Featured Expert: Bernadette Anderson, MD.
Recently, BlackWomensHealth.com sat down with Bernadette Anderson, MD., a Board Certified Family Medicine doctor and Co-founder of Family Health in Columbus,, to discuss her transformative weight loss, annual women's health conference and important health insights for African American Women.
BlackWomensHealth.com: What advice would you give to a person trying to lose weight or better manage their weight to improve their health?
Dr. Anderson: It is more complex than simply eating more whole grain and participating in the Let’s Move Campaign for me because I have struggled with obesity since childhood. At times in my life it appeared that I won the battle, only to relinquish the victory to ice cream and cheesecake. I continued to yo-yo diet from adolescence through most of my adulthood mainly because my vision was shortsighted. The goal was to quickly lose weight so I could return to my normal eating habits. The cycle of deprivation, starvation, weight loss, and regain has held me captive to obesity. As a physician, it compromised my integrity and authenticity. It is difficult to prescribe healthy nutrition and fitness as a means to manage medical conditions while physically representing the opposite of my professional advice. Three years ago, I decided to address my issues as they related to obesity and in doing so I have been able to drop one hundred and fifteen pounds! The keys to my weight loss are no different from what you already know-- eat fewer calories than you burn. However, I do have a few pearls of wisdom that have allowed me to embrace victory this time:
1. Explore the reasons that you eat. I know this may sound like a cliché. At first thought, your answer, like many of my patients, may be the stereotypical one “I just like food.” While that may be the case, I would suggest that for those of us who are grappling with more than the 15 pound spread that welcomes us to our forties, the stubborn baby weight that has remained even though the child has graduated high school, or the slight increase in curves that keeps us from fitting into last year’s swimsuit, the problem may require an in-depth investigation. If you really desire to release the fat for good, do not be afraid to do some soul searching.
2. Look beyond the physical. We spend too much time in the mirror concentrating on our flaws. Affirm your goodness. Do not wait for others to celebrate you, take a moment each day to uplift yourself. Regardless of the weight, you possess many good qualities and characteristics that make you an awesome and unique person. Do not allow your challenges with weight to suffocate them.
3. Chew over ( I thought you would get a chuckle from that one) why you want to lose weight. Why is now the time to take off the weight? Is it the upcoming family event? Has weight become the culprit for most of your health problems? Do you want to be more active with the children? Are you simply fed up and want to take weight off the table as one of your concerns? It is beneficial to know why you have decided to take on the difficult task of making over your diet. It can also serve to motivate you when the scale does not reflect your hard work.
4. Set realistic weight loss goals. The fact is, you did not wake up overweight, and you are not going to wake up thin. Sorry, I wish I could tell you that losing weight is magical, but it is not. It involves being consistent with your efforts, making changes that you can maintain, and never giving up. A healthy weight loss is one and a half to two pounds a week. I realize that this is inconsistent with the “reality” shows; however, if you want to decrease your frustrations, it is an achievable and sustainable goal. Tip: do not use the scale as the only barometer for your success. Monitor body measurements. You will be thrilled to know that your waist is dwindling away even if the scale has not been informed.
5. Chose a fitness routine that you enjoy. Do not get in a rut or feel pressured to have a gym membership. If you chose activities that are fun for you, you will look forward to them. It is all about you! Zumba, line dance, bicycling, hot yoga, Shabam whatever keeps your heart rate up for thirty minutes five times a week is fair game. FYI, doing laps in the gym while engaging in a telephone conversation does not count. Gotcha!
6. Commit to yourself. You are not a morning person. You are very busy. You need to help the kids with their homework in the evening. You are too exhausted at night after working all day. You forgot there was a treadmill underneath those clothes. I have heard them all. The bottom line is that until you become a priority in your own life, it is going to be difficult to attain your personal health and fitness goals. This may just sound like more jargon, but it is true; you cannot give anyone your best until you give your best to yourself.
7. Find outlets to reduce stress and relieve boredom. Be adventurous. What hobbies have you put away that you would really like to start up again? If you are not going to be spending your spare time in the kitchen and restaurants, you need to plan to have other pastimes or you will find yourself looking at the bottom of a bag of family size potato chips.
The rest is not rocket science. Adopt an eating program that improves your metabolism with multiple small meal throughout the day and get moving! Does it matter which food plan that you chose to help you lose weight? I could argue both sides, but the bigger issue is to make a decision to live your healthiest life and be dedicated.
BlackWomensHealth.com: You have a website Refocusing, Rebalancing, and Rediscovering You. What is the message behind this site?
Dr. Anderson: I created the "Refocusing, Rebalancing and Rediscovering You" website with a friend and colleague, Dr. Camille Woodson. We are both family medicine physicians practicing in different regions of the country. In sharing numerous conversations, we recognized many commonalities in our patients, especially the women. Many of them face the challenges of multitasking, which often results in self-sacrifice. This sometimes is manifested by physical symptoms that signify a need to transform their lives.
In order to provide direction and resources to address their concerns, we host an annual conference. "The Refocusing, Rebalancing and Rediscovering You Conference" presents alternative strategies to help attendees become a priority in their own lives to experience optimal living. The conference agenda is designed to emphasize the importance of wholeness; the balance between mind, body, and spirit as the ultimate goal to living your best life. There are discussions on topics such as nutrition and fitness, health, stress management and spiritual awareness.
The inaugural Refocusing, Rebalancing, and Rediscovering You Conference was held in Columbus, Ohio. It was a dynamic event with outstanding national speakers. The 2012 conference will also take place in Columbus and we believe we will out do ourselves with this years line up of speakers and activities. Stay tuned... www.refocusingyou.org.
BlackWomensHealth.com: What is your advice to patients who do not take conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes seriously?
Dr. Anderson: Heart disease and stroke are the number one and three causes of death for Americans. They account for more than one-third of all Unites States mortalities each year. Sadly, this is largely the result of uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure which is often due to non-compliance by patients. Unfortunately, these diseases are too common in families and therefore, they are not regarded as life-threatening conditions. I often hear comments such as “everyone in the family has a touch of sugar” or “I only take my blood pressure pills when I have a headache.” These remarks reflect the lack of responsibility and accountability for one’s own health. Patients fail to understand that diabetes and high blood pressure are a part of the silent killer category and there are usually no indications that the blood sugar or the blood pressure is too high until one is having a stroke or a heart attack. This leads to disabilities and significantly impaired health. There is nothing more disheartening to me as a physician, then to receive a call from the emergency room notifying me that one of my patients has had a cardiac event that could have been avoided by taking their medications and making better decision at the kitchen table. I want to be extremely clear, people are dying daily from not properly managing their diabetes and high blood pressure. I advise you to:
1. Talk with your doctor about your health problems.
2. Decide on appropriate medications and or lifestyle changes with your physician.
3. Take all medications as prescribed.
4. Discuss side effects of medicines with your doctor before stopping them.
5. Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure and bring readings to doctor’s visits.
6. Identify changes in your diet and fitness that can improve your health conditions.
7. Maintain a healthy weight.
8. Keep regularly schedule appointments.
9. Follow through with blood work and specialist referrals.
10. Share your health history with your family.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health and quality of life. You cannot expect your health provider to care about your health more than you do. Decide that you will not be a victim to diabetes and high blood pressure. You can live a strong life in the face of these diseases if you take the necessary steps to keep them under control!