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GAM BIT’S HEALTH & WELLNESS > MAY 2012 > VOLUME 4 > NUM BER 5

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HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

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HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

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They examined the diets of people they considered healthy, mostly athletes, and found that often these role models ate greater quantities than what the Beals considered normal without sacrificing their favorite foods. The key difference they noticed was control over ingredients and the maintenance of an active lifestyle. They questioned their old routines. “How much were we eating? When were we eating? How was what we were eating actually affecting our bodies?” Maleka says. “We had to really be honest with ourselves, but once we understood the caloric intake, we began to understand just how we blew up.” They began replacing processed foods with fresh produce, eating structured meals at home, exercising and involving their children in the process of food preparation. They also made conscious decisions to cure themselves of their bad habits: Before their transformation, “we had ice cream after dinner every single night,” Maleka says. Eric rattles off a list of behaviors he learned to avoid: skipping breakfast, eating anything fried, eating after 7 p.m. “These were all learned behaviors I had, that I never even thought about,” he says. The alterations to their daily routine weren’t difficult, the couple says, because they were so minor. “It wasn’t about some drastic change,” Maleka says. “It was a slow transition, learning

that there were tipping points, that small things could make a big difference.” Always a fan of Oprah Winfrey, Maleka was hoping mostly for audience tickets when she wrote the producers in 2011 about her family’s commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Instead, both Eric and Maleka were invited on the show as featured guests, along with several other fans who had experienced significant decreases in weight. Collectively, Maleka and Eric had lost 300 pounds, and national television seemed a good place to debut their leaner physiques. It marked a special moment for the couple and brought fame they hadn’t anticipated. “When we got back from being on the show, we started getting calls from people we knew, asking us how we did it,” she says. “It got to the point that we were getting so much interest that we had to find a way to centralize the information.” Thus, their healthy lifestyle coaching business, Better Choices (www. betterchoices.co/wp), was born. The Beals offer weekly, three- and six-month coaching sessions, along with seminars, grocery store visits, workout circuits and online motivational resources for cooking and fitness. Their webinars are lighthearted and playful, as Eric and Maleka intersperse healthful cooking techniques with good-natured riffs on

MALEKA LOST 138 POUNDS AND HER HUSBAND ERIC LOST 150 POUNDS.

each other and anecdotes about their family life. Their recipes include pizza on whole-wheat crust, loaded with vegetables and tilapia fillets, and roasted chicken layered with fresh herbs. “We’ve always been very serviceoriented, and we like working with individuals, spending one-on-one time with them learning about their experiences to come up with a program that fits their needs and goals,” Maleka says. “We have so much energy and enthusiasm about this.” Eric sums up the philosophy of the business in its name. “I thought about the fact that I had really changed my life, how I had really changed my thought process,” he says. “I thought, ‘What am I doing differently now than I did before?’ I was making better choices.” Eric and Maleka will release a cookbook in June, along with a motivational weight loss journal. They remain committed to the lifestyle they’ve created and hopeful for the future of the careers it helped them create. “I think people relate to our chemistry as a couple, but also to the fact that we know what they’re going through,” Eric says. “We’ve been there. We watched every pound come off.”

HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

ric and Maleka Beal had moved their family to Texas after Hurricane Katrina, when Eric came down with a mild case of strep throat. What began as a cursory trip to the doctor quickly evolved into a defining moment of his and Maleka’s lives. “I went to get on the scale for the initial examination,” he says. “And they didn’t have a scale that could weigh me.” The embarrassment was momentary, but Maleka remembers a lingering depression that seemed at odds with Eric’s typically happy-go-lucky personality. “He told me what had happened, and I said, ‘OK, well, what are you going to do about it?’” she says. Their answer, the couple says, was to take a good hard look at themselves. They realized that with Eric weighing in at 400 pounds and Maleka at 278, they had long surpassed being slightly overweight. Their health and their family were in danger. Their collective gain was the result of years and years of overeating and bad habits. “If eating was an Olympic sport, you were looking at two gold medalists,” Maleka says. Both were born and raised in New Orleans by families who enjoyed the city’s smorgasbord of foods. Consequently, when the couple started their own family, “we didn’t eat for nutrition,” Eric says. “We ate for taste.” Both Eric and Maleka were busy managing individual careers, two young sons and a stable and supportive marriage — which they also believe factored into their unhealthy habits. “When you’re happy with someone, you eat!” Eric says, laughing. The problem culminated post-evacuation, just before Eric’s doctor visit. “We were living in a hotel for months, where we didn’t have access to a kitchen or a place to store groceries,” Maleka says. “We were eating fast food every night.” Something had to give, but the Beals knew they needed to take a realistic approach. Their love of food — preparing it, sharing it, enjoying it — was a cornerstone of their family culture. They couldn’t envision themselves morphing overnight into people who exclusively ate “rabbit food.” “We really began to spend a lot of time educating ourselves, researching the kinds of fresh foods that were out there and what they could do for our bodies,” Eric says. “We became critical thinkers.” They pored over nutritional cookbooks.

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Seizure

Activity

A new study reveals a link between epilepsy and depression — but when it comes to addressing the disorder from a public health perspective, there is still much progress to be made.

BY MISSY W ILKINSON

HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

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pilepsy is a brain disorder that’s almost as common as it is misunderstood. According to a March 2012 report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in life. One in 10 will experience a seizure. Although epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, it’s still haunted by its past association with demonic possession: a “grand mal” seizure translates to “great evil,” and the word epilepsy is derived from a Greek word meaning “to be attacked or seized.” Medical parlance reflects the shift in attitudes toward what Hippocrates called “the sacred disease” (“grand mal” seizures are now referred to as “tonic-clonic” seizures), but there is still much to be learned regarding the disorder in general and its psychosocial repercussions in particular. An abstract presented in New Orleans last week at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting concluded epilepsy is associated with a significantly increased risk of depression. “Up until recently, the coexistence of depression with epilepsy has been known, but it has not been widely discussed,” says Dr. Eugene Ramsay, a neurologist at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center who specializes in epilepsy. Ramsay points out that depression can be a consequence of some of the challenges an epilepsy diagnosis brings: People with epilepsy may experience social stigma or trouble in their relationships because of their seizures; they may be unable to drive and lose their jobs; they may become more dependent on family members; they may experience side effects from medications — all are factors involved with a chronic illness

that can lead to depression. “One of the debates about depression in epilepsy is, is it cause or effect?” says Dr. Anne Foundas, professor and vice-chair of clinical research in the department of neurology at LSU Health Sciences Center. “Some people in the field used to believe that

… epilepsy might make you depressed because you have a chronic disorder.” However, animal models indicate depression and epilepsy could come from a common source in the brain: Abnormalities in the neurotransmitters associated with depression could be a common

NEUROLOGIST DR. EUGENE RAMSAY LIKENS SEIZURES TO "ELECTRICAL STORMS IN THE BRAIN."


pathologic mechanism for (epilepsy and depression), Foundas says. “In (patients with) epilepsy, the depression is much higher than you would expect from just having a chronic illness,” Ramsay says. “We don’t know for sure; however, the feeling is that the areas in the brain commonly involved with producing epilepsy … are the same areas of the brain that have to do with emotion (and) depression. It may be that one area of the brain can produce both seizures and depression.” There also is evidence that depression can influence seizures, and vice versa. “If someone is depressed and it is not treated, the chances of controlling the epilepsy are reduced,” Ramsay says. “So there’s some dynamic interaction between seizures and depression in both directions. If you have epilepsy, you’re more likely to be depressed, and if you’re depressed, your chance of controlling the epilepsy is reduced.” Foundas points out that some doctors do not consider antidepressants safe for people with epilepsy because of the drugs’ potential interactions with seizure medications. However, she believes allowing depression to go untreated is a greater risk. “There is evidence that not only is (depression) common in

people with epilepsy, but they also have an increased rate of suicide,” she says. “The benefit of treating them (for depression) is greater than the potential risk.” This makes it even more crucial for people with epilepsy to be treated by a team of specialists: ideally, an epileptologist who knows something about psychiatry and a psychiatrist who knows something about epilepsy, Ramsay says. “The best approach is a team approach,” he says. “If you do that, you’re more likely to have success in both disorders.” There are many different kinds of epilepsy, and it is a spectrum disorder — meaning that some people who have seizures are highly functional, while for others epilepsy is profoundly disabling, Foundas says. Depending on what type the patient has, treatment will vary, but appropriate medications can result in complete control of seizures, Ramsay says. “Seizure freedom is the goal,” Ramsay says. “By adjusting drugs in a proper fashion, that can often be achieved. There’s a misconception in people with epilepsy and in some of the non-epilepsy focused doctors that having one seizure a month isn’t bad, and that’s the best you’re going to get.” This misconception is symptomat-

ic of what the IOM’s report, Epilepsy Across The Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding, identifies as “(limited) … public understanding of epilepsy” which negatively affects quality of life for people with epilepsy. “Given the current gaps in epilepsy knowledge, care and education, the committee believes there is an urgent need to take action — across multiple disciplines — to improve the lives of people with epilepsy,” the report concludes. The committee calls for improved data collection, health care and education pertaining to epilepsy. “Living with epilepsy is about much more than just seizures,” the report says. The good news is, medications make it possible for most people with epilepsy to lead productive, fulfilling lives. “Our therapies are very good, and it’s turning out that some of the medications for seizures work very well for depression,” Ramsay says. “Careful use of medication can result in really successful treatment of epilepsy, so if people take their medication, they can end up being completely managed and not ever have seizures,” Foundas says. “We’ve had some real success for some individuals.”

What to do if you Witness a seizure

1

Don’t panic, even though it can be frightening to see someone having a seizure.

2

Make sure the person having the seizure is safe. If he or she is sitting up, lower him/her to the ground. Roll the person onto his or her side.

3

Wait until the seizure is over (most seizures last 1-2 minutes and then subside) and ask the person questions to see if he or she is oriented.

4

If it is a first-time seizure, or if it lasts longer than 5 minutes or is followed immediately by another seizure, take the person to an emergency facility to be evaluated, because there could be an acute neurological problem.

To read the IOM’s report, visit www.iom.edu/epilepsy.

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E X E R CI S E FO R LI F E

BODYof Work BODYBUILDER SHANNON ROCKWEILER LAUNCHES A NEW DANCE-BASED WORKOUT B Y K AT S T R O M Q U I S T

HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

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8

ithin five minutes of meeting Shannon Rockweiler, creator of the Freestyle Cardio class at NOLA Fit gym, she’s scaling a rock-climbing wall in bare feet, showing me how it works. This kind of enthusiasm is typical of Rockweiler. Except for her toned arms, there’s very little that pegs her as a competitive bodybuilder. She just seems like a petite, gung-ho young woman who radiates warmth and energy. Rockweiler credits this vibrancy to her new role as a teacher, an idea that came to her in a moment she calls her “click.” “It sounds crazy, but [last September] I heard a voice, and it was like,

‘Teach. You should teach,’” she says. “Before, I was always looking for a big break, and it was more of a selfish thing: How can I make myself better, how can someone help me? Last year, I started thinking more along the lines of, ‘How can I help other people?’” For Rockweiler, the Freestyle Cardio class is the culmination of a lifetime of intense dance practice. She grew up in Marrero, where studied hip-hop, jazz, modern, tap and ballet dancing from age four. As a young adult, she tried out for the Hornets’ Honeybees dance team by accident when she accompanied an inexperienced friend to the audition. The friend backed out, and despite her own flubbed tryout, Rockweiler cheered for the Hornets for the next two years. “[At my audition], I did the first two eightcounts and I just went blank,” she says, laughing. “They tell you, if you go blank, don’t just stand there, do something, because then people will (not) know you messed up. So I just started doing my own thing, I was freestyling.” This dance form called “freestyle,” so helpful in a pinch, comes naturally to Rockweiler. For the uninitiated, “freestyling” is a series of spontaneous dance moves, which resemble choreography, borrowed from various WHEN SHE’S NOT TEACHING FREESTYLE CARDIO, ROCKWEILER TRAINS FOR BODYBUILDING COMPETITIONS.

disciplines. During the Freestyle Cardio class, Rockweiler leads a workout group in a series of these moves to the sounds of rap, R&B and techno. She teaches both lowimpact and high-impact variations in each class, which she says accommodates even the most left-footed attendees. “It’s open to all levels; you don’t have to know how to dance to do the class,” Rockweiler says. “It’s like Zumba in that it’s dance cardio, but it’s not just one style, it’s a bunch of different styles. It’s jazz, it’s hip-hop, it’s swing, it’s modern. … (Variety) keeps it exciting and fresh and new. Sometimes I’ll just stop and be like, ‘Do the robot.’” It wasn’t a direct route from the Hive to the sleekly appointed confines of NOLA Fit. In 2007, Rockweiler began participating in bodybuilding competitions in the “bikini” division, which stresses a fitness-model look rather than the muscle-bound physique many people associate with bodybuilding. Like most athletes, she loves the adrenaline and “the challenge of the training,” but feels particularly inspired when she remembers she’s living her father’s dream of becoming a competitive bodybuilder. A devoted fitness enthusiast, Rockweiler’s father spent years training in their home gym, scheduling two-hour workouts after 12-hour work days and logging each meal in a food diary. (Rockweiler points out that her commendable exercise habits probably started at home, saying “It was always in the back of my mind.”) But when her father suffered a work-related brain injury at 36, his dreams of professional bodybuilding came to an end. Though 15 years passed before he could return to the gym, his lingering physical strength served him during a trying time. “I remember the doctors saying if he hadn’t been in the kind of condition

ROCKWEILER DRAWS ON YEARS OF DANCE EXPERIENCE, INCLUDING HER TWO-YEAR TENURE AS A HORNETS’ HONEYBEE, WHEN TEACHING FREESTYLE CARDIO. PHOTO BY CARLTON MICKLE.

he was in, he probably would end up dying,” Rockweiler says. “He’s definitely an inspiration and motivation to me. “ Rockweiler hopes that someday her father will join her onstage in a bodybuilding competition. But when she’s not hitting the weights, everything else in her life is about her class. In the upcoming months, she’ll bring Freestyle Cardio to the University of New Orleans, and she hopes to one day be able to certify other teachers. She wants to make Freestyle Cardio “that new dance craze … but from New Orleans,” she says. Above all, Rockweiler says, she feels most grateful to earn a living doing what she loves. “I’m using my passion the way I’ve always wanted to express myself,” she says. “I pray that everyone can find what they’re passionate about and be able to express it, because to be able to make a career out of doing this [is] humbling. After you’ve been through a lot of trauma in your life … and you don’t know where your life’s going … to finally feel like it’s clicking, it’s making sense — it’s fulfilling.”


e at to li ve

‘til we meat again A rich, flAvorful meAtless bolognese to sAtisfy omnivores And vegAns Alike by russ lAne

a

Formerly a 350-pound rock critic, Russ Lane (www.ikeepitoff.com) took up food writing after losing 200 pounds. He now consults and lectures about lifestyle and cooking, and is finishing his first book.

vegan-style bolognese

what &

how

Recipe by MaRio abdu, Sante Fe tapaS 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 large white onions, diced 2 large carrots, diced 4-5 celery stalks, diced 1 large fennel bulb, diced 10-12 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced 6 large port0bello mushrooms, diced, gills and stems removed 1 quart each of shiitake, oyster and crimini mushrooms, sliced and diced 2 14-oz. tubes “gimme lean” vegan ground beef or textured vegetable protein 1 small can tomato paste 2 cups red wine 2 large cans crushed tomatoes with juice (recommended brand: san marzano) 4-5 bay leaves 2 teaspoons red chili flakes 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves 1/2 cup oregano leaves salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add onions, celery, carrots and fennel. Cook until onion is translucent but not browned. Add garlic and all mushrooms, cooking an additional 10-15 minutes. Add vegetable protein or Gimme Lean and saute for 5-10 minutes, breaking vegetable protein into small pieces with the back of a spoon. Add tomato paste, stir frequently and cook until dark and caramelized. Add red wine and using a wooden spoon, scrape up everything on the bottom of the pot. Reduce until almost all the wine has been absorbed. Add bay leaves, crushed tomatoes and chili flakes, stir to combine, and lower the heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add herbs during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Stir to combine. Before serving, remove bay leaves and flavor with salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving (sauce only): calories 302.6, total fat 8.7 g, (saturated fat 1.6 g, polyunsaturated fat 1.9 g, monounsaturated fat 5.2 g), sodium 538.2 mg, potassium 1,659.2 mg, total carbohydrate 39.7 g, dietary fiber 16.2 g, sugars 9.6 g, protein 19 g

HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

lmost any decent chef will adapt a menu to accommodate vegetarians and vegans. Better chefs put thought and effort into their meatless offerings, making these options more than just an afterthought. And for the best chefs, limitations only make them more creative. The chefs featured at VeggieFest, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday May 12 and 13 at the New Orleans Healing Center, fall into the third category. The event will feature food from Sante Fe Tapas, Cafe Carmo and pop-up restaurants. “A lot of vegetarian food is kind of redundant, and that’s sad for vegans and vegetarians,” says Mario Abdu, an executive chef at Sante Fe Tapas. When crafting his vegan items, he initially experimented with mock cheese and meats. “We tried using a lot of vegan products like fake chicken, and it was really sub-par. ... We try to make food that is chef-driven.” Abdu concocts vegan riffs on comfort food that appeal to all palates. He crafts “bacon” from smoked oyster mushrooms and Spanish meatballs from lentils and pine nuts. His standout dishes include spice-rubbed tempeh and a ragout of sweet corn, Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes. He incorporates vegan products — including tempeh and textured vegetable protein — in ways that serve the dish from a culinary standpoint. In vegan bolognese, Abdu uses cook time as a flavoring and thickening tool, heavily caramelizing the tomato paste to deepen its flavor. Though he uses textured vegetable protein (essentially a meat replacement), the final result is a dish with the texture of beef but the nuances of multiple mushroom flavors ricocheting between bursts of garlic and herbs. Compared to a traditional home-cooked bolognese, this vegan version has 200 fewer calories and one-third of the fat. As the recipe is mostly mushroom-based, minerals and vitamins are abundant.

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m g farris

f r o m w w l -T V ’s w e i g hT lo s s w e d n e s days

sneezin’ season thanks to an early spring, allergy season is having a strong impact this year. B Y M EG FA R R I S

T

Paris says Moore is not alone, and that the increase in allergy symptoms has him especially concerned about asthmatics. “What we worry about is kids with asthma,” Paris says. “Kids with asthma can have an increase in symptoms from exposure to these tree pollens. … Those kids really need to be seen and have their asthma action plans tuned up.” Paris says allergy season reached its peak early this year because of the lack of freezes during the winter. Also, warmer temperatures came earlier, so oak, elm and pecan trees have had more time to send pollen out across the city. “I’m seeing all sorts of children, from very young to teenagers and everybody in-between, primarily with nasal and eye symptoms,” says Dr. Michael Wasserman, a pediatrician at Ochsner for Children. Even people who don’t have al-

lergies may still experience health problems due to the pollen count: The sheer number of particles can cause throat irritation. Doctors say the best things children and adults cam do are to avoid pollen, use over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve symptoms, or get shots to desensitize the immune system to the allergens. They advise patients to treat the symptoms and continue with their normal routines. “Allergies aren’t contagious, so your child can and should be in school,” Wasserman says. “Your child can and should be able to participate in all sorts of sports. We want your child outside and playing and doing all the normal things.” Look for Meg Farris’ Medical Watch reports weeknights on WWL-TV Channel 4 and any time on wwltv.com.

Th e r eal 411

T

hough a proper diet won’t completely stave off symptoms of allergies, “every little bit helps,” says Molly Kimball, a dietitian with Ochsner Health System. “When you look at symptoms of allergies, one of the biggest things is inflammation,” she says. “So (nutritional approaches) to minimizing the inflammation are going to be key.” Here, she shares supplements and dietary habits that may help soothe a sneeze-y, stuffy head. Be sure to consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking new supplements or herbs. — MISSY WILKINSON

1

Don’t panic, even though it can be frightening to see someone having a seizure.

2

Preliminary research shows that astragalus, a Chinese herb, can alleviate sneezing and itching. Take the supplement twice daily for three to six weeks.

3

Consuming locally sourced honey has been touted as a way to protect against allergies, but this has not been scientifically proved. Still, it doesn’t hurt to swap out regular honey for local honey from a farmers market.

4

Hot broth and hot tea soothe a sore throat. Kimball likes miso soup and Organic Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals, which promotes respiratory health and is made with organic licorice root.

5

Avoid foods that trigger an inflammatory reaction in your body. Red wine, dairy and wheat products can exacerbate allergy symptoms in some people.

HealtH & Wellness > bestofneworleans.com > may 1 > 2012

he unusually warm weather this spring is having an effect on Mother Nature, and that in turn is sending more people to doctors’ offices with runny noses, sneezing and watery eyes. “(Patients have) itchy, drippy, sneezy-type symptoms (and)red, itchy, watery eyes — and that’s primarily from the tree pollen that’s flying through the air,” says Dr. Ken Paris, an allergy and immunology specialist in the pediatrics department at LSU Health Sciences Center who practices at Children’s Hospital. “I would say that our office has probably gotten twice the usual number of calls.” Eddie Moore, 2, recently went to Children’s Hospital to get allergy tests. His mother, Kenisha Guillard, noticed his symptoms earlier than usual this year. “His eyes get swollen, like he has pink eye,” Guillard says. “His eyes are … watery and itching. He’s very irritable.”

11


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The link between epilepsy and depression; vegan bolognese; and Meg Farris on why your allergies are worse this year

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