Waiting for the Doctor

0130171155a_resizedNothing makes me more humble than sitting in a tiny exam room at the clinic, waiting for the doctor to enter.

Time expands. In the waiting room, there is an endless stream of people to probe and measure, diagnose and prescribe. We are all slowly floating along, vinyl tubes in a wide, slow river.

I read the taped notices on the wall, from “cover your cough” to “have you had your flu shot?” The stack of dog-eared magazines next to a toddler toy and box of crayons does not appeal. In the distance, a child cries. I am reminded of a time, almost 35 years ago, when my soon-to-be husband and I waited in a similar exam room of a harried young oncologist with a brusque manner. My guy had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, and we were still in shock. Through the wall we could hear an adult shouting in the next exam room, then moaning, then weeping. It scared the crap out of me, but didn’t stop me from marrying him. We had a long and loving journey of 16 years.

I scramble around in my purse for a pen, and start drafting this blog post in the margins of a program leftover from Sunday’s church service. A plain, boring room is suddenly brimming with details I feel compelled to list, much like the “I spy with my little eye…” game. Above the exam table, I spot a soft ceiling panel painted to look like a serene lake scene with a small boat floating amid cattails. How delightful! My dentist in Manassas, Virginia had done something similar, tacking exotic photos from his world travels on the ceiling over his patients reclined in dental exam chairs.

On the back of the door is a “leaves of three, let them be” faded poster with rows of photos identifying poisonous plants to avoid. Beside it is taped a bright yellow ruler chart with vertical markings for measuring height. The dam of memories breaks, washing over me. How many times? – twelve? twenty? fifty? more? – did I bring our children into rooms like this for vaccinations and wellness checks, sports physicals, strep throat, ear infections, fevers, a bike accident. We were blessed with a girl and a boy, even after my husband’s cancer treatments. In the blink of an eye, they are now 26 and 30 years old. Their pediatrician is probably long retired.

I think about my present doctor, a general practitioner. Since these diplomas were placed under glass and framed on the wall, she has probably seen a never-ending torrent of children and teens growing and developing, becoming sexual and fertile, birthing their own children. And she has seen adults, from idealist to aging in the natural course of life, and then withering in the devastation that comes from accidents and illness and disease. Where am I in this flow?


I hear a noise, the scrape of papers from the plastic holder on the outside of the door. The metal knob turns. The doctor enters and sits on the once empty stool, apologizing for the delay. She keys information into her laptop as we talk, then rests it on the counter. She takes my pulse, listens to my heart and lungs, asks me how I feel after two weeks of antibiotics. She presses me on either side, and two sharp pains radiate upward. The antibiotics have done their job, but I am still healing, she says. Drink water. Lots of water. If the tenderness continues past two weeks, or any other sign pops up, contact her office.

I exit quickly, set free to breeze past the waiting room full of people to be probed and measured, diagnosed and prescribed. I am grateful for the warmth of the sun on my face and the steady ground beneath my feet. Reprieve.

What Is Your Eating Plan?

That’s the third question I get asked, after “how did you lose all that weight?” and “what are you doing for exercise?”

Meet Marylou Van Hintum, RN

Mary Lou
(photo used with permission from Marylou Van Hintum, RN)

She’s the Director of Nursing at the Carient Center for Cardio-Metabolic Health & Weight Loss (http://www.carient.com/carient-center-for-cardio-metabolic-health-weight-loss). You can see her at Carient’s Manassas or Haymarket offices.

My cardiologist, Dr. Merdod Ghafouri, had been counseling me each time I came in for a checkup to lose weight. Each time, I had failed. In 2012, he said his practice had a new weight loss support program for their patients and I jumped at the chance. I had just tried and failed at the latest diet – some expensive powdered cookies-and-cream flavored shakes and aloe liquid that came in the mail. Left on my own, I was making terrible decisions about my health. I met with his colleague, Dr. Eric Thorn, had some blood taken for lab analysis, and began meeting regularly with Marylou.

From the first meeting I learned I had the metabolic age of 90 and a body mass index (BMI) of 40.5. Wow. I was given a “nutrition rehabilitation plan” aimed at removing unnecessary and unnatural foods from my life. And it was low-carb. I know what that meant. For a compulsive eater, that meant no more binging on honey buns and Reese’s peanut butter cups. No more trips to Nathan’s Ice Cream Bar for the flavor of the day. No more night time kitchen raids of entire boxes of Triscuits or Wheat Thins. No more Tony’s Pizza or whatever the takeout meal because we were too tired to cook. This was going to hurt. It’s one thing to say you intend to do it; it’s another thing to actually do it. When you’re addicted to the sugar and wheat, you’ve got to have it, just as much as the nicotine addict needs that next cigarette.

The plan spelled out exactly what I could eat, and what I couldn’t eat, all to keep my intake of food at 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. Medical supervision meant I checked in with Marylou at regular intervals. She would weigh me, measure my waist, take my blood pressure and pulse, and help me with any trouble spots. There is a monthly support group with other patients working the same program. I’m already a Carient patient, but you don’t have to be one already to participate – anyone can ask to enroll in the program.

I lost 73 pounds and have maintained the loss for more than a year. I shop differently – with a list, around the perimeter of the grocery store, and rarely fill the cart. The conveyor belt at checkout has fresh vegetables, meat and healthy oils on it. Anything not on the plan is not in my kitchen or pantry (my husband keeps his treats in a different place). There are other aspects of the program that Dr. Thorn uses to help me in addressing the compulsion to overeat, and I have been monitored for sleep apnea.

I still have 60 pounds to go, and I’ve been at a plateau for months. Where I’ve stalled is, I just couldn’t do without bread or cereal. Every few days, late at night, I would cut a few slices of homemade wheat bread or pour a bowl of Grapenuts. That, of course, would sabotage my efforts to lose more weight. Marylou would encourage me to stop baking the bread for my husband, and add more healthy fat in my diet to ward off the food cravings, but I just didn’t trust what she was saying. My brain was telling me I was going to STARVE if I didn’t get BREAD. Every few days, I’d succumb to the same message. It was a rut in the track that I couldn’t record over.

Finally, in desperation, I told myself I was not going to eat any more bread or cereal. I was tired of the scale never going below 241.

So I did it. I went without bread or cereal for one week. I really thought after the first three days that I was going to die. That’s what my brain told me. I was walking the dog and my stomach hurt, my head hurt, my chest hurt, I felt weak, and I thought, “well, crap, here I am, I’m going to keel over while walking the dog and I don’t even have an ID or phone on me. They’re going to have to read the dog tag to figure out who I am to be able to tell my husband that I’m dead.” I knew emotionally that I was being a big BABY. But physically, I was going through the same strong withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict. That’s what the wheat and sugar had done to my body. As soon as I got through that day, and the next, and the next, I felt better. Two days later, I’d broken through the plateau. My home scale said I was at 240 pounds. I have since lost down to 238, and I haven’t eaten bread or cereal since.

Low-carb may not be the way for others, but for the first time in my life, I have been able to lose weight and keep it off longer than a year. And now, here I go, losing even more weight.

I actually hugged Dr. Ghafouri the next time I saw him for suggesting this program. It has revolutionized my life. I haven’t weighed this light in 30 years. The last time I saw Marylou, she hugged me. My body mass index is now 33.7 and my metabolic age is 65. I used to hate to go to the doctor because I felt like such a failure. Now that I’m succeeding at getting healthy and working in partnership with medical professionals, I find I am more apt to call and make an appointment when something is going on, instead of waiting. My health is better as a result.

Well, this is my third and last post on this subject for a while. So the next person who asks me, “how did you lose all that weight?” I’m going to tell them to read these three blog posts. Losing weight is not about dieting. It’s about finding out why you overeat in the first place, and then finding an eating plan and an exercise plan that will work for you. I found that with Overeaters Anonymous, Nina Lomax’s Body Conscience Fitness Consulting and Personal Training and the Carient Center for Cardio-Metabolic Health & Weight Loss. That’s what works for me.

Thanks for listening.

(If you want to hear more, here’s cardiologist Dr. Eric Thorn and registered nurse Marylou Van Hintum on Episode 111 of “Low-Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore & Friends!” http://www.lowcarbconversations.com/1805/111-dr-eric-thorn-marylou-van-hintum-examine-saturated-fat-heart-disease/)

What Are You Doing For Exercise?

That’s the second question I get asked, after “how did you lose all that weight?”

Meet Nina Lomax.

nina xx

She’s my personal trainer. I work out with her three times a week.

I met Nina when she exhibited at the Prince William Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Conference. She runs Body Conscience Fitness Consulting and Personal Training. You can watch her videos here: http://fithealthylady.com/. Or contact her here: ninalomax@comcast.net or 703.361.7205; cell: 571.247.2811.

I’ve heard people snark because Nina is very vocal about wanting to help hard driving businesswomen stop driving themselves into an early grave with an unhealthy lifestyle. I’ve even told Nina, “People don’t like you saying ‘I want to get my hands on her’ out loud.”

But you know, after hearing people ask me day after day, “what are you doing for exercise?” my advice is, let Nina get her hands on you! She’s worked miracles molding me.

I was 314 pounds, my overeating was out of control, and I had foot and knee problems, to the point where I needed two operations. I’ve spent 30 years sitting at a computer and not exercising at all.

Nina helped me work out before, in between and after my operations at Novant Health Prince William Hospital and recovery time at Advantage Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation in Manassas. After more than a year with her, Nina helped me transition to a fitness facility where I was motivated to work out three times a week, but four months went by and I didn’t lose a single pound. Instead of renewing my gym membership, I went back to Nina.

Now, after just several weeks of working out three times a week I’ve lost 3 more pounds. I take the relaxing drive to her lemon-yellow house in the rolling countryside of the Brentsville District, across from a field of horses. To warm up, I do cardio on an elliptical on her sun porch. I can watch deer graze and birds roosting in the grass along weathered outbuildings and gnarled trees. Then I hit the gym for a full hour of lifting weights, ending with abs on the floor. Nina doesn’t boot camp me. Her mantra is to go slow and be intentional with each repetition and each set, alternating to concentrate on lower body and upper body muscles more intensely on different days. In her gym I sometimes work out alone; sometimes with one or two partners; sometimes Nina is my partner. All is measured, careful and challenging. I don’t have to keep track of sets or weights – Nina does all that, and she is constantly mixing it up. I concentrate on proper form. My son even came with me once. After all the times we’d talked about fitness over the phone while he was at college, (he lifted weights and did parkour) he was impressed. “I never thought I’d see my mother doing dead lifts,” he told Nina. Nina showed him how to do squats the proper way. I was so proud of myself.

What I like most about working out with Nina are two main things. First, I don’t feel like a hamster on a wheel, like I did at the fitness facility. I just wasn’t pushing myself there. In Nina’s gym, she sets the pace, and it is always a challenging one. Second, Nina talks to me, and listens. It’s almost like therapy, only instead of sitting on a couch, baring my soul about the daily challenges of changing to a healthier lifestyle in a world that is geared to tempt me to eat fatty-salty-sugary food any time of the day on any corner of the city in any situation….I’m lifting weights and burning energy at the same time. I leave her gym feeling energized and renewed. I work longer, and accomplish more. My moods are more even and I sleep better. As for my body, my clothes fit looser, my posture is improving and I haven’t had a backache since I can remember.

When I come into the gym Nina’s always talking about her latest adventure in bicycling or tennis or dancing. Here she is several years ago, dancing with a friend at the Wine & Jazz Festival in historic downtown Manassas.

WineJazz_Jun 11-17 WineJazz_Jun 11-33
(photos by Linda Hughes)

I’d like to get back to belly dancing at Magnificent Belly Dance in Manassas. I’d like to get my bike fixed and start riding it. I’d like to walk in a 5K. Those may not seem like big goals or adventures, but they are a start.

Thanks, Nina. I’m so glad I met you at the Women’s Conference. I’m so glad I invested in myself to make this change. The quality of my life is so much better now than it was when I was carrying all that extra weight around. I look forward to a productive summer in your gym, and losing the next 60 pounds over the next year.

How Did You Lose All That Weight?

This past month I turned 60 years old. I turned 60 on the day my youngest child graduated college, loaded up his car and left Virginia in his rear view mirror. He’s in Hot-lanta now.

This past month my daughter also set the date for her wedding – May 30, 2015. That means I have 12 months to lose the last 60 pounds. My gift to her – a healthy mom.

It hasn’t been easy. Two years ago, when this photo was taken, I weighed 314 pounds.

Cindy in June 2012

Cindy in June 2012

At my son’s graduation, I weighed 241.

Cindy in 2014

Cindy in 2014

People keep asking how I lost 73 pounds. Did I have bariatric surgery? No. That wouldn’t work for me. I am a compulsive overeater. Even if I had the surgery, I’d just gain the weight back. Did I join Weight Watchers? Many times. I would lose 15 pounds and gain back 20.

No, I had to face my addiction to food – specifically sugar and wheat – in “the rooms.” I found a local meeting of Overeaters Anonymous. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. The program is based on Alcoholics Anonymous, so even though I’ve outed myself here, if you think you have a problem with food, you can remain anonymous, and you can get help. Just go to the national website at http://www.oa.org or to the website local to Northern Virginia at http://www.oanova.org and look for a local meeting, a phone meeting or listen to podcasts of speakers, send off for reading materials or in other ways explore the program. It is working for me. I have seen it work for others. It offers strength and hope whereas commercial programs just took my money and asked “next!” to the person in line to get on a scale.

Once in the rooms, I found out it isn’t even a diet and calories club. It’s about way more than that. So losing 70 pounds – that’s just physical recovery. I’m also finding emotional and spiritual recovery in the process.

I also found, with the help of professionals outside the OA program, an eating plan and exercise that work for me. I’ll post about what I’m doing for my own success later. You have to find what works for you.

So when I say my goal is to lose 60 pounds in my 60ieth year…yes, that is my intention, and I’ve posted it above my computer. I’m logging in what I’m doing to reach that goal, and recording energy in, energy out.

But really, I just want recovery, today, one day at a time. Peace, which I didn’t have before, when I was reaching for the extra food that my body didn’t need for energy, or for the food I was simply addicted to because of the way my brain reacts to it. I have peace today, thanks to OA.

Fight or flight.


No surprise, one of my new year’s resolutions is to lose weight.

Surprise, I have a record of success.

Last year I lost 70 pounds with personal trainer Nina Lomax (www.Body-Conscience.com and www.fithealthylady.com). I lost another three pounds over the holidays, on my own. I feel great.

Now I need to lose 67 more. So I’ve been making the rounds, testing out exercise facilities in the City of Manassas.

The first place I tried was in a medical complex. It had low lighting, a friendly older clientele; TV monitors set to Fox News. On the circuit machines, I tapped computer displays and listened to beeps like a lab rat hitting my mark. I had the free weights in the weight room to myself. It was like a comfortable shoe. Every time I went, I ran into someone I knew.

The second place was in a busy shopping center. It was brightly lit, welcoming, with a coffee & smoothie bar and female clientele ranging from young to elderly; energetic music and two classes — exercise and weight training – going on. While I did cardio, I talked to a female recruiter for the state police, and a writer. Staff helped me adjust the machines – no computer displays – and I did free weights on my own. It felt girly. No high pressure sales tactics.

The third place was a 24-hour facility with a parking lot packed with more than its share of little red sports cars and globs of spit on the pavement. I got “the look” from more than one athletic guy, and I hadn’t even walked in yet. Inside the glass doors it was all loud rhythms, flat screen TVs and clanking weights, and a motion mash up of legs and arms moving on conveyors and cycles, framed by racks and stacks of skimpy workout shirts and muscle magazines. The fight or flight reflex kicked in. I could taste metal in my mouth.

With determination, I put one step in front of the other. I signed in, changed clothes, worked out. I enjoyed the adrenalin high to the elliptical at 12:05 and Katy Perry’s “Roar.” I just couldn’t overcome my intimidation of the free weight room, a cathedral of glass, iron and testosterone – not me, wandering in, looking for itty-bitty 8-lb weights to do some flies. I walked up the stairs. I thought I was going to die. I had to stop and rest. I went home on wobbly legs. The pass is for 12 days. We’ll see. I know several women who thrive at this gym – one even teaches classes at a similar outlet. And they’ve told me, “the look” is in MY head. No one cares what I look like or what I do when I’m there. Just do it.

Whatever my decision, I will keep checking in with Nina Lomax and I definitely recommend her to anyone. She gave me my record of success. I’m going for the next 67 pounds. Surprise.