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Wegmans' workers get help to stop smoking

Wegmans Food Markets and Roswell Park Cancer Institute have joined forces to offer to help all Wegmans employees and eligible spouses who want to quit smoking.

Participants in the QuitClub will have access to the institute’s tobacco cessation program, and services that include telephone counseling; smoking cessation medications; a customized website offering interactive and informational quit tools; and in-store support to help smokers quit for good.

Wegmans will pay the entire cost of the program; employees can join free.

“We are pleased to join with RoswellPark, a nationally recognized cancer center, to offer this valuable program to our employees in support of healthy lifestyle choices,” said Becky Lyons, Wegmans director of benefits and wellness, in a news release. “Quitting smoking is difficult, so it’s very important that we provide the best tools to help them succeed.”

In 2008, Wegmans stopped selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its stores and established its own tobacco cessation program for employees. Lyons said the partnership with Roswell improves on that effort.

Information on similar programs for the general public can be found at or by calling (866) 697-8487.

Marathon runner rolls out Turkey Trot prep tips

East Aurora native Jennifer Werbitsky, outside the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan, shows off her bib for this month's New York City Marathon.


Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

East Aurora native Jennifer Werbitsky – a veteran of seven marathon races – changed her diet to better fuel her running, and said you can too if you want to improve your time in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

Werbitsky, 22, is the subject of today’s What are you eating? feature in WNY Refresh.

“The philosophy I follow is to listen to your body and give it what it needs,” she told me during a phone interview last week from Manhattan, where she landed a job in June as an investment banker.

She also has a couple of dining tips for healthy eaters the next time they’re in The Big Apple, but more on that in a minute.

First, tips for what is arguably Buffalo’s most popular road race.

“I think the easiest way to find out what’s going to work best for your body is what you crave directly after you run,” Werbitsky said. “For me, that was never pizza or French fries. I wanted a giant salad and maybe fruit and some heartier vegetables or beans.”

So no beer before the race? (Some of you reading this know who I’m talking about.)

No, Werbitsky said.

Her running career started in 2009, a month after she graduated from NardinAcademy, when she participated in the Buffalo Half Marathon. After 12 miles, she felt like she had lots of energy left to cap off the last mile of the race, but a full 26.2-mile race still intimidated her, particularly as she saw marathoners peel off for the last half of their race as she was finishing.

But two weeks later, she started to ask herself why she couldn’t do the full course, and did so the following year.

“It took me much longer than I anticipated. The weather was hot and it was a brutal race. My goal was to finish and to not stop running the entire time. I ran very slowly, but I didn’t walk at all, I didn’t stop.”

After that, on a whim, she put her name into the lottery for the New York City Marathon; about one in 10 applicants get picked, and she was among them, on Nov. 7, 2010.

Five other marathon races followed: in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Paris, while she was an exchange student; Canandaigua (31 miles); and this year’s race in Manhattan, on Nov. 3.

It cost about $300 to be part of the record number of NYC runners – more than 50,000 – but Werbitsky still beat the odds in a lottery to get there.

“It’s definitely one of the most expensive races out there,” she said, “but if you look at logistics – you have to close down half the city, and especially this year, with all the added security (after the Boston Marathon bombing a few months earlier) – it’s quite a lot to put on, but absolutely worth it.”

Werbitsky focuses her nutrition on a Mediterranean diet.

“I try to focus on fish and nuts and vegetables. I live off red quinoa and kale, those are the two big ones. It seemed best for my running times, and, most importantly, how I felt when I was going on some really long training runs,” she said. “Most of my diet now focuses on vegetables and legumes. I found that helped me become a leaner runner.

“I drink kale smoothies. Sweet potatoes are a really good source of carbs and better than the bland pasta most people think about when they think about carb loading. I choose to get most of my grains from Ezekiel bread, which contains seven sprouted grains. I eat a lot of tuna, to get more protein.”

A month before her latest marathon, she based her diet even more completely around vegetables and “really rich nutrient grains like quinoa or whole grain brown rice.”

“People have gotten away from the night before, a giant carb dinner,” she said. “It’s more the week before transitioning to a diet that’s about 70 percent carbs, although it’s not bland white starch pasta. It’s more carbs that come from other sources, like sweet potatoes, root vegetables. Root vegetables especially have a lot of carbs that store energy well without weighing you down, and provide other nutrients, as well.

“I used to hate beans but I try to eat a ton of beans now. Edamame is one of them. When it’s dried, it tastes like peanuts, only it has twice the protein and half the fat. Black beans, kidney beans, even chickpeas. I’m coming around the bend. Certain foods I’d never eat before, once I feel good after eating them, I keep coming back.”

Her diet changes 24 hours before a race, but only temporarily.

“It’s kind of like a feast day, which is always fun,” she said. My tradition is ... anything I can get my hands on in a more traditional sense: bread or pasta, anything that’s going to have lots of sugar stores in it. I probably have five or six (moderate to large) meals. I ate an entire pizza before Paris, among a lot of other things.”

She doesn’t eat anything for at least an hour before a race.

Werbitsky favored the internationally renowned Moosewood restaurant while she was a student at CornellUniversity in Ithaca.

“It was the first vegetarian restaurant that inspired me,” she said.

In Manhattan, vegetable dishes also inspire her.

V-Note, at 1st avenue and East 80th Street on the Upper East Side, is a spot she recommends.

“I enjoy it because it sort of breaks the stereotype that vegan food is a lesser imitation of food that includes meat and dairy,” she said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve eaten regardless of its categorization as vegan. Because it lacks meat and dairy, you can eat a three- or four-course meal and still not feel like you’ve overeaten. My favorite meal there is a raw zucchini lasagna. You feel so energized as opposed to sluggish after eating something like that...

“I also would give a shout out to the Green Radish food truck, which is also a vegan food truck. That’s some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. I like to chase it around the city. My goal is to try every single item on the menu. The chef studied in Paris and ran a Michelin Star restaurant and now he’s running a food truck. It’s out-of-this-world quality.”

email:; Twitter: @BNrefresh

Falls to be bathed in white light on Saturday

Niagara Falls will be illuminated in a veil of white Saturday night to recognize Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

The mighty cataracts will be bathed in pure white light from 8 to 8:15 p.m. and 9 to 9:15 p.m., said Christine Dwyer, leader of Make Some Noise for Lung Cancer organization, a nonprofit group devoted to lung cancer awareness.

This will be the third annual Illuminate the Falls for Lung Cancer Awareness, Dwyer said in an email.

 White is the awareness color for lung cancer, as this form of cancer often is referred to as the “invisible disease.”

Debbie Levinstein, of Castile, who next month will mark her 10th year living with a lung cancer diagnosis, is among those who plan to participate.

“My cancer was not detected until I was Stage 3, and even then it was found by accident while treating a ‘pulled muscle’ on the other side of my body,” Levinstein said. “I would like the color white to be as noticed in November as pink is in October.

Lung Cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, killing more people annually than breast, colon, liver, kidney, prostate and melanoma cancers combined.

"It kills twice as many women as breast cancer each year, yet receives a fraction of the funding, support and resources afforded other cancers and major disease," Dwyer said. "Researchers estimate 160,000 Americans will succumb to the disease this year, and that 60 percent to 80 percent of cases that will be diagnosed will be in never smokers or people that quit years ago, with an increasing amount of young, non-smoking women being diagnosed."

Lung cancer generally is asymptomatic. Medically established early detection screening for lung cancer has been a topic of studies, debates and controversy for more than a half century, Dwyer said. Most lung cancer is not diagnosed until it has reached advanced stage, making survival rates typically less than five years.

For more information, visit or

– Scott Scanlon

Wegmans' workers get help to stop smoking

Wegmans Food Markets and Roswell Park Cancer Institute have joined forces to offer to help all Wegmans employees and eligible spouses who want to quit smoking.

Participants in the QuitClub will have access to the institute’s tobacco cessation program, and services that include telephone counseling; smoking cessation medications; a customized website offering interactive and informational quit tools; and in-store support to help smokers quit for good.

Wegmans will pay the entire cost of the program; employees can join free.

“We are pleased to join with Roswell Park, a nationally recognized cancer center, to offer this valuable program to our employees in support of healthy lifestyle choices,” said Becky Lyons, Wegmans director of benefits and wellness, in a news release. “Quitting smoking is difficult, so it’s very important that we provide the best tools to help them succeed.”

In 2008, Wegmans stopped selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its stores and established its own tobacco cessation program for employees. Lyons said the partnership with Roswell improves on that effort.

Information on similar programs for the general public can be found at or by calling (866) 697-8487.

Workshop designed to bolster fitness, relationships for women

Western New York women are invited to attend “The Power of YOU!”  a personal and professional leadership workshop to help you be better at what you do and how you do it.

The event takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the BAC for Women Colvin, 3157 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.

Mary Anne Cappellino, wellness director with Buffalo Athletic Club, author and motivational speaker, and Karen Martz, a national success coach and facilitator, will team up to launch “Evolve” an approach that combines wellness and fitness strategies and information with leadership and communication skills designed to improve results and relationships.

Both women, who each have more than 20 years experience in their associated field, look to strengthen individuals and teams to feel their best so they can do their best. 

The workshop will focus on wellness, stress management, success skills and positive thinking. Participants also will also have the opportunity to take a personality styles assessment, which can women build on strengths to create better relationships.

 Preregistration is required by calling 741-3497 or emailing The cost of the session is $35, or $30 for BAC members.


Add these reds to your Thanksgiving table

Premier on Transit Wine Manager Bill Mahoney says many red wines can be healthy, when consumed in moderation. He recommends Cannonau di Sardegna Costera. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

I know that many of you would have preferred this week’s WNY Refresh cover story extolled the health benefits of beer, cake or pizza.

I know this because these are three of the things most subjects of our What are you eating? column tell me are the foods and beverage they find hardest to resist.

You’re going to have to settle on red wine – though some nutritionists might argue for protein shakes, veggie juices and no-fat chocolate milk.

The blend of alcohol and other compounds in red wine – when consumed in moderation – lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and many inflammatory diseases, a growing number of studies suggest.

Some bent on doubling down on the health benefits of wine are even greater sticklers than most of us.

They’re willing to pay more for organic varieties, and even more for the cleanest of all: biodynamic wines.

Those interested in the latter will want to check out Tawes Winery on the “Beamsville Bench,” the stretch of the Niagara Escarpment outside St. Catharines, Ont. that is one of many lakeside wine regions along the Great Lakes.

It’s a winery for those concerned about how both their foods and wines are produced.

“We’re finding a trend up here in southern Ontario that people want to know exactly where their wines are coming from,” said Ken Hernder, senior wine consultant at Tawes.

The winery has gone biodynamic in several of its eight vineyards. In a holistic approach, no pesticides or herbicides are used in those vineyards. Insects have been introduced to control unwelcome pests, while horses, lambs, ducks and chickens help keep the weeds in check and fertilize the soil.

“The vineyard has everything it needs,” Hernder told me earlier this week. “It is it’s own ecosystem.”

The costs for wine from these vineyards generally are higher, but that’s because the grape yields are lower and it takes years to bring a single vineyard into biodynamic certification, Hernder said. It also might never happen if nearby vineyards don’t operate to the same exacting standards.

But the vines become healthier, more resistant to pests and easier to control.

“This results in a bit more light energy in the glass, a cleaner, crisper flavor,” Hernder said.

For those who think any old grape, or wine, will do, he compared them to children:

“If you feed your kids Coke and Twinkees, yeah they’re going to grow up but they’re not going to be the healthiest kids.”

Those who might want to shell out less than $30 for a bottle of wine – that would be me – can be reasonably assured of a healthy wine if it’s made from red European vinifera grapes, in particular.

Here are some ideas for your Thanksgiving table:

Bill Mahoney said he would pick Cannonau di Sardegna Costera, a blended red grown in Sardinia Italy. A bottle sells for $13.99 at Premier Wine & Spirits on Transit Road in Amherst, said Mahoney, the wine manager. Wine experts recommend it as a table wine good with beef and sharp cheeses.

Kurt Guba, cellar master and sommelier for Freedom Run Winery in Cambria, urged thinner skinned European grape varietals, including pinot noir and Gamay. He also recommends a Beaujolais on your Thanksgiving table, but not necessarily the nouveau, or new wine, which comes out the third Thursday in November, just a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested, giving it a fruitier flavor. Guba suggests a bottle that has had more time to age.

But mostly, he suggested folks pick something grown closer to home.

“New York State pinot noir, I’m all about, even cab franc,” said Guba, who also teaches winemaking and sensory evaluations at the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute in Niagara Falls. “They’re underappreciated and underexplored. You look at these lighter weight reds, if they had an Italian label on them, people would be totally accepting of them.”

These reds, he said, are great with meals.


Buffalo schools mull food choices

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Bridget O’Brien-Wood, food service director for the Buffalo Public Schools, has spent part of the last few weeks at two different seminars that focus on how to feed kids healthier foods and get them more exercise as a way to help them bolster their brain power.

One of the featured speakers during those events has been registered dietitian Dayle Hayes, the subject of today’s WNY Refresh What are you eating? column.

Hayes might live in Billings, Mont., but her advocacy of better school fitness and nutrition has resonated across the country, including in Western New York.

She is a particular proponent of students getting a healthy breakfast, particularly in economically stressed school districts like ours in Buffalo.

Hayes, president of Nutrition for the Future, is championing a pilot program to bring Greek yogurt into schools in New York State, Tennessee, Arizona and Idaho. She hopes it will serve as a model for the nation.

The Buffalo school district is not part of the pilot program, because there was no room in the nutrition budget, “but we tried it on our own,” O’Brien-Wood said.

“We’ got samples of Chobani and tried it at three high schools – International Prep, City Honors and Olmsted 156 – and all of the students loved it. We did tell them it was Greek yogurt and we served it in parfaits or smoothies.”

The USDA is currently considering a request to count a 4-ounce serving of Greek yogurt as a double serving of protein, which would bring it into affordability in Buffalo and many other districts, O’Brien-Wood said.

This would help support growing Greek manufacturing operations in Upstate New York.

O’Brien-Wood said she would like to see it on the menu for breakfast and lunch in Buffalo schools.

Meanwhile, the district is using regular yogurt from Upstate Farms in its Breakfast in the Classroom program, and it has been popular, too, the food director said. The fruit yogurt is all natural and contains no fructose corn syrup.

Meanwhile, the district continues to grapple with a grievance by the teachers’ union involving the classroom breakfast program. Some teachers have found it messy, as well as a burden on instruction time.

Union teachers and district administrators are trying to smooth the wrinkles out of the program, O’Brien-Wood said.

“A lot of the people in the school buildings do understand that connection of making the brain work better with physical activity and good nutrition,” she said.

O’Brien-Wood, who called Hayes “a no-nonsense, practical, real common sense person," expressed hope that the impasse can be resolved. The main reason: more poor Buffalo school children are eating breakfast – 24,000 of them, compared to 16,000 before the classroom breakfast program began a couple of years ago. 

Teachers have voiced similar concerns in other districts, Hayes said, but she hopes districts across the country can see the big picture – and examine low-income districts that are making the program work.

“We know from the research that breakfast improves performance in class,” Hayes said. “It improves both behavior as well as academics, and math scores is one of the things breakfast seems to impact most.

“I’m not unaware of the challenges (breakfast) presents,” she said, “however the challenges are worth the results.”

Recently passed changes in the federal food stamp, or SNAP, program mean “families who are at risk, children who are food insecure, are going to be relying even more on meals at school,” Hayes said, “so it’s really the time to sit down at the table and work together to figure out how we can make sure that kids have the fuel they need to do their best in school.

“I think if we’ve got something that’s basically no cost to the district, which improves kids’ health and academic performance, it’s something that we’ve got to find a way to make work for kids.”


Cancer diagnosis changes doctor’s views, practice

Dr. James Pilc, of Elma, finds comfort and serenity on the shores of Lake Erie near his beachfront summer home in Angloa. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Dr. James Pilc has been places in his mind’s eye that he says have changed his life and outlook.

He has made it his mission, and his job, to bring others to a similar place through meditation.

Pilc, subject of this week’s Refresh In the field story, took an interest in meditation after a cancer diagnosis in 2005. He went into remission from bone marrow cancer after chemotherapy treatment, but developed a number of other nagging conditions afterward.

Eastern medical practices – chiropractic, massage therapy and acupuncture – helped quite a bit, but didn’t bring him the healing he longed for in the wake of such a health crisis.

Meditation did that, he says, and now he is interested in the “fusion” of Eastern and Western medicine and mediation to bring more complete healing to those who suffer from health woes as he once did.

Pilc, 46, a former OB/GYN who lives in the Southtowns, hopes one day to open a health center that includes specialists in all three paths to better health.

Meanwhile, he has written a book, “Unstuck: The Enlightenment of Medicine,” available at Pilc’s website for $8.99.

Before you buy it, or his CD, or take one of his meditation classes, it may be helpful for you to know where Pilc is coming from. He was raised Catholic, in Orchard Park, but his spiritual views have evolved in the aftermath of cancer.

Shortly after his diagnosis, he discovered the works of self-help guru Deepak Chopra, as well as Wayne Dyer, New York Times bestselling author of “10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace,” “The Power of Intention,” and “Excuses Begone,” and began what he called “amateur meditation.”

“I would drop into a dream – at that time, that’s what I would call it – where I was just wrapped in joy,” he said. “I was just in this space of peace. I could get there once or twice. It happened randomly, but I knew I could get back there, and if I could get back there, I could help others find this space.

“I looked into Taoism. I investigated Buddhism. I looked into anthroposophy, which is a belief in human wisdom. ... I thought maybe there’s a spiritual point that could help. Then I came across a meditative guide (in East Aurora), who helped me to find not only this peaceful space on a regular basis but once you get to this space, and you waited there, you started taking a journey. You have these dreams you can see while you’re awake.

“Most of the times these dreams, they’re metaphorical, you get messages from them. Different information comes in and you process it in your mind...

“You have these intricate journeys. A psychological evaluation would be it’s sort of like a dream, a message in a dream, and it’s your subconscious behind it trying to speak to you, or your higher self trying to speak to you. Or could you look at it as you’re actually touching spirit. Does spirit come to you when you’re sitting on a beach and take you to the other side, take you on a journey? That’s, at this point, what I believe...

“It doesn’t matter how we describe it, what we call it, because we all can benefit from this.”

Pilc’s new CD will be available starting Nov. 18 at his website, as well as Vidler’s in East Aurora and Serendipity Salon and Spa in Williamsville. That will cost $24.99, Pilc said. It will walk listeners into the peace of meditation and begin to give them a better sense of themselves and their ability to heal their anguish.

Pilc also will begin a new string of healing meditation classes in January. Those cost $30 per class or $99 for four classes.


Niagara chamber to host Affordable Care Act forum

The Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce will host a public forum on the Affordable Care Act from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Conference Center Niagara Falls, 101 Old Falls St.

Individuals and businesses with questions about upcoming changes in health care are encouraged to attend the free forum to have their questions answered.

“As we all begin to navigate the waters of the Affordable Care Act, the new regulations for health insurance established by the state and federal governments, the tide is high and the water is murky,” Chamber Director Candra Thomason said in a news release. “Those of us who continue to receive health insurance coverage through our employers are swimming just fine so far, while sole proprietors and individuals are more than likely worrying and taking on water.”

Come January, health care reform requires all individuals to maintain health insurance coverage, with at least minimum essential benefits. Insurance carriers are redesigning all of their plans to include minimum essential benefits. Going forward, there will be two classifications for coverage: Individual and Small Group. This coverage can be purchased either through the State Health Exchange (otherwise known as the Marketplace), or through a benefit administrator.

Individuals, however, must go through an exchange. An individual is defined as anyone who may not have employer group coverage available and all people previously considered sole proprietors. This also includes an individual who “employs” only their spouse. Spouses are not considered “employees” and therefore must now enroll as an individual. Some individuals may be eligible for an advanced premium tax credit.

The Falls chamber is working with its partner, Bene-Care Agency, to help employer groups and sole proprietors. Next week’s gathering will provide more insight on the Individual Exchange, how sole proprietors will be impacted, the group exchange and what small business will need to do come Jan. 1.

For more information, or to RSVP for the event, call 870-5965 or 940-5238, or email




Free help in Erie County for the chronically ill

Four out of five older adults have at least one chronic health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those dealing with those conditions can get a better sense of how to best treat them during the next several weeks courtesy of the Erie County Department of Senior Services.

The department starting Wednesday will offer a free series of six, 2½ hour, weekly Living Healthy Program Chronic Disease Self-Management classes at the South Wales Community Center, 6387 Olean Road in Wales. Classes also are planned soon in Grand Island, Buffalo and Orchard Park.

Classes will be run by trained leaders who have a personal understanding about living with chronic conditions including hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes

The interactive health education program, developed by Stanford University, is designed to help those with chronic conditions, as well as caregivers, better manage the challenges of living with chronic illness.

Goals include increased energy and physical activity; better management of stress and of pain; increased participation in activities; spending less time in the hospital; improving communication with health care providers; and more confidence in the ability to manage a chronic condition.

Participants who complete the workshop series will receive a copy of the book "Living Healthy with Chronic Conditions," and a Relaxation for Mind and Body CD.

To register, contact Kelly J. Asher at 858-8081 or Ruthie at 652-4269 or go to and enter the zip code 14139 in the “search workshops” box.

See a listing of current offerings elsewhere at on the Wellness page.  

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh |