:12 am EDT

Launched: Fitter Fort fight on flab

Mayor hopes city loses 500,000 pounds; he's in

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Fort Wayne has a history with weight problems, but a new wellness initiative wants to change that. 

Mayor Tom Henry on Thursday, joined by several community members and business leaders, unveiled Operation for a Fitter Fort. The initiative, also known as OPF4, aims to promote lifestyle changes in Fort Wayne residents and sets a citywide weight-loss goal of 500,000 pounds by the end of 2016.

“Several years ago, Fort Wayne unfortunately received a write-up. We made a list,” Henry said. “There are all kinds of lists, and some of the lists that mention us, we’ve liked. This one was not so flattering.”

Dr. Mark O’Shaughnessy, a cardiologist with Parkview Physicians Group, said in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Fort Wayne the “fourth fattest city in America.” 

In 2011, Fort Wayne took second place on Prevention magazine’s list of the “Most artery-clogging cities,” following Detroit. 

“We’re no longer the fourth fattest city,” O’Shaughnessy said. “But that’s not because we’ve gotten thinner, it’s because other cities have gotten fatter.”

Though losing 500,000 pounds citywide in two years is the ultimate goal, OPF4 consultant Chris Blake said the weight loss is actually a byproduct of the initiative’s mission “to create and sustain” healthy living habits. 

“So don’t get hung up on the weight, though that is our tangible goal,” he said. “We want to do things the right way to get there.”

And Henry said the progression toward a more healthy Fort Wayne is going to start with him. 

“There’s a reason I’m standing behind this podium,” he said. “And the reason my jacket is buttoned is that I’m not real proud of what’s behind it.”

Henry said he plans to ask the city’s public relations office to bring out programs through which residents can sign up to exercise with the mayor, and discussions with health clubs are ongoing to potentially bring Zumba classes to Freimann Square. 

Residents who wish to participate in OPF4 can register at with their health information, such as height, weight, blood pressure and body measurements. All the information provided by members is “very private,” Blake said – that is, except for the mayor’s. “Unfortunately, the only one who’s not going to get privacy is the mayor,” he said. “All his results will be out there for the public so there’s no excuse.”

There will be monthly weigh-ins, Blake added, and constant feedback from the community to determine what aspects of the program are working and what aren’t. The OPF4 website also features health information, a calendar of fitness-related events around the city, and links to resources designed to help people meet their goals. The site also features a blog containing health and wellness-related tips. 

The first four events listed on the OPF4 website include Thursday’s kickoff, Wednesday’s McCormick Farmer’s Market, the Fort4Fitness festival Sept. 26 and 27 and the Oct. 19 Fort Wayne Trails Team Challenge. 

Residents who register with the site are able to set their own weight-loss goal and track their progress by periodically entering their health information. An automatic calculator tracks the total pounds shed by the entire community. 

“This is going to be an ongoing process, it’s not going to be perfect by any means,” Blake said. “And so we need feedback and we need personal success stories.”

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