The Truth Behind Weight Loss Ads

weight loss

Summer is just around the corner, and so are the endless advertisements for weight loss.  Common sense will tell you that cutting down on your caloric intake and exercising are your best bets for shedding those extra pounds.  But just in case, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) provides some helpful information and tips on what to be aware of when looking for ways to lose weight.

Claims to watch out for include:

Lose weight without diet or exercise!

Getting to a healthy weight takes work. Take a pass on any product that promises miraculous results without the effort. The only thing you’ll lose is money.

Lose weight no matter how much you eat of your favorite foods!

Beware of any product that claims that you can eat all the high-calorie food you want and still lose weight. Losing weight requires sensible food choices. Filling up on healthy vegetables and fruits can make it easier to say no to fattening sweets and snacks.

Lose weight permanently! Never diet again!

Even if you’re successful in taking weight off, permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. Don’t trust any product that promises once-and-for-all results without ongoing maintenance.

Just take a pill!

Doctors, dieticians, and other experts agree that there’s simply no magic way to lose weight without diet or exercise. Even pills approved by FDA to block the absorption of fat or help you eat less and feel full are to be taken with a low-calorie, low-fat diet and regular exercise.

Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!

Losing weight at the rate of a pound or two a week is the most effective way to take it off and keep it off. At best, products promising lightning-fast weight loss are a scam. At worst, they can ruin your health.

Everybody will lose weight!

Your habits and health concerns are unique. There is no one-size-fits-all product guaranteed to work for everyone. Team up with your health care provider to design a nutrition and exercise program suited to your lifestyle and metabolism.

Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream!

You’ve seen the ads for diet patches or creams that claim to melt away the pounds. Don’t believe them. There’s nothing you can wear or apply to your skin that will cause you to lose weight.

Acai Berry Supplements in the “News”

More and more, scam artists are exploiting people’s trust in well-known news organizations by setting up fake news sites with the logos of legitimate news organizations to peddle their wares. In particular, sites claiming to be objective news sources may describe a so-called “investigation” of the effectiveness of acai berry dietary supplements for weight loss. These sites are a marketing ploy created to sell acai berry supplements.

Tainted Weight Loss Products

In the last few years, FDA has discovered hundreds of dietary supplements containing drugs or other chemicals, often in products for weight loss and bodybuilding. These extras generally aren’t listed on the label — and might even be sold with false and misleading claims like “100% natural” and “safe.” They could cause serious side effects or interact in dangerous ways with medicines or other supplements you’re taking.

The Skinny on Electronic Muscle Stimulators

You might have seen ads for electronic muscle stimulators claiming they will tone, firm, and strengthen abdominal muscles, help you lose weight, or get rock hard abs. But according to FDA, while these devices may temporarily strengthen, tone, or firm a muscle, no electronic muscle stimulator device alone will give you “six-pack” abs.

Always, check with your doctor before starting any weight loss plan.  And be sure to check out any company before you do business with BBB at

Your Post-Baby Bloom: 9 Resolutions for Renewal

mom and baby

Your Post-Baby Bloom: Nine Spring Resolutions for Renewing and Refreshing Yourself

If the winter winds have been howling outside (while your baby is howling inside), you might be experiencing a touch of the winter blues. After several weeks or months of caring for your new arrival, it’s easy to become stuck in a rut of wearing warm, baggy clothes and staying indoors. And as you contemplate the coming arrival of spring (it’s just around the corner!), you may feel like you are coming out of hibernation, a little sluggish and sleepy-eyed, wondering how to get into the swing of things again.

Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes knows how you feel. Realizing that you exist as an individual can come as a shock as you gradually emerge from “newborn fog,” and focusing on personal renewal as you move into life as a mom can feel like a bridge too far.

“As you spend so much of your time and energy taking care of a baby—and possibly other children—the idea of starting a new phase for yourself can feel overwhelming,” acknowledges Ivana, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. “Don’t get hung up on the idea of major overhaul; take small steps instead. Little changes can make a surprisingly big impact. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s important to feel good about yourself, because that’s what will make you the best mother.”

Ivana points out that spring, which is naturally a time of growth, change, and renewal, is a wonderful time to start freshening yourself up.

“Start to plan some spring resolutions,” she recommends. “For me, they make more sense than New Year’s resolutions because springtime is what really feels like the new year. With more hours of sunlight, warmer weather, and vibrant colors to brighten your days, you’ll naturally feel more energized and motivated to refresh yourself and re-enter the world, baby in tow.”

Here are nine of Ivana’s spring resolutions that will help make your winter doldrums a thing of the past while you begin to blossom as a mom:

Take a step (or two, or three, or more!) toward change. If you’re disappointed to see that last spring’s wardrobe doesn’t quite fit the way you want, don’t worry: You’re normal. Most of us tend to put on winter weight in general. (Did you know that you actually need more calories to keep warm in colder weather?) And with a new baby, your body was bound to change shape regardless of the temperature.

“Instead of vowing to start a huge new exercise routine, which, of course, you don’t have time for, I suggest developing a new attitude instead,” Ivana shares. “First, accentuate the positives! Look into the mirror and say, ‘Hey, you’re looking pretty good for the end of the winter.’ Then, start burning calories in baby steps. Promise yourself a ten-minute routine in the mornings; maybe a simple, fun dance DVD that gets you moving for the day. As you build up stamina, you may want to lengthen your routine. And if time is in short supply, remember, a ten-minute workout is better than none.

“You might also try to find ways to work out with your kids,” she continues. “With warmer weather and sunny days ahead, load up the stroller and hit the local park or walking trail. Find a mommy-and-me yoga class, or have older and more mobile little ones do the dance DVD with you. Whatever you choose, take plenty of moments to honor your progress with a big ‘Way to go!’”

Spring clean your closet. (And be sure to include a dose of color therapy!) If you’ve recently had a baby, then you may be living in wardrobe limbo. The clothes from last spring don’t fit the way they should (and might not be suited to nursing anyway!), but you’re sick of wearing the drapey, frumpy winter clothes that have been hiding the leftover baby weight. What better time than now to “spring clean” your closet? Take an inventory of what you have, what doesn’t work for you anymore, and what you’d like to purchase. Clean out any pieces that you know you won’t wear anymore, even after you’ve reached a goal weight—like that skimpy number you wore on your honeymoon five years ago. Start thinking about ways to reinvent the pieces you keep.

“It’s perfectly okay to go out and buy some new pieces that actually fit you now,” Ivana assures. “Don’t spend the entire spring and summer season in clothes that don’t fit or don’t make you feel good just because you are ‘waiting to lose the weight.’ Invest in some fun new accessories and shoes to spice up existing basics. Trust me; when your clothes fit and you feel put together, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed.

“As you’re punching up your wardrobe with new pieces, bear in mind that colors affect our moods,” Ivana adds. “Whether we had babies or not, most of us have spent the past several months covered up head-to-toe in heavy grays, blacks, and browns. Chances are, you’re more than ready to turn to vibrant high-energy colors like pinks, greens, yellows, oranges, and blues for an instant boost. So try out a new color that makes you pop. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Go for a simple t-shirt, new lip color, or nail polish.”

Get outside and play. Admit it: After short days, cold temperatures, and the need for your schedule to revolve around a newborn, you’re more than ready to leave your house. As soon as possible, take advantage of the warmer weather and longer daylight hours to reconnect with your body.

“Go for walks,” Ivana urges. “Spend more time at the playground with your children. Act like French moms, who have their own playtime on the benches talking with each other, while their kids run wild and are forced to fend for themselves. Amazingly, this works! (For more on laissez-faire parenting, see my blog at And remember, in addition to the benefits of getting your body moving, you’ll also be absorbing more vitamin D from the sun. It can help regulate your immune system, boost your mood, and more.”

Try something new you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s trying out a dance class or yoga, exploring a new park, or just giving yourself permission to do something you want to do (like hiring a sitter and getting a massage!), put your own desires first every once in awhile. “If you try something new and don’t like it, drop it and find something that’s more your speed,” Ivana comments. “Enjoyment—of life, of yourself, of your surroundings—is the key to springtime renewal.”

Eat more fresh foods. With a new baby at home (and all the work, irregular hours, and exhaustion that entails), you’ve probably been in survival mode this winter. While there’s nothing wrong with eating take-out and casseroles brought over by family and friends as you adjust to the new normal, now’s a great time to freshen up your diet with healthier choices. Remember, good nutrition affects mood, energy, and beauty.

“Take advantage of the spring harvest with delicious beauty foods like asparagus, strawberries, and cherries,” Ivana recommends. “Asparagus is known as the ultimate detox vegetable. Strawberries are high in vitamin C, which produces collagen and prevents wrinkles. Cherries are considered both a brain and beauty food, with some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits.

“In general, you might consider planting a small herb container garden so that you’ll have fresh seasonings all summer long,” Ivana says. “Spend a Saturday morning enjoying the spring weather with your new little family as you stroll through a local farmers’ market. And remember, becoming healthier doesn’t have to mean a total diet overhaul. Integrating new, fresh ingredients a little at a time can make a big difference!”

Laugh and reconnect. If you’ve been cooped up all winter with a newborn at home (and/or stuck inside with kids as you try to avoid cold and flu season!), then it may be time to reconnect with friends. Try to make a weekly or monthly date with your girlfriends—and keep it.

“We moms tend to be overly obligatory to responsibility, and under-obligatory to fun,” Ivana observes. “But without a good dose of fun and laughter, life gets dull, and so do we. Moms, we owe it to ourselves to book fun into our busy schedules.”

Make regular dates for mama maintenance. With a newborn at home or little ones taking up most of your schedule, it’s easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside—and before you know it, you wake up one day and hardly recognize the frazzled, frumpy woman staring back at you in the mirror!

“Take some time to catch up on appointments for yourself,” Ivana suggests. “It doesn’t have to be an all-out spa day. (Although if that falls within the limits of your time and budget, I say go for it!) Get your hair trimmed and your color touched up. Get a manicure and pedicure. Schedule a facial or a massage. Even a trip to the dentist for your bi-annual cleaning can work wonders when it comes to feeling refreshed, energized, and more like you again.”

Renew your vow to drink more water. If you’ve traded your daily water intake for coffee and caffeine (and who can blame you?), then it may be time to make a conscious effort to work water back into your daily routine. H2O is good for your skin, muscles, and energy levels, and it can even marginally help your weight-loss efforts. (Of course, the real benefits come from replacing sugary beverages with water.) And if you’re breastfeeding, it’s worth noting that staying hydrated is a great way to maintain or even increase your supply of milk.

“Yes, drinking the recommended eight glasses a day is much easier said than done,” Ivana admits. “Again, baby steps are the way to go! You might start by drinking water after every caffeinated beverage, for example. Or gulp a whole glass each time you brush your teeth! Over time, these habits will become hardwired into your routine.”

Spark up a spring fling (with your spouse!). If the last few months have revolved around feeding schedules, diaper duty, and discussions of who got up with the baby last, then it’s likely that the new roles of “mom” and “dad” have put your other roles as “wife,” “husband,” or “partner” on the back burner. Now’s the time to reconnect with your significant other and refresh your love. After all, your romance is the foundation on which your growing family is built, and it’s in everyone’s best interests for your relationship to remain strong, healthy, and exciting.

“If you’re not quite ready to leave your little one with a sitter for date night, set up a candlelight dinner at home, or better yet, take the baby monitor outside for a sunset picnic in the backyard,” Ivana says. “Buy a new dress that makes you feel sexy. Leave your man a love note in his briefcase. More than anything, make a conscious effort to talk about something that doesn’t have to do with the new baby (as hard as that may be!).”

“As the flowers and trees outside your window begin to bloom in the upcoming weeks, make every effort to join them,” Ivana concludes. “When you commit to tackling one small spring resolution at a time, you’ll be well on your way to blooming—both as an individual and as a mom—after welcoming your baby.”

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About Princess Ivana: Ivana is the author of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom. For more information, please visit

Graceful, Healthy Aging: Women’s Health Workshop

growing old

Piedmont Fayette Hospital

1279 Building, 3rd Floor

Conference Room C

Thursday, March 21

10 a.m. to 12 p.m.


The beginning of spring is a great time to focus on getting in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Experts Dr. Verna Thornton, OB/GYN. Piedmont Fayette Hospital’s Sixty Plus Services and Fayette Senior Services Life Enrichment Center are co-hosting a wonderfully interactive program on women’s health and wellness.  Dr. Verna Thornton, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist, and will lead the discussion: “Healthy Aging through the Decades” to better understand the importance of annual check- ups, bone density testing, mammograms, pelvic exams as we age. Dr. Thornton will be joined by Miriam Jones, NASM nationally certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for a lively session on regular exercise and healthy nutrition you can live with! Refreshments will be served. The event is free, but preregistration is required.  Please call 770-461-0813 to register.

A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

woman relaxing

February is American Heart Month. Do yourself a favor and incorporate these simplified ways of doing everyday tasks to save energy for active recreational activities that keep your heart healthy.

UTILIZE BODY MECHANICS. One of the easiest ways to save energy is to use your body correctly. This means distributing work over several sets of muscles and using the stronger ones whenever possible. By doing this, you are bound to have fewer accidents and less energy will be consumed, leaving you feeling “fresher” at the end of each day.

PACE YOURSELF. Find a rhythmic, relaxed way of doing things and you may accomplish more than you thought you could. Also, don’t procrastinate. Allowing enough time to do complete tasks means you won’t be rushing to the finish line at the last minute. Pace yourself, walk slowly with good breathing control and you’ll notice a definite decrease in stress levels as well. Stress management is a key component to heart health.

BE AT PEACE. Control of mind can be more difficult to achieve than control of the body but it is well worth the effort. Train yourself to accept things you cannot change and you will have more energy to change the things you can control.

SIMPLIFY WORK. Plan ahead as much as possible to minimize stress. Balance your work week by spreading out the heavy tasks and adding some of the lighter tasks in between. Make a schedule daily and allow for short rest periods between activities throughout the day to reset your mind. Organize the equipment at your work station and throw away things you do not use.

When tackling individual tasks, break down the operation into steps and figure out the most efficient way of accomplishing the task. Do them in the same way each time as repetition will make you more proficient and save time and energy. When you work more efficiently, you reduce the strain on your heart and cardiovascular system. Plus, you’ll minimize fatigue, shortness of breath and back pain, prevent injury and increase you energy level.

BREATHE EASY Slow, deep breathing is relaxing and helps slow and smooth out boy motion. Avoid taking short, jerky breaths or holding the breath when using the arms or when in a hurry. Slow deep breathing uses more of your lungs and gets more oxygen into your blood.

Once you master these tips, use that extra energy at the end of the day to engage in heart healthy activities like walking instead of watching TV.


Lisa Chaphe is an occupational therapist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital with 24 years of experience. She has lived in Fayette County for 11 years with her husband and two children, who are now in high school.


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New Lung Cancer Screening Program at Piedmont Fayette

ct scan

Piedmont Fayette Hospital launches new lung cancer screening program

Lung cancer causes more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined, according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). That’s why Piedmont Fayette Hospital has launched a new lung cancer screening program to improve early detection of the disease, which is the second leading cause of death behind heart disease.

“The high number of lung cancer deaths is due in part to the disease being found after it has spread,” said Trevor Feinstein, M.D., medical oncologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. “Generally, most lung cancer diagnoses aren’t found until the late stages and by then, it may be too late for effective treatment.”

Patients who meet a certain criteria and are deemed “high risk” for lung cancer will be able to participate in the new program which uses a low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening to detect the disease. Those who are at high risk include people older than 55 years of age who have smoked approximately one pack of cigarettes a day for more than 30 years; those who have smoked two packs a day for 15 years; and those who have smoked three packs a day for 10 years or more.

Also at risk are current or former smokers over 50 years of age with at least a 20-pack year history and at least one additional risk factor (radon exposure, lung disease history, family history of lung cancer, or occupational exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals). Pack years are defined by the number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked.

“Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer, which is why it is so important older patients who have smoked for so long get screened,” said Dr. Feinstein. “The test only takes 30 minutes to complete and the new low-dose CT uses far less radiation. This new program will help us catch lung cancer at an earlier stage so we have better chances of curing our patients and giving them a fighting chance at life.”

A national lung screening trial found that screening with the use of low-dose CT, which is used to find nodules in the lungs, reduces mortality from lung cancer by 20 percent. Since insurance does not typically cover these screenings, Piedmont Fayette Hospital will offer the tests at a discounted rate of $99.

As with many diseases, early detection of lung cancer is key to successful treatment. Screenings such as the new low-dose CT can detect cancer before signs appear. Common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing that lasts, blood in lungs, excessive mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest area pain, tiredness, pneumonia, hoarse voice, pain when swallowing, and high-pitched sound when breathing.

Known risk factors for lung cancer are tobacco smoking, contact with radon, contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing agents, family history of lung cancer, diagnoses of certain other cancers and/or lung disease and contact with second-hand smoke. To learn more about the new program at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, call 770-719-6098 or visit

Spinning: 5 Expert Tips for Newbies


If you’ve ever contemplated taking a Spinning class but were too scared to try, you aren’t alone. Many newcomers are intimidated by the loud music, the instructor’s barking orders and the unfamiliar terms. Part of getting fit, however, is leaving your comfort zone and trying something new. Once you have the basics down though, an indoor-cycling session can be one of the most beneficial cardiovascular exercises that delivers tons of dopamine for that post-workout bliss so many of us crave.

To help you prep for your first class, Digifit’s resident Spinning instructor Giovanni Massi breaks down the basics.

Seek recommendations
Each indoor cycling instructor has a different teaching style and music choice, which can make or break your Spinning® experience. I always say that group fitness instructors are like restaurants: the food may be great, but if it doesn’t tickle your taste buds you won’t go back! That’s why it’s important to find one whose coaching technique keeps you motivated and playlist inspires you. For help picking your first cycling class, ask friends, fellow gym goers and staff members which instructors they like and why. Otherwise, peek in on a class that’s already in session to get a sense of the overall vibe. After your first session, test out various classes to figure out whose instruction keeps you moving.

Know what to bring to class
One of the most important items to bring with you is water. Indoor cycling classes are typically held in small rooms where there’s less air flow which is needed to help your body cool down. Drinking plenty of water throughout class will stabilize your core temperature and pump blood to muscles. A towel to wipe sweat from your face, a pair of padded shorts and sweat-wicking clothing will keep you comfortable throughout the session. Heart-rate monitors are also recommended to ensure you reach optimal performance and stay within safe heart-rate zones. Digifit’s iCardio App not only measures your heart rate, but also tracks other keep fitness data like caloric burn.

Arrive to class early
Getting to class early gives you a chance to speak with the instructor who can make you feel at ease about your first session. The instructor will help you set up the bike properly, explain safety measures and proper form, plus provide an overview of how the class will flow. He or she may also watch you a little more closely during class and give you special instructions to help perfect your form.

Ride at your own pace
One of my favorite things about indoor cycling is that it is each person’s own ride. Unlike other group fitness classes, it isn’t obvious if you can’t keep up or if you miss a step. Though instructors guide speed, cadence and heart rate, the individual controls the overall level of intensity–so you can make the ride as easy or as hard as you want.

Don’t give up
Indoor cycling can be hard work especially for first timers. Many newbies become fatigued early on in the session and may consider quitting in the middle of class because they feel it’s too hard to finish. If this happens to you, don’t give up. Slow down your heart rate by lowering your pedal speed, removing any weight off the wheel, breathing deeply and drinking plenty of H2O. This will give you a chance to recover and give you energy needed to finish the class. Don’t be hard on yourself though, it’s natural to feel this way during the first session. Stay committed to finish and know that with each class you will continue building endurance and cardiovascular strength.

Giovanni Massi is a certified Spnning® instructor with over 22 years of experience. Feel free to use Giovanni’s beginner Spinning® tips with your audience with proper attribution. Giovanni is also available to comment on any Spinning or indoor cycling story you may be working on and is available for phone, in-studio, Skype or Satellite interviews. Please call Andrea at (914) 715-6612 to schedule an expert interview. Follow Giovanni on Twitter: GioFitness

Healthy New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Kids

healthy kids

(StatePoint) If eating healthier and getting more exercise tops your New Year’s resolution list, consider extending these worthwhile goals to the whole family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity in this country has more than tripled over the past 30 years. But you can help your family get the right nutrition and exercise to stay healthy.

“Not only is it extremely important for kids to get all the vitamins, nutrients and physical activity they need to stay healthy, but habits formed early in life — both good and bad — can last a lifetime,” says Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP is offering some healthy living tips for parents to help kids get on the right track for the upcoming year.

Improving Eating Habits

• You may have bad childhood memories of being forced to sit at the table until you cleaned your plate. Don’t perpetuate this method of mealtime management! It sends the wrong message by emphasizing quantity over quality and can lead to significant overeating. Foster a healthier attitude toward food by focusing on what you serve in the first place.

• Establish a routine with regular meal and snack times. Always eat meals at the table. Children who eat meals with their family consume more fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins.

• Once kids are old enough, encourage self-feeding as much as possible.

• Avoid soda, which is full of empty calories or artificial sweeteners. Milk and water are the best drink choices for your child. Offer whole milk or 2 percent milk to children ages 12 months to 2 years old, unless your pediatrician recommends low-fat milk. After age 2, offer low-fat milk. Limit juice to four to six ounces a day.

• Kids can be picky at first, but don’t let a refusal of a new food stop you from trying again. Offer new foods multiple times in multiple ways. For infants, you may need to even try 10 to 15 times over several months. Parents are extremely influential and can serve as a child’s best role model. Eat a variety of foods of different flavors, colors and textures.

Encourage Active Play

• Don’t let a full day go by without active play. Take trips to the park, play in the yard, go for walks and make physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine. Reduce the amount of time spent in devices that restrain movement, such as strollers and bouncy seats.

• Limit screen time, including TV, video games and computers, to less than two hours a day. Avoid placing computers or television sets in children’s bedrooms so they can get the best sleep possible.

• Encourage your kids to take part in sports teams, gymnastic and dance classes, and other activities that will get them moving.

More ideas about healthy living for families can be found at

“No matter how old your child is, it’s never too early to establish household routines that foster healthy habits.” says McInerny.

Patricia Dablah, Kareen Underwood lead with Zumba

Photos by Marie Thomas

Photos by Marie Thomas

Muy caliente! Zumba instructors Kareen Underwood and Patricia Dablah are heating up the dance floors at gyms across Fayette County, helping both women and men melt away the pounds while having fun. Spend any time around them and you’ll see — their energy is contagious.

At first glance, Kareen Underwood seems to have it all: a career in education (she teaches at Brooks Elementary School), a second career as a highly successful fitness instructor, and a loving husband and talented son. But it wasn’t always that way for her.

Kareen’s story begins in San Jose, Calif. Growing up, Kareen loved to perform and attended Lincoln Center Performing Arts School, where she specialized in dance and voice. Her home life, however, was troubled. Her mother, a full-blooded Sicilian, was absent for long periods of time, and her Mexican father was often at odds with the law. He went to prison when Kareen was in the tenth grade, leaving her homeless and without anyone to look after her. She dropped out of school and moved from place to place, even sleeping in a bus station for several nights. Kareen admits she could have easily gone down the wrong path, but she knew she wanted something different for herself. “I believe that we do not have to be products of our circumstances or our environments,” she says. “God has given us free will and the power to choose.”

Kareen and husband Woody on vacation in Florida

Ever resourceful, Kareen found a friend who took her in. The friend lived with her sister, a single mother caring for several children in a cramped one bedroom apartment. “There were eight of us living in that tiny apartment! I slept on the couch. That’s how tight the Mexican community was,” Kareen explains. “We took care of each other.”

Kareen knew the arrangement wouldn’t be permanent, so she enrolled in cosmetology school and worked evenings to save up enough money for her own place. She finished cosmetology school by the time she was seventeen and was able to support herself on her own for the first time. Kareen worked as a hair dresser for several years, but deep down she knew she wanted something else.

After her father was released from prison, she moved to Tacoma, Wash. with him and continued to work as a cosmetologist. She also began taking courses at a local community college where she was able to obtain her GED. More than anything else, Kareen wanted to go to college, though she realized that paying tuition would be difficult on her salary. She found the solution to her dilemma in the United States Air Force.

Kareen served six years active duty in the Air Force during Desert Storm at Hahn Air Base in Germany. She distinguished herself, and was eventually awarded an Accomodation Medal, an Achievement Medal and a National Defense Medal. She was also able to put her love of music and dance to good use while in the military, beginning when she entered a talent show at her base and won first place in the vocalist category. She went on to audition for the USAFE (United States Air Force in Europe) Showcase and landed a spot, which enabled her to tour Europe with the performing group and visit bases in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey. “It was amazing,” she says of the experience. “I got to see Europe doing what I love most — dancing and singing.”

Kareen with her husband Woody and son Josh

Kareen’s son Joshua was born in Germany in 1990, and shortly thereafter she returned to the United States with baby in tow by way of Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. Although she was no longer in a relationship with Joshua’s father, she followed him to Dayton Beach, Fla. and finally did what she had always wanted to do: attend college. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida.

Kareen eventually married Robert (“Woody”) Underwood, an aircraft mechanic and fellow martial arts enthusiast, and the family moved to Georgia in 2000. She was first introduced to the dance/fitness movement by way of “Groove” — a pre-cursor to Zumba — at World Gym in Fayetteville, becoming a certified Groove instructor in 2006. She also taught Kick and Step classes.

Zumba was just a natural progression for Kareen, as it was for friend Patricia Dablah, whom she met at World Gym in Peachtree City. “Patricia is from Guadalajara, like my father,” Kareen says. “Dancing is in her blood.”

But Patricia seemed the most unlikely of dancers at birth. She was born with a congenital deformity, club foot, which required multiple surgeries in her childhood. Her father, an oilman, moved the family to Ciudad del Carmen, an island in Campeche, where she learned to dance with friends, something her mother discouraged. “I don’t know if she was afraid I’d hurt my feet or if she thought I might be embarrassed,” Patricia says, but she continued to dance anyway. Her love of music and dance couldn‘t be subdued.

Patricia with her father Jose Mora and her brother Eduardo Mora in Guadalajara, Mexico.

When Patricia was a teenager, her parents divorced, and she moved back to Guadalajara with her mother. The following year, when she was just 16 years of age, her mother died. Patricia remained in Guadalajara and finished high school on scholarship, but she knew she had to further develop her skills to be able to enter the workforce and support herself. Hoping to give herself an edge in the job market, Patricia enrolled in English and computer classes.

As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Patricia was nineteen when she met and fell in love with an American studying medicine in Guadalajara. They married a year later and she followed him back to America in 1998. The couple spent time in Minnesota, where son Alexander was born in 2000, and New York, where daughter Victoria was born in 2002.

After another move to Washington state, Patricia, a stay-at-home mother, saw an advertisement for Zumba on the Latin channel. She ordered the Zumba DVDs and loved it. “I did Zumba in front of the TV!” she says. “It was so much fun to do and I loved the music!”

Soon Patricia was attending Zumba classes at the local YMCA, where she began to drop some of the weight from her two pregnancies. However, when she and her family moved to the Atlanta area in 2007, she had a hard time finding a gym that offered Zumba. “I couldn’t believe it — there was no Zumba here yet!” she recalls.

Patricia with her children Alexander and Victoria

World Gym in Peachtree City was the first in the area to add Zumba to their offering fitness classes. The classes were taught by Arlene Perez, who recognized Patricia’s talent and encouraged her to pursue certification. Patricia put it off, lacking confidence at the time, but then her world was knocked off-kilter when her grandmother died. Suddenly she found herself thinking more about what she wanted out of life. “I had been a homemaker for several years and I realized that I needed to do something for myself,” she explains.

She began by earning her GED after taking prep classes through Fayette County Parks and Recreation. She also studied at home and became a U.S. citizen. Bolstered by her achievements, Patricia finally worked up the nerve to attend classes for Zumba certification in Athens, but it took her nearly ten months to find the courage to actually teach a class. Her new friend from World Gym, Kareen Underwood, helped her along the way. “I remember telling her to look up,” says Kareen, “Project yourself — smile!”

Patricia’s first job teaching Zumba was at Ultimate Fitness in Peachtree City. As with most new Zumba instructors, Patricia’s classes started off small. “Once I taught a class to five people,” she remembers.

After two or three months of people peeking into the aerobics room to find out what all the noise was about, though, she had more than thirty people attending her classes. The gym was forced to start a sign-up sheet for Patricia’s classes because people were packing themselves into the aerobics room like sardines with no room to move. “I was up against the mirror!” Patricia says. “But I love teaching a big class. The energy is so amazing!”

Now Kareen and Patricia attend Zumba conferences together in Orlando every year. Both ladies have also participated in Zumba fundraisers. Kareen, who sees her work as a ministry, has organized and participated in fundraisers for organizations such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation and American Heart Association. She has also helped local organizations, including the Breast Cancer Survivors Network, based in Peachtree City, and Loving Me Phenomenally, a local organization that helps African-American teenage girls by working to prevent pregnancy, date rape and violence.

“The thing that makes Kareen and Patricia so special is that they are able to connect with their students,” says Art Sivertsen, Program Coordinator with Peachtree City Recreation and Special Events, who has worked with both ladies. “And both have what I like to call Zumba ‘swag’ — they are the best in the business.”

Today, Kareen, who earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, is in her seventh year of teaching. She’s come a long way from the teenage girl sleeping in a bus station. In 2011, she and Woody established Fitness Caliente, a physical training service, with the goal of helping others improve their quality of life and overall wellness through a personalized fitness program, weight loss, and proper nutrition.

Of course, Zumba is Kareen’s passion. “There are no barriers in Zumba. Everyone can do it and it makes people feel good,” says Kareen. She teaches Zumba six days a week, between Fayette County Parks and Recreation and World Gym in Peachtree City.

Patricia continues to focus on raising her two children, but balances it with a life of her own, thanks in part to Zumba. She currently teaches two nights a week at Glenloch Recreation Center and has recently picked up some classes at World Gym in Peachtree City. “You can transform your life if you really take the opportunities that you get,” she says. “I became a Zumba Instructor after being a homemaker for 12 years, and I met so many wonderful people and share this passion of mine — music, dancing and working out, all at the same time. It is in you to make those positive changes and have a better life.”

Kareen Underwood and Patricia Dablah remind us that we are not just victims of our circumstances. These two ambitious, hard-working, and tenacious Fayette women overcame adversity and defied the odds — and that is inspiration for us all.



Mammograms: When (and Why) I Started Getting Them

Laura Soper, completing her first half-marathon cancer free!

With differing guidelines on when to begin mammograms, the decision can be confusing for many women. My OB/GYN recommended a baseline mammogram in 2007 after I turned 36. I put it off, for no good reason other than I was busy with work and kids. But the mammogram guidelines of the American Cancer Society (ACS) call for yearly mammogram screening beginning at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer.

Meanwhile, in 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued revised mammogram guidelines. Those guidelines included that screening mammograms should be done every two years beginning at age 50 for women at average risk of breast cancer. They further said that screening mammograms before age 50 should not be done routinely and should be based on a woman’s values regarding the risks and benefits of mammography.

Laura Soper, completing her first half-marathon cancer free!

Big difference from the ACS’s guidelines. Their reason is this: Women ages 40 to 49 face often times face unneeded risks such as false-positive results that lead to unneeded breast biopsies and accompanying anxiety and distress.

Tell that to my friend Laura, who found a lump doing a self-exam. She was 39. The lump was so small (5 mm) that it was barely visible on her mammogram. Her doctor wasn’t worried, but recommended a biopsy “just to be sure.” The biopsy revealed a very rare type of breast cancer called invasive micropapillary carcinoma. Her treatment originally called for a lumpectomy, but further mammogram studies uncovered what appeared to be pre-cancerous cells all over the upper quadrant of her right breast. So the lumpectomy turned into a full mastectomy. During surgery they discovered three lymph nodes that were cancerous and had to be removed. She went through four months of chemotherapy followed by radiation for two months. Laura is now cancer free, although she would not have discovered her cancer at such an early stage if it weren’t for self-exams and mammography.

I scheduled my first mammogram at age 40. It seemed like a milestone birthday that should be marked by milestone health checkups. First, I decided to undergo Essureâ, a sterilization procedure my OB/GYN had recommended. It was easy. Immediately afterwards, I scheduled my mammogram. It, too, was easy. The mammography techs were wonderful and made it a piece of cake. But after the radiologist reviewed the images, he recommended an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed that I had a small lump in my left breast near the chest wall. The radiologist suspected it was a fibroadenoma, a non-cancerous nodule; however, he couldn’t be 100% sure without a biopsy. I had two choices: wait and see or biopsy. I chose biopsy.

A week or so later I had a vacuum-assisted core needle biopsy. Not a particularly pleasant experience, but it put my mind at ease when they confirmed it was indeed a fibroadenoma. They left a tiny metal clip next to the lump so that they could identify the area on future mammograms.

The truth of the matter is that my lump could have been there for 20 years, so maybe my biopsy was unnecessary. But what if it had been cancerous? I had a small amount of anxiety waiting for the biopsy results (four to five days), but after watching Laura go through her treatments, I knew I couldn’t afford to just “wait and see.” I had to find out what it was — and if it had been cancer I knew I could count on the support of family and friends to see me through it.

The bottom line is this: there is no easy answer on when to start mammograms. If you are over age 35, talk with your doctor and weigh the pros and cons. It’s your decision. Your life.

Back to school, back to fitness

DO NOT USE AFTER 2/26/2013. Image use expires on this date.JimGallop 1194

Renewing your commitment to fitness? September is the new January

(ARA) – No matter how long it’s been since you set foot in a classroom, September can still bring a sense of starting over, which makes it the perfect time of year to take stock of where you are and where you want to be with your general health and level of fitness. You can go “back to school” by enrolling in an exercise class or get a new “teacher” by hiring a personal trainer.

“There is a sense of new beginnings on all fronts when school starts,” says Jenna Murphy, a 42-year-old mom from Maple Grove, Minn. “This fall I want to improve my flexibility through yoga. I also plan on trying ballet bar fitness as well as kettle bells.”

While January is the traditional time when many people consider starting healthy habits, they don’t always see those changes through to the end of the year. “The new year creates more emotion and motivation to start change,” explains Jason Stella, a master personal trainer at Life Time Fitness, The Healthy Way of Life Company. “The problem with this motivation is that once the media hype and emotional high is gone, so is the belief in achieving the goal.”

Even if you have a good start in January and keep your resolve through the summer, come fall – with its endless procession of holidays – even the most dedicated can stop making fitness a priority.

Instead of thinking, “I’ll start over in January,” use these three Rs to make September a time to renew your fitness goals.

Reassess: Consider what you have accomplished so far and what new action you need to take to stay on course with your goals. In addition, evaluate your schedule. How can you fit fitness in with activities and obligations that start in the fall while staying motivated with fewer daylight hours? Fitness centers often create new schedules this time of year. Learn something new by way of a new exercise class or sport, or find a nutrition or health education seminar to attend.

Reconnect: Find ways to re-establish that emotional high toward your goals and keep the momentum going. One way to do this is to sign up for an event that will complement your health and fitness goals, or help you achieve them. “An event can be a 10K, a triathlon, half-marathon or more extreme events like the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race or Alpha Showdown,” Stella says. “This keeps motivation high throughout the year and helps people stay on track with the kind of lifestyle behaviors that lead to achieving their desired goals.” Accomplishing these events also leads to more confidence, he adds, which perpetuates the goal-setting, goal-achieving cycle.

Reassert: Change your mindset from making a resolution to making a commitment. “A personal commitment is much more powerful than a resolution, which is often thrust upon us by outside expectations,” Stella says. A resolution is deciding to do or not do something; a commitment is a promise or obligation. “Think about the personal responsibility between the two. When people ‘promise’ or make an ‘obligation’ it puts their credibility on the line, and maintaining one’s credibility has a huge impact on motivation.”

Murphy says she is no longer in school, but having a personal trainer provides a great education. “Four years ago, having never done anything athletic my whole life, the best decision I have ever made was to work with a personal trainer from the start. She is always introducing me to new workouts and showing me I can do things I never thought I could. That’s very empowering and affirming to me.”

10 Frugal Tips for Fall Fitness

fall jogger shutterstock

The first day of fall is quickly approaching; Saturday, Sept. 22 marks the autumnal equinox and the official end to a sweltering summer. From the crisp, cool air to the brilliantly-colored leaves, this is one of my favorite seasons to be active outdoors.

Whether you spent the summer scaling mountains or doing laps in your gym’s outdoor pool, exercising outside doesn’t have to end when the first leaf drops. In fact, fall is a great time to harvest a new routine to re-energize your workout. Consider the following tips and get motivated!

Enjoy the foliage.
Exercising outside feels like a lot less work, especially if you’re doing something you enjoy. Relish the cooler weather and take advantage of outdoor adventures before the winter rolls in. Research park trails nearby to enjoy a hike or bike ride amid fall’s colorful foliage. Even apple picking or pumpkin gathering with your kids is a fun activity that is sure to burn calories.

Layer up.
The change in season brings about a change in climate. Depending on where you live, temperatures could gradually decrease or drastically dip over the next month. Keep this in mind as you plan outdoor activities and invest in breathable, moisture-wicking clothing. Though you may feel chilly at first, your body will quickly warm up once your blood starts pumping, so you don’t want to overdress either. For those cold morning runs, a hat will help insult your head where you lose the most heat. Review this post from SparkPeople on how to layer effectively.

Be safe.
Shorter days bring dark mornings and evenings, but this shouldn’t deter you from an outdoor exercise regime. Just be smart about it; wear reflective workout clothes and carry a flashlight to illuminate your path. Bike riders should invest in headlights and blinking tail lights and stay clear of heavy traffic roads. All early morning or evening exercisers should opt for designated paths or head to the local school track.

Take cue from the kids.
As children head back to school this season, remember that you, too, should never stop learning. Are you interested in boxing, tap dancing or even fencing? Give it a try. Ask about deals on intro classes to find out if it’s right for you, or scour daily deal sites for introductory discounts.

Work out at home.
Now that the days feel shorter and the holiday season is looming, fitting fitness into your daily routine may feel impossible. But remember, even 15 or 20 minutes is enough time to get in a quick workout — think living-room aerobics or a quick dash around the neighborhood. Be prepared for those fleeting moments of free time with fitness DVDs or better yet, hit up Hulu for free workout tutorials on Exercise TV.

Get the right gear.
For the most part, you can challenge your muscles with your own body weight and avoid all that specialty, super-expensive equipment advertised on TV. However, some items are helpful to your results, like hand weights or resistance bands. Shop online for discounts at, where you can get a coupon code for 20-percent off at Champion through Oct. 9.

Freeze that gym membership.
If you don’t have time to get to the gym or you simply rather spend more time outdoors, consider freezing your gym membership for a couple of months. Though you’ll be charged a small monthly fee to retain the membership, you could save up to 90-percent of the regular monthly charge. Though some people opt to cancel, you could wind up paying pesky initiation fees once you’re ready to sign up again.

Savor fall produce for less.
Grocery stores and farmers’ markets will be full of fall’s freshest produce including apples, figs, pears, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and winter squash. In-season produce is rich in flavor and cheap on your wallet. So, if you aren’t sure how to turn these seasonal vegetables and fruits into meals, check out these tasty recipes from

Buy a bike.
According to The Best Time to Buy Guide, new bicycle models are released in September and dealers slash prices because they don’t want old models haunting their showrooms. Bike manufacturers make updates to new models, so educate yourself on those changes. Sometimes the updates are minimal or limited to design tweaks, making the older models a super smart buy.

Weigh yourself regularly.
With colder weather comes bulkier clothes, and I find it easy to overlook a few extra pounds through chunky sweaters. Combat this oversight by weighing yourself regularly, preferably at same time every day to get the most accurate reading. For help tracking your weight and exercise progress over time, try Fitbit’s Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, which wirelessly syncs to a free and private online account each time you step on the scale. You’ll get stats with easy-to-read graphs of important body measurements including weight, BMI and body fat percentage over time.


Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

The Boys of Summer: Send Them Outside

boys outside

As Adolescent Male Achievement Declines, Author Says, ‘Get Outside!’

There is bad news for boys in North America:they are being blown out of the water by girls in academic achievement, and psychologists say young men are becoming more socially awkward, making relationships with young women difficult.

Sidney Gale, a medical doctor and author of Unto the Breach (, an outdoor adventures book for boys, is concerned about the following statistics:

Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out or flunk out of school. In Canada, five boys drop out for every three girls.

Boys are underperforming girls at every level, from elementary to grad school.

Boys are less likely than girls to get bachelor’s of arts (44% vs. 56%) and graduate degrees, (45% vs. 55%).

In addition, young men in college are increasingly socially inexperienced, which means they’re less likely go to on dates or otherwise step out of their comfort zone,says Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. In general, males were never as sophisticated as females in verbal and bodily communication, but it’s gotten worse.

Excessive hours of solitary video-game play and internet use likely account for atrophied social skills, Zimbardo says.

“We need to get boys out of their solitary bedrooms and into the sun,” Gale says. “It’s also a good idea to get them reading something other than tweets, texts and the like. They have intellect, and we should encourage them to use it.”

Gale offers ideas to help boys even the achievement and social gap:

• Camp: Summer is a perfect opportunity to consider varied activity for young boys. Gale, an avid seaman, says sailing camps encourage teamwork, physical activity and navigation skills.

• Read novels: Physical isolation has significant effects on one’s mental state and will stymie social skills. While reading is an activity pursued alone, reading novels can be very therapeutic, he says. They take readers beyond their daily lives, illustrate the workings of human relationships and increase language skills. They can also teach social- and problem-solving skills.

• Get social – both boys and parents: Children pick up on parental behaviors. If Mom and Dad do nothing but work and vegetate at home, chances are good that boys are just doing the same. Leave the house, together, when you can. Recreational activities are ideal; however, simply shopping together is an easy way to get boys out. “Talk to them on the way to the store,” Gale says. “It sounds simple, but we are so inundated with technology in every part of our daily lives that an in-person conversation should not be taken for granted.”

Like anything worthwhile, a boy’s development takes time and effort, he notes.

“The old idea of a boy was one who longed for adventure, like Tom Sawyer or the Hardy Boys,” he says. “As with any of today’s issues concerning children, parents need to be vigilant so they can lead their sons to a successful and socially active life.”



About Sidney Gale

Sidney Gale is the penname for Ian Blumer, a physician who has published a number of non-fiction books. He has been a specialty doctor in the Toronto area since 1985. “Unto the Breach” is his first work of fiction.