Wednesday, 23 July 2014 21:41

Empowering Girls through Physical Fitness

Adolescence is a critical time when many girls' activity levels fall significantly or disappear altogether. So it is important that parents, coaches and other adults encourage girls to stay active as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Active girls tend to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence and healthier body images than girls who are not active. What's more, girls who are physically active tend to perform better on standardized tests, get higher grades and have higher aspirations after high school. All things considered, sports and physical fitness help set the framework for a happy, healthy and successful generation of women.

Start Them Young
Fitness habits form early, so encouraging girls to engage in regular physical activity can help them for the rest of their lives. Lea Rolfes, executive director of Girls on the Run of Atlanta, says, "Participation in physical activity at an early age is essential because it is an important determinant of long-term physical activity maintenance. Studies show if a girl does not participate in sports or physical activity by the time she is 10 years old, there is only a 10 percent chance she's likely to exercise when she is 25."
Lacey King (a.k.a. Choke Cherry) of the Atlanta Rollergirls, agrees. "The best thing we can do as members of society is to help young girls get involved and encourage them to feel empowered by sports," she says, which the Atlanta Rollergirls do through their 7 to 17-year-old group, the Atlanta Derby Brats. Jackie Cannizzo, tournament director for the Esther Cannizzo Junior Golf Foundation, supports this as well. She says, "If you can catch girls at a young age and get them engaged in sports, they will be better for it in general."

Break Out of the "Girl Box"
Keeping young girls interested in sports and fitness may be easier said than done, though. At Girls on the Run, Rolfes sees many girls get trapped in what she calls the "girl box." "It's a place where they're torn between who they know they are and what our culture says they should be," she explains. "It's a place of questioning their body image and experiencing low self-esteem and negative self-talk. Parents and educators see the girl box being imposed at an increasingly early age, and our mission is to reverse that trend. Our curriculum starts with girls in the third grade, because girls at this age are most receptive to this message. One of the most powerful tools to get out of the girl box is knowing that there are other girls who feel the same way."
She also remains committed to changing the gendered stereotypes that influence the extent to which girls participate in physical activity. "Popularity has different standards for boys and girls; adolescent boys' popularity depends on their physical ability, while adolescent girls' popularity depends on a complex mix of attributes such as physical appearance, material possessions and boyfriends," she says. "Female athletes are much more likely to be portrayed in ways that highlight their physical appearance instead of their athletic competence. The objectification of girls and young women, including female athletes, continues to influence girls' self-esteem, body image and valuation of physical activity."
These portrayals also perpetuate the mistaken belief that girls can't keep up with boys. "People think women can't play at the same level or intensity, which is absolutely not true," says Marq Williams, owner and head coach of the Atlanta Heartbreakers, a women's football team. "We have to encourage females because the more they participate in sports, the more people will give them the respect and understanding they deserve. We need to stop saying, 'This is a man's sport.'" Donnovant Dahunsi has been coaching for nearly 15 years, and he currently serves as the middle school track and field program coodinator for Atlanta Public Schools. He agrees that female athletes have just as much of a love for sports as their male counterparts. But often, Dahunsi says, "Many girls come to me not really knowing where or how they fit into the team," but under careful coaching, he says, it's not uncommon for those girls to excel and become team leaders.



Advice from A Fit Girl
Caroline Peters, manager at local retailer High Country Outfitters, recounts her fitness journey and gives recommendations to other young women.
What activities did you participate in during middle school and high school?
I was a competitive athlete who played soccer and indoor volleyball.
What support helped you stay active during those years?
My dad has always pushed me to try sports and keep me active, whether it was through sports or simply doing things outside. He would literally surprise me by driving me to tryouts for soccer teams. Outside of sports, my dad has been taking me backpacking and camping with my brother since I was a little girl.
What activities do you enjoy outside of traditional competitive sports?
Yoga in particular keeps me centered and grounded. I also trail run, bike, climb and am always excited to try something new. That's how I first got into SUP yoga [pictured below]; I had just finished yoga school, and the deck pad on my board reminded me of a yoga mat.
What advice do you have for a young girl looking for an activity she really loves?
Try it all! Step out of your comfort zone! New challenges make you stronger.



Active Alternatives
Traditional sports like soccer, basketball, softball and even football might be right for some girls, but many just aren't into it. Instead of ending the search there, girls should seek out alternatives. Prissy Tomboy Athletics, a local sportswear and accessory line dedicated to supporting active girls, encourages participants to try all sorts of activities. Founder Tracey Pearson says, "We're here to show these girls that there are so many alternative activites out there that can be just as fun and enduring [as sports]. From paddleboarding, dancing and yoga to kickboxing and cycling, there really is something for everyone."
And staying active doesn't have to be limited to after-school commitments, either – instead, physical activity should have a permanent place in the school day as well. Laura Colbert, an exercise physiologist with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, points out, "Physically active students often do better on standardized tests, have lower rates of absenteeism and have fewer discipline problems." Colbert recommends that schools encourage walking or biking to school and include breaks in their schedules.
GarrisonMill In P.E. classes, even slight adjustments in the focus of the activity can make a difference in how girls respond to it. By emphasizing fun, choice and inclusiveness, schools have a better chance of keeping girls involved. "Think dance parties, double dutch or active games," Colbert says. "Games like dodgeball that eliminate players result in most of the group sitting while a select few are active." By comparison, "Dancing, group walks and yoga encourage everyone to be active the whole time."
In addition to support from schools, there are many free and low-cost sports and physical activity programs for girls. "P.E. teachers, school nurses and parks and recreation departments can all be good resources for finding programs in local communities," Colbert says, as well as familiar institutions like the YMCA. And if parents are looking for more information on how to get and keep their families active, the "Fun Moves" section of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life website is a great resource to help parents through each step.

The Faces of Female Fitness
Despite a variety of resources available, our society still lacks active role models for girls. The most visible and successful professional athletes and sports teams are overwhelmingly male. "As a society, we do not prioritize athleticism as highly for girls as we do for boys," Colbert says. "Being a good role model for activity means talking positively about physical activity and doing activities with girls; parents and adults who work with girls can fill this void by being the role models that girls need."
It's also important to consider adolescent girls' developing self-esteem. "Ages 12 to 16 are most difficult for girls in general," Cannizzo says. "They need to find the right program or activity so there is a sense of success in that critical time. Also, male coaches can be uncomfortable for girls. In our profession, golf is a very male-dominated sport, which is why we need more female role models and coaches."
Fortunately, women like Haley Chura, Atlanta's own professional triathlete competitor, are removing these roadblocks. "Girls have to work a bit harder to find strong female role models, but they're out there," she says. "Right now young women like gold medalist swimmers Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, and runner Mary Cain are rewriting the record books and showcasing women's athletics like never before. These teenage women are deserving of rock star admiration!"

A Metaphor for Life
Cannizzo encourages girls to look at sports as part of their journey in life. "There are so many valuable lessons to learn from being involved in sports that you can carry into your profession or being a parent," she says. "From a business standpoint, it helps girls be better teammates, co-workers, and feel better in general. You learn discipline, hard work and time management – there is no downside to being involved in sports."
The Atlanta Rollergirls have a similar philosophy. "As a member of the league, we are also asked to take on a job, so we don't only skate, but we run the business," King says. "I'm currently ARG's head of marketing and serve on the board of directors. The experiences and knowledge I've gained for serving the league in that capacity bleed into my everyday job as a registered dietitian. I've learned how to market myself, my skills, and to lead a team."
And Chura is living proof that sports are an essential part of professional success. "Athletics have taken me to foreign countries, tropical islands and even to the White House to meet the President of the United States. I got my first job because of sports, and I feel better about myself both physically and mentally after every workout. There is truly no limit to what sports can teach you, where they can take you and who you might meet."
So if you see a girl in your life struggling to stay active, do whatever you can to prevent the lid of the "girl box" from slamming shut on her interests and her potential. Instead, help her deal with the obstacles she faces so she can enjoy a life of fitness and health.


Editorial Resources:
Jackie Cannizzo, JCI Foundation –
Haley Chura –
Laura Colbert, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta –,
Donnovant Dahunsi, Atlanta Public Schools –
Lacey King, Atlanta Rollergirls –, Tracey Pearson, Prissy Tomboy Athletics –
Lea Rolfes, Girls on the Run –
Marq Williams, Atlanta Heartbreakers –


How many times have you gotten the news from your dentist that you'll need a dental procedure that requires a significant out of pocket expense? In addition to the expense, you fear that the treatment is going to be painful and time consuming. It doesn't currently bother you, so why not wait until it starts to hurt or becomes too unsightly? Maybe you feel you're being sold something you don't really need. I call these barriers to receiving dental care the "The Three F's"; fear, finances and faulty thinking.
Fear is easily handled with the technological improvements that enhance how we render care. The dream of painless injections and dental procedures are reality for those who show up. I have seen patients who have endured very high levels pain while prolonging a visit; pain that far exceeds any discomfort felt during treatment. I have witnessed the results of delayed care leading to the development of life threating conditions. Amazing, the power of fear!
shutterstock 92525713For some, the issue of obtaining dental care is associated with the lack of insurance. Often, the patient allows the dental insurance company to dictate their decisions. The average treatment need usually exceeds the annual dental maximums, which haven't increased in over thirty years. Successful, healthy patients value their teeth over their insurance.
As a cancer survivor, I never considered asking my physician to remove only a portion of my tumor; leaving the rest until my insurance "re-ups" the following year. My overall health and survival were being threatened. My goal was to get rid of the source and adhere to a strict preventive schedule. It's really no different with dental care.
So, where does this leave the average patient? The average patient is left with the need to assume more personal responsibility for his own health. Fortunately, many dental practices offer in house or third party financing services to assist their patients in obtaining the care they need and deserve.
Understand that your oral health is directly related to your overall health; and due to the importance of this alone, every effort should be made to improve it. When decay and disease is taken care of, once and for all, you can adopt home care habits that will keep you in the preventive mode and out of the defensive mode.

Dr. Karen Mills
Advantage Dental
(770) 998-7344
123 Marble Mill Road, Suite A,
Marietta, Georgia 30060

Dr. Karen Mills practices general and cosmetic dentistry since 1992. She is a 1987 graduate of Howard University's College of Dentistry.


Thursday, 03 July 2014 19:37

Diva Half Marathon

Friday, 27 June 2014 13:37

Meet Cinnabon president Kat Cole

A quick web search of Kat Cole, the president of Cinnabon, will reveal two facts about her: She's a young executive of an international company, and she began her career at Hooters. This engaging, personable woman is much more than those two facts, though. She is also an avid traveler, humanitarian, dessert lover and dance music fan. By pursuing her personal interests and professional goals with single-minded energy, Cole has achieved an incredible amount for her age and set a wonderful example for women in any profession.

Do you see your career beginnings as a significant part of your success story?
I learned great things about leadership and business from being a waitress – where I was a waitress is sort of not the point. Because I worked for Hooters, I definitely faced challenges and discrimination as I moved into the professional world. But the good part is that it helped me build a really thick skin. At a very young age, I realized that people are going to talk, but you just have to do things that you're proud of.

What inspired you to work as hard as you have to get where you are today?
For most of my career, I've had a heavy feeling of not wanting to let people down. I want to make people proud. I felt that way when I was a waitress, when I was an early manager in my career, when I was a director, and the first time I was a vice president. Because of that, I would show up earlier, stay later and work harder.

Kat-ColeWho are some of the professionals who have influenced you?
I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by smart, talented, kind, high-integrity leaders pretty much my whole career. My first general manager when I was a teenager, Bonnie Rhinehardt, was an amazing person who taught me a different style of leadership. Other Hooters executives, like Cheryl Tyler and Kimi Riviera, were great leaders to learn from. Later, Russ Umphenour gave me an opportunity to become president of Cinnabon. The list is insanely long.

What charities are you involved with these days?
I spend time in Eastern Africa with Global Hopes Network International. Their work is about investing in people who can coach villages to learn to support themselves. A group of us travel to Rwanda and Ethiopia and meet with the village leaders, help them think through the challenges they're facing, and when we come back, we raise funds to continue to fuel the organization.

How do you balance your work and home life?
Sometimes you're going to be better at work than you are at home, and vice versa. It will ebb and flow, and that's okay. It is so liberating and empowering to decide, "I'm not going to weigh myself down with feeling guilty about not being able to do all things for all people. I'll do my best." Also, you have to remember that if you aren't healthy, you can't bring the best version of yourself to work or to your family. There are lots of things that I can't control, but I can control how healthy I am physically and mentally, and that gives me the strength to handle whatever happens.

What advice would you give a young girl thinking about her future career?
I would say don't waste life's precious time sitting around debating it for too long. Get out there and do something. You've got to show up, stand up and speak up if you ever want to move up. "Show up" means you've got to be there. "Stand up" is about having confidence. And "speak up" is about being able to articulate your view if you ever want to move up in school or in a career.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am an insane fan of electronic dance music, European house music and trance music. It is 80 percent of my Pandora, iTunes and Spotify.

How do you like to relax?
By spending time with Chris, my better half. We have been happily unmarried for over 10 years. I also love spending time on the BeltLine and showing my family great experiences in Atlanta.

Favorite book?
My favorite book for many years has been "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand – a classic. And I recently read "The Social Animal" by David Brooks. It's about how the social nature of human beings really drives everything. It's pretty amazing.

Favorite place to vacation?
Istanbul, by far. There is so much history, yet there is so much youth and technology and energy. It is just a beautiful setting, and the Turkish people are some of the most hospitable in the world.



"You can do anything for 1 minute!"
That's one of my favorite things to say at Boot Camp! Planks, squats, lunges, sit ups, you can do it all for just one minute! While you are in the middle of it, you may think otherwise but I am there to let you know that it IS possible. You can see that, while you are in a group setting with encouraging trainers, that you have the ability to do things that you wouldn't do on your own!

Boot Camp helps you reach your next level of fitness. If you are only able to do 5 sit ups in one minute, by the end of the 6 week session you will be doing SO much more!

Boot Camp is challenging but can also be a lot of fun. I LOVE to exercise but I also get bored easily like many of us do! The key is to change things up.

photo3As a member of Boot Camp in the Park, you will have access to all of the fun adventures that I will be bringing my girls on! I will offer field trips to go biking at the Greenway or the Chattahoochee, we will kayak the Cartecay River & hike Stone Mtn. There are SO many other ways to stay fit on a regular basis too with or without your kids. I have 3 kids & try to include them in most of my activities. My favorites include:

  • Bringing my kids to Lassiter and running bleachers while the kids are throwing the football or doing cart wheels down the 50 yard line. They LOVE this. Occasionally, one of them will come run with me & that helps them realize that fitness can be fun – a very valuable lesson you can teach your kids.
  • Hiking trails in the area without your kids. Leita Thompson is a great example. You can bring your dog, there is a dog park in front of the park & then take a walk on the shady, paved trails after. There is a creek & lake back there. It's hilly & beautiful! My kids love it!
  • Biking the Greenway is something my family has enjoyed doing as well. Load the bikes up & bring the kids to the Greenway. It's shady, flat & also very beautiful. I have brought my boot campers there as well so it can be as challenging as you make it. Very similar to boot camp!
  • Bring your kids to the park while you exercise. You can participate in boot camp and bring a picnic lunch for afterwards. You could fill some water balloons and have a water balloon toss with your kids afterwards! Kids love that & it would be refreshing after your workout!
  • Challenges this summer include the AB challenge in June, Burpees in July & Squats in August. We provide a calendar with the amount you have to do on each day & you will turn yours in at the end of the month. If you complete the calendar, you will be rewarded with a gift certificate to Invigo Day Spa!

Bottom line is Boot camp can be FUN! My goal is to make you realize that fitness in general does not have to be mundane & hopefully I can get you to LOVE exercise as much as I do!
Hope to see you all at Boot Camp!

Heidi Morris, Owner
Boot Camp in the Park, LLC  |  (404) 594-2668
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   |

Heidi Morris launched Boot Camp In The Park in 2006 due to her beliefs, passion & drive for personal fitness & helping others foresee their goals become a reality. She loves creating a positive environment for everyone & showing each member that exercising can be fun!


Thursday, 26 June 2014 18:32

Breast Reconstruction Options


What are the most common reasons for breast reconstruction?
The most common reason to reconstruct a breast is when all or part of the breast has to be removed for cancer. We may reconstruct a breast when someone is born without a breast or their breasts are deformed. We also reconstruct breasts when cosmetic surgery has gone wrong or there is significant asymmetry between the breasts.

What are the options for a woman who has had a mastectomy?
There are several options for breast reconstruction, and they can be performed at the time of the mastectomy or in a delayed fashion if the patient wishes (though most prefer immediate/concurrent reconstruction). The options range from a prosthesis in a bra (i.e. no surgical reconstruction), to placing a tissue expander and slowly expanding it to a desired volume of breast then exchanging it for a silicone implant, to performing a TRAM flap where part of the abdominal fat and muscle are used to make the breast, to "free flaps" where we take distant tissue and sew the blood vessels with a microscope to make a new breast mound.

What does the process involve?
Depending on which option the patient chooses, the reconstruction can be completed at the time of the mastectomy. If utilizing a tissue expander, it may take a few months to reach the final volume and then a second procedure to exchange the expander for the silicone implant. Nipple areolar reconstruction is also performed commonly in a delayed fashion. In all, the reconstruction may take several months, and more than one procedure, to achieve the final desired aesthetic result.

Does reconstruction interfere with radiation or chemotherapy?
If we know that radiation will be needed, then performing a flap surgery should be delayed or another form of immediate reconstruction should be entertained because we don't know how the radiation will affect the reconstructed tissue/flap. We can do radiation therapy on a tissue expander-based reconstruction, although it may increase the risk of some complications. Reconstruction does not interfere with chemotherapy, but if there is delayed healing in association with the reconstruction for any reason, then chemotherapy might be delayed until healing is complete.


Asaf Yalif MD, FACS
(404) 822-4402  |  Available for Consultations

Roswell: 2500 Hospital Blvd., Suite 410  |  Roswell, GA 30076
Woodstock: 145 Towne Lake Pkwy, Suite 101  |  Woodstock, GA 30188

Dr. Asaf Yalif is a triple board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face and body. Utilizing the most recent developments, both surgical and nonsurgical, he will help you create a unique plan to achieve your goals.


Facet joints connect the vertebrae in your neck and low back to one another. Facet joints are like any other joint in your body. They have cartilage that line the joint, (allowing bones to glide smoothly), and a capsule surrounding the joint.

back-painFacet joint problems are located in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine areas. When the facet joints are affected, a person can experience lower back or neck pain.

Diagnosing facet joint disease in the neck or low back begins with a medical history, physical examination and imaging. Symptoms are treated with medications and physical therapy. Patients not improving with those treatments may benefit from a cervical or lumbar facet joint nerve block. This injection "blocks" the pain the same way a dentist uses an anesthetic to block pain in your jaw before working on your teeth. Successful facet injections indicate that you could benefit from a facet joint nerve radiofrequency ablation. This is an injection with a needle that uses heat to destroy the nerve fibers in your low back or neck that carry pain signals to the brain. This injection can relieve the pain. Midtown Neurology is fully equipped for the above procedures and is happy to assist you should you have these symptoms.


Aashish Bharara, MD
Midtown Neurology, P.C.
(404) 653-0039  |

Aashish Bharara, MD is a Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician with a fellowship in interventional spine management.


Answer this riddle: What is pink, round, comes in all sizes and affects women of all ethnic groups?

If you answered fibroids, you are correct. But unlike the cute description given above, fibroids are known to be one of, if not the most disruptive health conditions experienced by women.
The Mayo Clinic reports that uterine fibroids affect 75-80 percent of all women. Health care costs associated with fibroids amount to billions of dollars, including hospitalizations for transfusions secondary to extreme bleeding and the resultant severe anemia.

Add to this the lost days of work, lost wages, sexual dysfunction, marital discord and the lifestyle disruption secondary to its unpredictable symptoms of bleeding and pain, and you can easily see how fibroids can be seen as enemy number one.

Data from the National Institute of Health indicate that this condition accounts for more than 200,000 of the 600,000 hysterectomies done annually in the United States.

Many of those obtaining hysterectomies are finally happy to be forever rid of the nagging unpredictability of these tumors. However, many occur in women who are ill-informed, ill-prepared, and worst of all, many of whom feel intimidated into accepting an irreversible and definitive treatment.

The symptoms and conditions that would have led to a hysterectomy in the past can, in most cases, with today's medical advances, be treated easily in a doctor's office or in short out-patient procedures.

The goal at Innovative Women's HealthCare Solutions is to educate, inform and thus empower our patients who we call "partners in health." All patients with fibroids have extensive counseling regarding their treatment options. They are given take-home material and information as to how to access links to fibroid education on our website.

Our Ten-Step Anti-Hysterectomy options include medical therapies, endometrial ablation (a five-minute, in-office procedure for heavy menstrual bleeding) and myosure (a hysteroscopic myomectomy through the cervix, without incisions), among others. They are also encouraged to consult with an interventional radiologist to see if they are a candidate for UFE (uterine fibroid embolization).

The number of fibroids, their location, the patient's symptom profile, their age, desire for future childbearing and most importantly, what treatment they desire should all be taken into account. It is important to remember: fibroids are benign in over 99 percent of cases, so patient input and desires should play a major role in treatment.

In summary, find a provider who will share ALL of the options, and one that is experienced in all of the medical and surgical treatment options. Make sure your questions are answered and your desired treatment option given careful consideration. This will result in the most satisfactory outcome.


Melinda Miller-Thrasher, MD, FACOG
Innovative Women's HealthCare Solutions (IWHCS)
3903 South Cobb Drive Suite #105, Smyrna, GA, 30080 | (678) 424-1123

Melinda Miller Thrasher is a native of NYC and attended Cornell University, Mt. Sinai and NYU for her residency training. Her expertise includes fibroids and minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat fibroids. She is on staff at Emory University Hospital and Piedmont Hospital. Dr. Miller-Thrasher has been selected as one of Atlanta's Top Doctors each year since 2009 as listed in Atlanta Magazine, One of the Gynecologists You Love (Essence Magazine) and she is a Patients' Choice Award recipient. She is also a member of the WebMD medical review board. She has an office in the Smyrna /Vinings area, Buckhead and soon to open in Midtown. Her new book, "The Innovative Women's Guide to Fibroids," will be available late summer 2014.


Thursday, 26 June 2014 17:03

Doctors Who Walk the Walk

So your doctor tells you that it's time to lose some weight. You have to get your cholesterol under control and your blood pressure down. He wants you to eat better and exercise. He wants you to learn to manage stress more effectively. But as he's telling you this, you notice his own elevated BMI, and you begin to wonder if he practices what he's preaching. Do you take his advice seriously if it seems that he doesn't adhere to the healthy lifestyle he's suggesting for you?

It's a common problem in today's physicians' offices. While treating patients and advocating the adoption of healthy habits, many doctors are actually unhealthy themselves. Often exhausted from dealing with the pressures associated with their profession, they don't eat right or exercise and end up contending with a host of chronic diseases. It's a problem because research shows that patients are more likely to follow preventative health measures if their physicians do so as well. Fortunately, these Atlanta doctors do, in fact, lead by example, walking the walk and living healthy lifestyles that serve as inspiration to their patients.


Shealyn-Buck-MDShealynn Buck, MD
Making a Lifelong Health Investment

This past December, Dr. Shealynn Buck, executive director of DeKalb Medical Employee Health Solutions, wasn't feeling her best. The single mother of two daughters, ages 11 and 14, had just turned 41, and while she was in generally good shape, she decided that she had to do something to reset her health. So she gave herself a full lifestyle makeover, starting with a transition to a plant-based diet.

"I had to ask myself what would work for me, and I know that I feel better when I'm eating foods that are from plants. I've never been a big meat eater, so it wasn't that difficult to go to a full plant-based diet," explains Dr. Buck, who not only is a medical doctor, but also a certified professional health and wellness coach. "I actually started eating a plant-based diet in high school, but it's easier today than it was then. There are options today. I eat whole foods – nuts, grains, vegetables and fruits. I don't eat meat, and I don't do dairy. And by doing that, I lost five percent of my body fat."

Truth be told, Dr. Buck didn't have a lot of weight to lose. A fitness enthusiast who was inspired by her father, a long distance runner, Dr. Buck has always been physically fit. She began running as a stress reliever while attending Emory University School of Medicine in 1996. And today, in addition to her healthy diet, she enjoys everything from running and walking to dance classes and rock climbing. "Those are the two areas I am so passionate about – nutrition and fitness," she says. "It's about overall well-being. When you exercise and eat right, your mind works better. Your body works better. You sleep better. And I've been able to integrate that thinking into what I'm doing with DeKalb Medical."

Hired in 2012, Dr. Buck is charged with creating programs that promote the long-term physical, mental and social well-being of the hospital's employees, as well as employees throughout Atlanta. With her background, it's a perfect fit. And while she currently does not see patients one-on-one, she understands the role that physicians play in transforming patients' lives. "Health care providers are some of the unhealthiest people. It's ingrained in us that someone else comes first," she states. "But a drowning person can't save another drowning person. We have to be healthy. We're walking billboards. When health care professionals are healthy, they deliver better care and are more likely to convey healthy habits to their patients."

Yet, she adds, "Doctors are human beings too. We have our own health journeys. I'm not picture perfect. My biggest struggle is stress management. But that helps me be more understanding about what people are going through. That compassion and empathy, bringing that human factor back to medicine, is crucial. It's easy to write a prescription, but it's tough to influence lifestyle change and behavior. We can show patients that investing in your health is the greatest lifelong investment you can make."


Ralph-Lyons-MDRalph Lyons, MD
All Things are Possible

It's not unusual to see Dr. Ralph Lyons out on the road at 5 a.m. running. When he's out there, he's usually training for a 10K, a marathon or a Half Ironman event. "I know my schedule, and I don't mind getting up early," says the renowned physician, who has worked with Atlanta South Gastroenterology since 1989. "I've trained for marathons at 4:30 a.m. It isn't easy, but if you find your passion, you'll magically find time for it. If you have that passion, you'll get up earlier or go to bed later to pursue it."

Dr. Lyons discovered long distance running at Harvard University after a roommate said he thought the active med student could run three miles. Believing he could not, Dr. Lyons hit the road and easily cleared the distance – and loved it. In time, he decided to enter the Peachtree Road Race. During the event, he saw people smiling widely as they ran. "I realized that this is a celebration of life," he recalls. "I've been hooked now for a long time. It resonates with my being."

Seventeen years ago, Dr. Lyons joined the South Fulton Running Partners, the oldest black recreational running club in the country. He now runs six miles every Saturday and participates in a variety of races. "Running partners have more fun, and we take that to heart," he says. "The glue that binds us is the fellowship and fun. It's not about how fast one runs. Your value to the group depends upon passion and enthusiasm." And for Dr. Lyons, those elements are coupled with determination. At 58, he's fortunate to have avoided any major injuries and trains and competes whenever he can. "Sometimes I don't know how I do it, but I think it's about having a passion and a goal," he notes. "I'm a goal-oriented person, and that drives what I do in both medicine and my athletic pursuits."

In addition to keeping him healthy, Dr. Lyons believes that being a runner makes him a better physician. Not only can his body tolerate long days because of his endurance training, but he also is more alert and cheerful. Furthermore, his understanding of the psychology and physiology of exercise lets him connect with patients on a different, first-hand level. "You can help patients in a more realistic way instead of on a theoretical basis," he explains. "You understand that when you're an athlete, you're more tuned to eating healthier and making healthier decisions, especially if you want to pursue your passion with proficiency. I tell my patients that healthy behavior can follow the passion, and that's okay."

What's more, Dr. Lyons knows that his athletic success inspires his patients in many ways. "I hope it's a motivating factor," he concludes. "Running has shown me that happiness can be achieved independently of one's occupation or economic position in life. I think of myself as an ordinary person, but I know I can be an example and show my patients that they can unlock their own potential. It's never too late to start. Find what you're passionate about, and all things are possible."


Naima-Cheema-MDNaima Cheema, MD
It Becomes Second Nature

Dr. Naima Cheema, who joined North Roswell Internal Medicine six years ago, isn't a fan of fast workouts with loud music. As a busy physician and married mother of two, her life is already fast-paced enough. "I'm mentally exhausted after working all day, and I don't want to have to rush or have a lot of noise around me," she says. "I used to do cardio, but it doesn't help you relax. I enjoy yoga so much more, with the slow transitioning, the breathing exercises and the soothing music. I love the stretches, and at the end, there are always five to 10 minutes of meditation. It's the best part of my day. It's a great way for me to de-stress."

Once Dr. Cheema found a physical activity that she enjoyed, making it part of her lifestyle was easy. Today, she does yoga twice a week at Women's Premier Fitness and adds in a third day of another type of exercise, such as tennis. "We are such creatures of habit," she explains. "By doing something regularly, it can become second nature." It's a principle that she shares with her patients often, especially those struggling with their weight.

That principle is also something she understands personally. When she entered medical school, Dr. Cheema was overweight. In school, she says, "I learned more about chronic health issues like diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipemia, and I realized that there is a strong association between these health conditions and obesity." From that point on, she started making healthier choices like controlling her portions and exercising regularly. Through those changes, she managed to lose nearly 50 pounds.

Dr. Cheema's personal insight allows her to better guide her patients as the director of a medically supervised weight loss program. She says, "I understand the dynamics of weight loss. I understand that it's hard." Because she's been there herself, Dr. Cheema knows a realistic approach can work wonders. She advocates healthy additions to your plate, rather than counting calories or cutting out food groups. "You have to eat what you need to survive. You need protein, fat and carbohydrates," she asserts. "Counting calories is not practical," she adds. "Instead, just cut back on the calories with portion control." She recommends gauging an appropriate portion size by putting it on a quarter of a plate and eating just one serving.

These healthy practices that Dr. Cheema recommends to her patients are the same ones that are now second nature for her. Her easy rules of thumb are tried and true and have helped her maintain her weight loss over the years. "Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated," she says. "Eat more fruits and vegetables, have desserts on weekends only, minimize fried foods and try to eat more grilled and baked foods."

Since Dr. Cheema has been in her patients' shoes, she is proof that simple lifestyle changes can work. "You can only preach what you practice," she says. "If I'm 300 pounds, my patients won't listen to me. You have to own your behavior. When you do, you can make the greatest difference in others' lives."



Thursday, 26 June 2014 16:47

Eating Disorders Explained

"When I was 14 years old, I was told that I was 'too big.' I was extremely embarrassed and ashamed of myself and how I looked." Even at such a tender age, Dr. Genie Burnett's negative feelings about her body prompted a change in how she ate. "I began to engage in anorexic and bulimic behaviors in order to 'prove' that I was okay." At age 16, Dr. Burnett spent seven weeks hospitalized for treatment. Now a psychologist and executive director of the nonprofit Manna Fund, Dr. Burnett has long since returned to healthier eating behaviors, but increasing numbers of men and women of all ages are still struggling.

Eating Disorders Defined
At its most basic, an eating disorder is a disturbance in someone's eating patterns and behaviors that affects both their physical and mental health. These behaviors take many forms: severely limiting food intake, binge eating, purging, eating when not hungry, exercising obsessively to prevent weight gain, and the list goes on. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the most common ways these behaviors manifest are known as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.




Anorexia Nervosa

  • Inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low
  • Intense fear of weight gain and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes
  • Eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of strong shame or guilt about the behavior

— Information courtesy of the National Eating Disorders Association



Sometimes a person's eating behaviors do not fit into any of those three categories, which may result in a diagnosis of EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This basically means someone exhibits behaviors typical of disordered eating but perhaps not to an extreme.

Not only do multiple conditions fall under the eating disorder umbrella, but also an increasing number of people struggle with them. A 2011 National Institutes of Health study estimated the number of Americans with eating disorders at 30 million, and that number is on the rise.

Digging Deeper
As the variety and prevalence of conditions shows, eating disorders are complex. The underlying reasons for the disorders are, if possible, even more complex because they are mental, rather than physical. Jessie Alexander, clinical coordinator for women's services at Ridgeview Institute, explains, "Often, clients will express that they can remember being cognizant of their bodies in a destructive way as early as three to five years of age. Other times, clients became critical of their bodies after experiencing a traumatic event that felt unmanageable to them."

Dr. Burnett adds that the disordered eating patterns can often stem from relatively common behaviors or desires. For example, many people diet regularly, sometimes lose their appetite due to nerves or stress, or have occasional negative feelings about their body. For some people, though, emotional factors cause these habits to escalate to unhealthy levels. "They use food to cope with their negative (often unconscious) beliefs and emotions," Dr. Burnett says. "At later stages, it is difficult for them to manage their intense feelings in any other way than by using food." Alexander agrees, saying, "Patients feel that their eating disorder provides them with a sense of control and serves as a distraction from unwanted feelings of shame, disempowerment, loneliness, emptiness and grief."

Get the Facts
Because eating disorders are a mental health issue as much as a physical one, misconceptions about these conditions are rampant. Make sure you know the truth.

Myth #1: Eating disorders are a choice. Many people make the mistaken assumption that recovery is as easy as just "eating more." In reality, "Developing an eating disorder is at least 50 percent biologically/genetically determined," says Dr. Linda Buchanan, the founder and clinical co-director of the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders. Recent research shows measurable differences in the brains of those who suffer from eating disorders. "Differences in their brain chemistry increase their sensitivity to stimuli," Dr. Buchanan explains. This sensitivity makes them overly aware of – and often worried about – their own and other people's perceptions of them. According to Dr. Buchanan, "This generally leads to harm-avoidant strategies such as perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, social avoidance, shyness and ultimately eating disorders." So rather than it being a simple choice, physiological differences and the resulting coping mechanisms are major factors in these conditions.

Myth #2: Eating disorders only affect young, white girls. "This is absolutely not true," Dr. Burnett says. According to recent studies, Dr. Buchanan explains, "The prevalence of eating disorders is similar among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians in the United States." And when it comes to age? At The Renfrew Center, a national eating disorder treatment center with a location in Atlanta, the number of midlife patients is on the rise. According to their website, "Over the past decade there has been a 42 percent increase in the number of women over the age of 35 who sought treatment at Renfrew." Dr. Burnett's private practice has treated men and women from age 7 to 67, and at Ridgeview Institute, clients range from age 13 to 65.

Myth #3: Eating disorders aren't a serious medical condition. Not so, according to Dr. Jay Faber of the Amen Clinics. He explains, "Eating disorders can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, renal problems and multiple system organ failure. Often, these problems are very serious and come on quite suddenly." If you are a parent and suspect that your child may be struggling with disordered eating behaviors, Dr. Burnett recommends a medical evaluation that includes blood panels. These will reveal how the child is being affected by their change in eating and help address the health repercussions as early as possible.

How to Help
Whether you're a parent, a family member or friend, if you see general warning signs of an eating disorder, take note. Is your child making excuses to skip meals or eat alone? Does your friend make self-critical statements about her body and seem increasingly concerned with perfection? Does a family member seem preoccupied with discussing food or food-related subjects? Do you yourself feel like you have some strange behaviors around mealtimes? And of course, keep an eye out for significant weight loss or gain, though these may not always occur.
If you are concerned about someone's unhealthy eating habits, don't try to control the behavior by trying to force them to act a different way.

Dr. Burnett recommends simply asking about the symptoms you've noticed, being sure to steer clear of specific comments about weight, and then listening to their response.

After opening up the conversation, you may want to seek out someone who has a specialty in dealing with eating disorders, like a counselor, physician or inpatient treatment facility like Atlanta's Ridgeview Institute."Ridgeview has an access center that is open 24 hours a day and provides free assessments for anyone concerned about issues associated with emotional distress," Alexander says. In addition to treatment facilities, support systems like Manna Fund's online space Talk It Out encourage people to talk out their emotions rather than acting them out with food. Manna Fund also helps families with the cost of inpatient treatment, which is often a necessary but expensive step in the recovery process. Even organizations like the Atlanta National Hypnotherapy Institute can help address weight and food issues with people of all ages.Ultimately, the goal of treatment is two-fold: to stop the disordered eating behaviors and to learn to process emotions safely. Even once the disordered eating behaviors stop, treatment for the underlying issues can continue for years. Dr. Burnett recalls her own years of recovery, saying, "I spent many years in outpatient therapy to work through and deal with the shame and pain of other issues from my childhood." Ultimately, she was able to come through the experience with a healthier mind and attitude as well as a nourished body.


Editorial Resources
Jessie Alexander, LPC, NCC, Ridgeview Institute –
Linda Buchanan, PhD, Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders –
Genie Burnett, PsyD, Manna Fund –
Jay Faber, MD, Amen Clinics –
Laura LaRain, Atlanta National Hypnotherapy Institute –
National Eating Disorders Association –
The Renfrew Center –