For years, Dr. Sharon Alger-Mayer has wanted to develop a team approach to help people with eating disorders and others who are trying to gain or lose weight.
Finally, her hopes have become a reality.
The Integrative Nutrition Center, 215 Washington Ave. Ext., opened its doors in November.
“Most of the patients we see need a medical doctor, but they also need to work with a therapist and a nutritionist. And for a lot of people, this was very challenging,” said Alger-Mayer, associate professor of medicine at Albany Medical Center.
“Many of them are in school and they’d need to be pulled out two or three days a week to make different appointments, and it was very difficult. Now, we have a center where they can see everyone at one time.”
The Integrative Nutrition Center has a physician, registered nurse, psychologist, endocrinologist and nutritionist on staff. Within the next month or two, there will also be a cardiologist and a physical therapist on staff.
“One of our goals is to help people make healthy lifestyle changes in a way that gives them a very comprehensive, holistic program from which to work,” said Alger-Mayer.
Many of the patients are people with eating disorders. Others are patients with metabolic issues like diabetes and cardiology patients. Still others are people who have had gastric bypass surgery.
Currently, there are three exam rooms and a massage therapy room with a massage table and a massage therapy chair. Eventually, the Center plans to offer yoga and other exercise classes, as well as personal exercise instruction programs.
“I’ve seen some interesting studies that show that massage therapy is as good if not better than most anti-anxiety medications,” said Alger-Mayer. “It’s very powerful in helping to reduce stress and anxiety, and many of our eating-disorders patients are on anti-anxiety medications. So this therapy should help them.”
The walls at the center are decorated with black and white photographs from the Beautiful Woman Project by Clifton Park artist Nancy Bruno. The art focuses on the life experiences of 35 women of all ages, and what makes them beautiful by being comfortable with who they are and what they look like.
“The message she is trying to put out there is that beauty comes from within, and one of our missions is to have people let go of self hate and negative things that hold people back from really enjoying the world and doing what they want to do,” said Alger-Mayer.
The office also has a new piece of equipment called the Bod Pod, which is used to measure body weight, lean muscle and fat mass in patients up to 500 pounds.
Shaped like a large egg with a window, the Bod Pod uses air displacement technology rather than water to calculate total body fat percentage and lean mass percentage (overall body weight.)
“Patients struggling with eating disorders will be able to evaluate the increase in healthy muscle tissue, as well as restoration of healthy amounts of body fat,” said Alger-Mayer. “Individuals struggling to improve their health and fitness through weight loss will be able to monitor the loss of excess body fat and the increase in healthy muscles as they change their diet and physical activity patterns.”
Patients will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to see if they find it helpful to receive several services in one location.
“Our goal is to try to advocate this as a model of health care for other areas around the hospital and to support the team approach for health care in general,” said Alger-Mayer.
John Kaplan, 57, of Bethlehem, had a heart attack four years ago. At 5 feet, 8 inches, tall, he was about 30 pounds overweight.
“I’m down 30 pounds from where I was when I first saw Dr. Alger-Mayer,” said Kaplan, who has a doctorate in physiology. “The way I did it was through dietary changes, and exercise is a big component. I walk about four miles a day every day and lift weights.”
Kaplan, who sees Alger-Mayer every four months, also eats a modified Mediterranean diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and fish.
“I would not say that overall my dietary habits were necessarily bad, but I was eating too much of everything,” said Kaplan.
Since losing the weight, Kaplan said he has a higher energy level and overall feeling of well being.
“I have the education to know what I should eat — I just wasn’t doing it,” said Kaplan, who has a history of heart disease in his family. “Now, I try to keep a balance of never getting really hungry but never getting really full either.”
Kaplan said his diet and exercise program give him plenty of energy to play with his 20-month-old grandson, Jacob Samuel Spiewak.
“My preference is to live to a ripe old age to play with my grandson,” he said.
For further information, contact the Integrative Nutrition Center, 215 Washington Ave. Ext., Albany.
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