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July 16th, 2019

What’s up, doc? Region physicians share their diet, workout routines

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • July 16, 2019

Written by Giles Bruce

Doctors are, by their very nature, overachievers: educationally, economically, work-ethically.

So it’s perhaps not a surprise that many of them outperform the rest of us when it comes to health and fitness.

We asked several local physicians about their nutrition and workout routines. The consensus: These people are in good shape, and you might want to listen to their advice — because they’re living it.

Dr. Faleh Atassi, Porter Physician Group family medicine specialist at Valparaiso Family Health Center

What is your nutrition routine?

“I am a firm believer in the Mediterranean diet. … It’s proven to be very beneficial for the heart, the brain and … studies show it can prevent depression and anxiety in elderly people. I do lots of fruits and vegetables, white meat, mainly chicken — boneless, skinless chicken — fish, mostly salmon, lots of nuts, walnuts and almonds, whole grains.”

He starts his days with cold-cut oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, and sometimes eggs. For lunch, he has fruit salad and walnuts. For dinner, chicken or fish with brown rice, and broccoli, cauliflower or salad with a dressing of olive oil with vinegar and fresh lemon.

“I don’t want to say I’m an angel, but rarely, rarely, rarely do I stray from my diet.” He doesn’t drink pop, juice or alcohol; he has water and coffee. He doesn’t usually have dessert, but if he does it’s dark chocolate or organic dates.

What is your workout routine?

“I do exercise every day, early morning. I do the treadmill, then I swim. … I do weights, strength exercises, probably about three times a week.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“We try to do what we promote to our patients. Nobody should be a hypocrite. You have to lead by example. If you care about the patient, you have to care about yourself. It’s common sense, to lead by example, to do what you preach the same way you do with your kids too. It would be very awkward for me to be very harsh on patients if I’m indulging in extremely opposite behaviors. They would sense it in me.”

Dr. Sha-Ron Jackson-Johnson, general surgeon affiliated with Methodist Hospitals

What is your nutrition routine?

“I battled with obesity my entire life. I was always the heaviest one in the class. I was always the biggest one in the family. There was not a focus on nutrition: southern food, fat/carb laden. Growing up in Arkansas, that was a way of expressing love for your family.”

Then, 2 1/2 years ago, after moving to Northwest Indiana to take the job at Methodist, her heart started racing while she was driving, causing her to almost lose control of her car. The same thing happened a couple weeks later, when she was picking her mom up at Midway Airport.

She found out she had uncontrolled hypertension — and decided to get into shape.

“We looked at what I was eating — high-carb, processed — and converted to less-processed food and lean meats, lots and lots of vegetables, focusing on plant-based food options. … Increased hydration, from very little water to 100 ounces of water a day. I’m constantly drinking water.”

What is your workout routine?

“I went from walking on the treadmill to using an elliptical … then worked with a trainer, at the Valpo Y. After modifying my diet and increasing daily movement, I lost 100 pounds in one year. Natural weight loss is absolutely possible. It requires so much intentionality, tracking calories.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“I share with my patients, even now, that it’s an ongoing struggle. I’m always going to be the fat girl. I’m going to be empathetic. Just like smoking or overdrinking, these are modifiable risk factors for disease. It’s important for me to reflect that to patients. It’s more important me for me to reflect that to my kids.”

Dr. Ebony Johnson, family medicine physician in Crestwood with UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial

What is your nutrition routine?

“I try to have a well-balanced diet, plenty of fruits and vegetables, make sure I eat breakfast every morning. I try to have a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast that typically keeps me full so I’m not hungry throughout the day.”

What is your workout routine?

“I used to run track in college. I still like to run. I try to do cardio at least two to three days a week, whether it’s running, going for a bike ride, doing spin class at local gyms, doing aerobics at local gyms. I’ve taken swimming lessons a couple times, because it’s less wear and tear on my joints. The other two or three days out of the week, I do weight-training.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“It’s challenging. We face the same challenges they face: time management, meal prep. They all have the same struggles that we have. It takes discipline. It takes a lot of planning.”

Dr. Kajal Puranik, Porter Physician Network family medicine specialist at Portage Medical Group

What is your nutrition routine?

“I don’t really count calories, but when it comes to choosing food I try to pick healthier options. Typically my breakfast would be overnight oats that I make at home. I look for whole, fresh ingredients in my food. All my meals are pretty much home-cooked, unless I’m out for dinner with friends and family. It’s when you don’t have options, you end up with the most convenient options. If I don’t bring lunch that day, I’ll end up at the cafeteria eating something unhealthy.”

What is your workout routine?

“I do exercise. I have not done it lately, because I gave birth in January. Before that, I was doing it two to three times a week. I’ll do a little bit of weightlifting, and I’ll do cardio, so treadmills, running, going out for a run when the weather’s nice.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“A lot of my patients live a very unhealthy lifestyle that results in the three most common conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of those end up resulting in cardiac conditions, and all of these can be prevented for the most part if you live a healthy lifestyle.

“If you are eating healthy and exercising regularly you feel better, you don’t feel as sluggish and lack energy. Mental health is better. Physical health is better.”

Dr. Kaveh Rahmani, primary care physician in Crestwood and Tinley Park with UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial

What is your nutrition routine?

“I try to maintain a low-fat and low-carb diet. Lately I’ve been trying to lose a little weight, so I’ve gotten a little stricter with my diet. Breakfast is usually plain Greek yogurt with blueberries/raspberries/blackberries and a little honey. I don’t usually eat much for lunch but will have a hard-boiled egg or some cheese for a snack during the day. Dinner is usually chicken/fish/lean meat with a side of salad.”

What is your workout routine?

“I generally go to the gym to lift weights and do some cardio two to three times a week, during the warmer months, and try to get outside the rest of the week for some kind of exercise. I like to golf so will walk nine or 18 holes at least once a week if I can. Otherwise I like to ride my bike when the weather allows for it.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“I certainly think it’s important to set a good example for our patients. As a young doctor, I think I still struggle with some of the poor habits that most young professionals do: working late hours and neglecting a balanced diet. Now that I have been working long enough to develop more of a routine, I am trying to reincorporate some of the healthy habits I had at a younger age.

“One thing I find myself repeating to my patients is that as time goes on it’s harder to change bad habits and there is no better time than now to prepare your body for longevity. I’ve finally taken my own advice and started making a better effort to do so.”

Dr. James Siatras, bariatric surgeon in Merrillville with Methodist Hospitals

What is your nutrition routine?

“I watch the amount of carbs and sugar I take in. I usually do like a smoothie in the morning with some type of green … with frozen fruit and protein and almond milk. I try to stick to lean meats and vegetables throughout the day for lunches and dinner.”

What is your workout routine?

“I work out about four days a week. Typically I work out … first thing in the morning. I typically do a mix of weightlifting with circuit training so that I’m doing almost a kind of a cardio workout while I’m lifting weights, taking minimal breaks and going from one exercise to the other. That helps with cardiovascular endurance.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“The patients see that and that you’re practicing what you preach. It allows for further discussion. You can discuss your workout regimens and diet regimens. It helps to develop a better rapport with the patient. It’s not just somebody telling them what to do; it’s somebody doing it along with them.”

Dr. Michael Simpson, obesity medicine specialist on staff at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart

What is your nutrition routine?

“I (subscribe) to a ‘three meals and a few healthy snacks’ philosophy where I don’t have any specific food restrictions but am very mindful about selecting nonprocessed foods. If I am going to indulge, I’ll consume things like pasta or rice in moderation. If I’m having a sandwich, I’ll choose an open-face sandwich and pile up a protein and veggies. If I eat carbs, I’ll eat them early in the day.

“I like to drink a cup or two of coffee daily and lots of water. On the weekend, I’ll enjoy a glass of wine or a beer.”

What is your workout routine?

“I work out with a trainer three times a week and spend 30 minutes doing high-intensity, full-body training using circuit-style training. Two days a week, I do my own workouts with at least 15 minutes of cardio. I particularly like the stationary bike.

“I’m a huge advocate of ‘lifestyle moving.’ When I’m not formally working out, you can find me running around with my kids and being active around the house and throughout my workday. I’m very aware of not sitting for long periods of time.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“Yes, I believe it’s important to establish a level of credibility with my patients and not just talk about things they should do to optimize their health, but be a role model for them through the choices I make for my life. I think sharing this with my patients helps them be committed and compliant.”

Dr. Paul Stanish, bariatric surgeon in Munster and Hobart with Community Healthcare System

What is your nutrition routine?

“Cooking is my hobby, so I cook a lot of different types of food. I’m a very, very clean eater. I never eat any processed food, nothing coming out of a box, rarely any type of fast food.”

What is your workout routine?

“I go to Fitness Pointe every morning. I used to do road races. I punished my knees over the years. I do a lot of swimming. I still run on the treadmill. I work out with a trainer at Fitness Pointe one day out of the week. That helps with strengthening, core activities.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“I really do practice what I preach to our patients. We have a weight-loss clinic that we started and still run in the area. I explain to them that the best way to eat is going out and buying your own lean meats and fish and poultry and seafood and buying your own vegetables and fruits and healthy dairy (and then cooking at home).”

Dr. Ed Udani, Franciscan Physician Network general practice and adolescent specialist in Schererville

What is your nutrition routine?

“I try to cut down my processed carbohydrates. That is supposed to be linked to all kinds of disease like Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, leaky gut. What happens is your gut is your first line of defense, next to your skin. If you feed it unhealthy stuff, it goes into the bloodstream and your body has to clear it and it causes all kind of inflammation all over your body and causes disease.”

He eats organic fruits and vegetables, protein, as well as healthy fats, which he said are “important to building neurons and cell membranes, reducing inflammation. … I’m not talking about bacon grease. I’m talking about olive oil, dark chocolate — just a square, not a full bar — a handful of almonds.”

What is your workout routine?

“First of all, I did the Walk With a Doc in Crown Point. I actually pioneered that. That’s where we walk around, and patients can walk and talk about healthy living.

“A lot of people are just concerned about the weight, the scale. That is not my issue. My issue is body mass. I try to get a muscle-resistance routine at least two to three times a week, and I rotate it and mix it up with cardio, and I make sure that I rest in between workouts. Rest is important to repair. I do high-intensity-interval training, for short periods of time. That’s supposed to be very good in burning fat and keeping your basal metabolic rate up.”

Do you feel it’s important, as a physician, to model healthy behaviors to your patients?

“Patients, they look up to you. They listen to you, to what you say. It’s good to set an example for them. I’m not one of those people who are thin all the time, but I work hard at trying to keep the fat away. It’s a struggle. It’s an everyday thing.”

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