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Windsong joins Catholic Partners

Windsong Radiology Group announced this week it has joined Catholic Medical Partners, a network of more than 900 physicians, as well as Catholic Health and Mount St. Mary’s Hospital.

The members of Catholic Medical Partners work together to improve the outcomes for their patients through sharing best practices, information and resources, and encouraging greater patient involvement in medical care.

“Its educational programs for physicians and their clinicians have focused on medical necessity and imaging appropriateness,” Windsong officials said in a news release.

Windsong, which has offices in Amherst, Williamsville, Hamburg, Lancaster and West Seneca, performs more than 300,000 imaging exams per year.

BAC to LA: Should I stay or should I go Part III?

It’s crunch time. I have a week to pick a gym.

Like thousands of others in the region, my fitness future has been up in the air since LA Fitness bought the Buffalo Athletic Club right after Christmas and gave its new members until Jan. 31 to join the new club or find someplace else to work out.

I've taken a methodical approach since, and shared the process in a series of posts on the Refresh Buffalo Blog. I've posted thoughts about the sale, the days at the BAC right after the sale and my experience during my first workout at the existing LA Fitness in the Walmart plaza in Clarence.

On Saturday, I'll post a story on my visits last weekend to the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA and on Sunday, my more recent visits to Hive: The Lifespan Center. On Monday, I’ll write about my fitness center choice for 2014.

With all the changes in the WNY fitness industry, I wouldn't dream of making a longer commitment to any fitness facility beyond that, regardless of the deal offered.

Stay tuned.

- Refresh Editor Scott Scanlon

YMCA Buffalo Niagara sets 2014 campaign goal

The YMCA Buffalo Niagara officially kicked off its 2014 Annual Campaign Thursday night, setting a fundraising goal of $677,000. 

Money raised will be used to support those in the region who need it most when it comes to issues that include school readiness, at-risk youth, chronic diseases, and quality of life for seniors.

"The Y's annual campaign ensures that everyone in Western New York has access to vital community programs and resources that support youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility," according to YMCA officials in a news release today announcing the campaign. 

Awards also were presented at the kickoff event, which took place at the Buffalo Convention Center:

William A. Rogers Award: Presented to the Ken-Ton Family YMCA for achieving the best collection rate in the 2012 Strong Kids Campaign (94.6 percent).

Thomas B. Bain Award: Presented to the William-Emslie Family YMCA for achieving the greatest growth in collections over the previous year (14 percent).

Donald H. Meyncke Award: Went to the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA for achieving the highest percentage to its 2014 fund raising goal so far (55.7 percent.)

To make a contribution to the Ys Annual Campaign visit or contact any local YMCA Buffalo Niagara branch.

YMCA Buffalo Niagara is made up of seven branches, Camp Weona, and the YMCA Association office. Officials look to meet or achieve this year's fundraising goal by March 19.

Last year, the regional organization raised more than $650,000 and gave out more than $1 million in financial assistance based on the campaign. Officials said that equates to serving more than 21,000 people.   

Rolling through Buffalo in the winter has its advantages

Brent Patterson, who lives in the University District and makes a 10-mile round trip workdays to his office at SUNY Buffalo State, admits that winter riding in Buffalo has its challenges. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Several avid bikers pretty much were involved with the same thing most of you reading this were doing as the Blizzard of ‘14 raged on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

They were huddled together indoors, watching TV, reading and hanging out as a family.

“We didn’t go out for a couple of days. Neither did anyone else,” said Brent Patterson, whose family is subject of today’s Life & Arts cover story on winter bikers.

He cruised some used car ads, but is under no illusions about the prospect of having a vehicle parked in his driveway, just in case it might be convenient to use, this winter season. His wife would like to see if the recent arrivals to Buffalo can make do without one.

When Patterson talks about two days spent indoors, he means Monday night, Jan. 6, and only part of the following Wednesday. That day, he drove his cargo bike to and from the supermarket, packing groceries into “panniers,” a kind of waterproof saddle bag that can carry groceries. He also uses the panniers to stow work gear and spare clothes.

During the teeth of the storm, he cruised online for a used vehicle, and a couple of days later, test drove the Volvo, which has more than 300,000 miles on it and has room for five – a disadvantage for a family of six, plus an exchange student with the family until the end of this school year.

It’s a limitation they already understand, because they occasionally use a nearby CarShare program that allows the family to use a five-passenger Toyota Yaris, for $8 an hour. Patterson had to make two trips each way to get the whole family to and from a New Year’s Eve party, for instance.

Patterson and his wife, Stacy Bisker, are among a growing number of winter bikers in Buffalo these days.

Also among them are Joe George, 52, of Allentown; Jesse Smith, 38, of North Buffalo; and Justin Booth, 35, of the Near West Side, the executive director of GObike Buffalo, who rides a 3-speed GT Slipstream through the city during the cold months.

I sat down the Bisker-Patterson family in one interview and the other trio in another last weekend.

Since the story focused on the family, I wanted to include in this blog entry some of the banter between the bike trio, who hadn’t been together in a while and who share a passion for their preferred means of transportation.

“It’s not always about the journey,” George said. “The journey is so invigorating.”

All three said they love to ride in the snow – and even push their bikes through the toughest spots – but don’t relish riding in 35 degree whether in heavy sleet.

What did they do during on blizzard?

“I like to tell people, ‘I might be crazy but I’m not stupid,’” George said. He stayed in Tuesday and much of Wednesday, but did ride his bike that day.

Booth’s office was closed Tuesday, “but I rode to work Wednesday,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful. Heavy, thick snowflakes. Riding in that freshly falling snow was absolutely beautiful.”

“I love it,” added George. “I would rather be part of my surroundings than a passive observer. I like to feel the snow on my face.”

“You feel the crisp air on your breath,” Booth added. “Everything’s very quiet.”

“But you’re not very cold,” said Smith. “It’s not a hardship of being cold in the snow because you’re generating heat inside, so the snow falls on you and then it melts.”

“My kids make fun of me,” Booth said with a laugh, “because when I’ve been riding hard and I get home ... the steam comes off of me.”

“I think everybody I know who rides a bike a lot doesn’t really do it because 'It’s good exercise for me, or ‘Oh, I’m going to save the planet by riding a bike,’” Smith said “Those things sort of peripherally fly around there – I mean, I certainly like minimizing my car use for certain environmental reasons – but ultimately, it really comes down to this is the most pleasurable way I’ve found to get around the city. It always feels good to get out on the bike.

“Most people don’t even think that after the first five minutes, you’re not cold anymore,” Smith added. That may be even quicker than it takes for the car to warm up.

“Look at some of the European countries. They’ve been doing this for generations in places like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin,” George said.

“They don’t even consider themselves cyclers,” Booth said. “That’s just the way they get around.”

Smith wondered how motorists might have to explain what they do in the winter to someone who didn’t quite seem to understand.

“I think someone who wasn’t used to driving in the winter might say, ‘Oh, it must be such a challenge to get out of the car and scrape off the ice and get all that snow off the car,” he said, “and then you have to shovel your driveway out so your car doesn’t get stuck in it. Most people who drive cars would say, ‘I don’t like it, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.’

“Certainly, biking is more mentally involving when you’re driving and there’s snow on the streets and you have  to look for the clearer parts of it, and get kind of tipped by a rut – and every so often you do fishtail a bit, and have to adjust your balance – but I don’t consider it a hardship or a challenge. These are the things that happen in any pursuit in life.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

A change in thinking helps with weight loss, hypnotist says


Niagara Falls hypnotist Cris Johnson has lost 50 pounds. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Visitors to the Niagara Falls Hypnosis Center who visit Cris Johnson in his office can see what he looked like 50 pounds, and a whole different mindset, ago.

Food was a refuge back then. In the office photo, he told me during an interview for today's "What are you eating?" feature in WNY Refresh, “You can see the difference in my face.”

Using hypnosis, a new way of critical thinking and a healthier eating regimen has made all the difference, he said.

“I no longer look at losing weight as a temporary goal. I’ve changed my relationship with food.”

Johnson is among a number of people in the weight loss ranks I’ve talked with during the last year who blame giant food manufacturers for manipulating salt, sugar and fat – especially sugar – in processed foods designed to turn on the pleasure center in our brains.

The manipulation, he maintains, drives us to our food engorging “bliss point,” and shuts off the “I’m full” message center.

“When I go shopping, I try to stick to anything that’s not in a box,” he said. “I try to shop the perimeter for fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Johnson will host a free seminar entitled, “The Hidden Factors of Weight Gain, and Weight Loss Secrets,” at 7 p.m. Monday at his center, 7820 Porter Road, Niagara Falls. Seating is limited so those wishing to attend must reserve a seat by calling 940-8963.

Johnson, 41, grew up in Jamestown and started doing stage hypnosis shows while a young adult in Pittsburgh.

He is certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.

He met and married a woman from the Falls and moved to the Cataract City a little more than a decade ago. He put up his hypnosis center shingle three years ago, next to a hair salon owned by his wife, Lois.

It’s been a welcome change.

“Life on the road is a little exhausting,” he told me.

He still does his stage show a few dozen times a year. He performed last weekend at Syracuse University, several weeks ago a teen leadership conference at the Buffalo Convention Center, and the day after the president spoke at the University at Buffalo last fall. “I told the students President Obama opened up for me,” he joked.

Here are some excerpts from our interview.

How does the mind work?

The reality is that people make decisions emotionally and then we justify them with logic. So when we go shopping and we want to buy a Jet Ski to make us feel good, we then have to be able to say, ‘I can afford it because I can get six months financing.’ We make a justification in our minds.

Why did you decide to do hypnosis?

I started out as a stage magician and still do some stage shows now. A friend of mine from Texas learned hypnosis and said, ‘This is amazing, you’ve really got to learn this.’ I took the classes, and people started asking me after my shows, ‘Can you help me stop smoking? Can you help me lose weight?’

That, and the whole idea of getting off the road, really motivated me to learn the clinical aspects of it. (Johnson said he also has learned to use hypnosis to help people better manage stress and anxiety.)

Does the hypnosis process you use involve more than weight loss?

What people started requesting the most was, ‘Can you help me lose weight? I’m addicted to sugar.' I use a combination of hypnosis, reconditioning of the mind and NLP, which is neuro linguistic psychology, to help people.

Weight loss itself is very complex. Some people might be addicted to sugar, and sugar is a very real addiction. It’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet. … People have withdrawal from it.

For others, it may be an aspect of their childhood. I’ll give you an example: Someone might say, ‘When I was growing up, my parents would say, ‘Clean up your plate, there are starving children in China.’ The parent was intending to teach the child the value of money, the value of food, and they didn’t want their child to go hungry. But very few people understand how small the stomach is. Parents were encouraging their children to eat past the point of feeling full. That process is repeated several thousand times and we’re conditioned, just like we learn the alphabet, how to learn the English language, the process has taught us to eat past the point of feeling full every day.

For other people, the food may be an emotional thing … ‘Johnnie, have a piece of cake, you’ll feel better.’ Or it’s celebratory: ‘You did a great job on that test junior, so let’s celebrate and have a piece of cake.’ So we learn through repetition and the inexperience of youth to link food with positive or negative emotions. So a person learns, ‘If I’m feeling bad, I can eat some food.’ … The food is a temporary fix (that gets repeated over and over). And then processed food is designed to create food addiction, to manipulate the salt, sugar and fat combination so people literally don’t want to stop eating them.

What is neuro linguistic psychology?

Essentially, a waking hypnosis, a hypnosis without the need for a formal trance state. So I use a combination of that and hypnosis and reconditioning through repetition to help people learn to live life in a new way, to change their relationship with food … to listen to that full feeling in their stomach.

What foods do you enjoy? 

I love Asian food – Thai food, Chinese. About the only thing I need out of a can when I make Chinese food is coconut milk. I minimize the use of rice.

What would a typical Saturday dinner be like?

This past Saturday, I made a chicken lo mein dish that had snow peas in it, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, green peppers, garlic, a little bit of soy sauce, ginger, and whole wheat pasta, and I made my own egg rolls to go with it. … Some Wegmans egg roll wrappers, then some cabbage, some ginger, some garlic, soy sauce, then I rolled those suckers up and baked them instead of frying them.

The foods you can’t resist (or hypnotize away)?

The thing I struggle with a lot is when I’m on the road. I try to make a healthy choice, but sometimes the only (healthy) thing I can find on the road is a Subway, so I try to make the best choice possible. In the summertime, I do admit I indulge in more ice cream than I should. The occasional cheesecake, too. Fortunately, the Cheesecake Factory is about a good 40-minute drive, so I don’t get that too often.


Twitter: @BNrefresh


LA Fitness gets a look

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

I skipped my spinning class at the former Eastern Hills Buffalo Athletic Club Saturday and fought traffic to get into the Walmart Plaza and the year-old LA Fitness instead.

I’ve been one of the BAC holdouts who has used the Eastern Hills club since LA Fitness bought the four Buffalo BAC coed clubs just before Christmas, along with two RACs in Rochester.

The Eastern Hills club hasn’t been the same since. Many of the female members fled to the class-heavier BAC for Women and many of the older members – who loved that the BAC took care of their Medicare supplemental health insurance paperwork, while LA Fitness requires members to handle much of it themselves – have scattered to several clubs, including the more senior-friendly YMCA Buffalo Niagara.

Middle-aged guys like me, it seems anyway, have a murkier way forward.

As I explained in a previous blog, as well as last weekend’s WNY Refresh cover story on choosing a gym, I’ve decided to take a methodical approach to figure out where I best belong.

My plan includes workouts at LA Fitness, the Independent Health “Northtowns” Family YMCA in Amherst and Hive: The Lifespan Center, all fairly close to where I live.

I have my doubts the old BAC Eastern Hills will be open much longer, since the far newer – and nicer – LA Fitness is about a half-mile north along the same stretch of Transit Road, so I started with LA Fitness. My BAC membership transferred along with the sale, but LA Fitness has given members until Jan. 31 to decide where they’d like to land.

Lloyd, the general manager, told me the West Coast-headquartered chain plans to keep all the former coed BACs open as part of the LA Fitness WNY repertoire.

He offered me a three-year rate for $750, and told me if I took it, I could pay $249 a year after that – a better deal than my annual $299 renewal rate at the BAC, which I paid the night before the BAC notified its staff of the club sale.

Lloyd also let me take a trial run at the Clarence club to see how I liked it, gave me a tour of the place and asked me to stop by and see him before I left. All he knew when I walked in was that I was a former BAC member.

Here’s what I experienced:

  • The place was clean and the equipment barely a year old. But the men’s sauna and one of the drinking fountains were out of order.
  • The locker rooms were more spacious than the BAC Eastern Hills, and someone had left a copy of the Saturday Refresh section in a bathroom stall. And yes, it did appear it was being used for its intended purpose – reading. Clearly, at least some members had good taste in their newspaper preferences. There were plugs next to every sink but there were no hot water spigots and the water got slightly warm at best; tough for shaving.
  • There were 42 spinning bikes in the four-tiered cycle room and I was told I was welcome to ride one anytime, not just during cycle classes. That was not the case at the BAC. Spinning classes are the main reason I belong to a fitness club and I was impressed with what I experienced. While riding, I talked with two other male ex-BACers who also liked the room but expressed some reservations that their instructors might be required to use uniform LA Fitness cycling music and routines. I suspect they’re right, but at this point I’m unaware of what other WNY gyms open to men might rival what LA Fitness does. I’m told the JCCs in Amherst and Buffalo might be options. If you know of others, please let me know.
  • The front counter person was nice when I arrived and so was the GM. None of the other staff looked at me, said hello or asked how my workout was going in the 90 minutes I was in the cycling room or on the gym floor.
  • There were no spray bottles or white towels, mainstays in BAC gyms for cleaning equipment. Paper towels and disinfectant were available in several parts of the gym but very few members used them after using equipment. At least two of the paper towel dispensers were empty while I was there late Saturday afternoon, though a staffer told me that would be taken care of ASAP when I mentioned it.
  • The lap pool was nice, but with only three lanes, I wondered if lap etiquette sometimes goes down the drain. The hot tub was very nice.
  • While in the cycling room, I could only see the back of the gym floor, the free weight area, and at first blush, it seemed the male-to-female ratio was about 9-to-1. It was more like 50/50 when I started using an elliptical in the cardio section.
  • The demographic was much younger, and slightly more fit, than the BAC. There were very few senior citizens and a smaller percentage of overweight people in the gym.
  • There are no TV screens or WiFi on the gym floor, but cardio machines each have their own small TV screens and iPod ports. Three TV sets in the men’s locker room were out of reach to club members and were showing ABC, ESPN and CNN.

After my workout, a few minutes in the hot tub and a shower, I bought a protein smoothie at the juice bar, sat down again with Lloyd and told him I was the Refresh editor. I told him I planned to try out a few more gyms before committing to LA Fitness in the long-term. He gave me three guest passes in case I want to try out the gym at a different time or day, and I was back off to fight traffic in the Walmart Plaza and on Transit Road.

I’m a firm believer that you should never make the good the enemy of the perfect. I’ve yet to find a perfect gym. LA Fitness seemed good. In hotel terms, I’d equate it to a solid Holiday Inn.

Since my first blog entry on the BAC-LA Fitness sale, I’ve heard from dozens of readers. Below are excerpts from some of them:

  • Danielle Magiera worked the front desk and as a personal trainer at the BAC until she got a new job last October at M&T Bank. “I stayed with the BAC because I loved the community atmosphere and the workers,” she wrote me in an email. “When I found out the BAC was sold to LA Fitness, I was devastated. My heart broke. I walked into LA Fitness, once known as Eastern Hills BAC, on Monday after the takeover and saw changes. Old coworkers gone and the vibe of the gym was no longer the same. … My decision on what gym to go to still remains questionable, but I am without a doubt heartbroken by the change. I hope LA Fitness realizes Buffalo is a community driven city and the only way to keep people there is by welcoming members and giving us time to transition. If LA Fitness wants to keep us, they might need to re-evaluate the way they treat people. Otherwise, gym shopping might be on everyone's to-do list.” 
    • Michael “Mick” Miller wonders whether a legal case against the BAC for Women might force the new – wealthier – owners to open the clubs to men, too. I’m not sure such a challenge would work, or whether there was anything in the LA Fitness purchase offer that prohibits the BAC from opening any new coed clubs. The BAC owners are on record as saying they see more opportunity in women-only clubs, and it’s worth noting the chain hasn’t opened a coed club in more than a decade.
    • At renewal time the past few years ($299 guaranteed; a rate LA Fitness says it will honor), Mary Stefano has been almost prophetic. A member of the BAC for 15 years, she signed up at Eastern Hills but spent a growing amount of time at the Evans women-only club. “I renewed at Evans and said they should transfer my Eastern Hills membership to Evans. They said it didn't matter. Guess what?  Now it does. LA Fitness has been uncooperative about my ‘request’ for a transfer to the new BAC, claiming that BAC had to initiate it although the BAC website indicated I should ask LA Fitness to initiate the request. This has become like a divorce. BAC has grabbed the ball and had me fill out a form the other day. I am anxiously awaiting a new membership card so I can be assured I am a member of  the BAC.” She also said the BAC for Women has an overwhelmingly greater number of fitness classes than LA Fitness. Check out their websites here and here.
      • Bob Snyder of Clarence Center and Judy and Mike Hilberger are among the senior citizens despondent over the change. They’ve been BAC members for many years and are upset LA Fitness staffers have told them the chain will not honor Silver Sneakers and other supplemental insurance policies that the BAC handled for them in the past. These folks and others have told me it’s the difference between paying $20 a year and $29.99 a month out of pocket. “After the sale, we had these strange staff people telling us, ‘Sign this, sign this. Nothing’s going to change, nothing’s going to change, but we had to decide now’” to make the switch to LA Fitness. “Of course, everything’s going to change,” Judy Hilberger told me during a telephone interview last week.

I’ll have more from she and her husband in the coming weeks, and more on the challenges seniors face with the transformation, including the supplemental insurance issues. Lloyd told me Saturday that LA Fitness will make workout information available to members who can use their gym activity for insurance discounts, but it is up to members to deal with their insurance companies to secure the discounts.

I’ll also continue to try to connect with LA Fitness corporate officials in California. I’ve tried several different ways – giving my number to two LA Fitness corporate types who came into WNY from LA in the days after the sale, emailing the corporate communications office two weeks ago, and leaving a message on the corporate communications voicemail on Monday.

If I don’t hear from them soon, I’ll post the list of questions I have for them. At least some of you will be able to consider them as you go about your own gym hunt. Meanwhile, feel free to send me some of your questions using the info below.


Twitter: @bnrefresh


New Buffalo Spine effort looks to put pain in better perspective

"A lot of the people I deal with don’t really want to be prescribed pain pills," says Stacey Donahue, the mental health and wellness counselor at Buffalo Spine and Sports Medicine. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

If you’ve never been in a serious car accident or diagnosed with a chronic disease, maybe you don’t understand the rigors of dealing with such a traumatic experience.

It doesn’t make it any less real – or challenging – for those forced to confront it.

Is it so outlandish to believe that someone face-to-face with such an ordeal may want to take some time to assess its impact?

That’s where Stacey Donahue comes in.

Donahue, subject of today’s “In the field” feature in WNY Refresh, is a licensed clinical social worker who is part of the mental health and wellness team at Buffalo Spine and Sports Medicine, which has locations in Batavia, Orchard Park, Lockport and Amherst.

She is proof that going to see a counselor is a sign of good mental health.

Expect to see a lot more folks like Donahue as medical practices seek a holistic approach to treating injuries and conditions that can benefit from a range of treatments.

Dr. Leonard Kaplan, head of Buffalo Spine and Sport Medicine, said the need for a mental health and wellness component became obvious after the practice began in 1988, but that things didn’t gel until the state Workers Compensation Board determined in 2010 that mental health services should be covered as part of an overall treatment plan for those with traumatic or chronic health issues.

“Folks who have pain always have emotional distress along with the pain,” Kaplan told me earlier this week.” It can either be clinical depression or it can just be pain-related mood problems, but they become barriers to recovery. You can tell that from the way they are in the office, you can tell that from the way they interact with the physical therapists during rehabilitation. It impedes their work ability, their return to normal activities. Even as their bodies get better, their mental well-being lags behind a little bit. So we’ve been dying to get somebody like Stacey in here for a long, long time.”

Donahue started in the office in August and is building a caseload. She is part of a practice that includes PTs, chiropractors and a yoga instructor.

Here’s what Donahue told me about painkillers, and about the people who have the strength, and wisdom, to avail her of her counsel:

Where do painkillers fit in, in terms of chronic disease?

The doctors are selective in prescribing medications here to begin with. Everybody here comes in in pain. Anybody can legitimately argue a case that ‘I need these pain pills.’ Maybe (the doctors don’t need) immediately to prescribe them. First, they haven’t explored what things might be more helpful. And the other thing is that when the pain pill wears off, you have all this pain that you’re dealing with, and you have this sort of psychological awareness, the ‘Oh, now my pain is increasing, I’m tapering off to the end of that six hours,’ that is sometimes difficult for people to deal with. They want to be in this state of being pain-free and then their pain meds wear off. When that pain starts to onset again, they almost have more stress around dealing with it. They really just want to be pain-free.

I know the need for painkillers plays a role. There are people here who have had surgery, people here who are in need of surgery, should get surgery but can’t. I know they do play a role but … you don’t want to be in that situation where they’re readily given out. I do think there are other options. Pain pills aren’t the only thing that happens here. They are one of many treatments that happen here, whether it’s mental health or PT or (cortisone and botox) injections, chiropractic, yoga. And then people do things on their own. They’re looking for massage therapists, they’re looking for acupuncture people. They’re trying to stay away from pain pills, too. A lot of the people I deal with don’t really want to be prescribed pain pills. It’s sort of like a last stop for them.

They want to really try everything else first. More and more, we hear about the dangers of painkilling medications and the addiction and the feeling of being numbed out and not really with it.

So it sounds like what you’re saying is folks need to do the best they can to try to take some control of their own health care and their own health improvements?

A lot of time, people will come in here and say, ‘You know, I want to come in here and have a holistic approach. I don’t want to take all these pills, be on all this medication.’ I think between the physical therapy and the yoga and the chiropractic care, you really do have that here. You really do have this kind of holistic care instead of, ‘Here, take a pill and sweat it out for the next four hours.’

When that’s the only coping strategy, sometimes patients say, ‘I know it’s every four to six hours, but it’s only been two hours and I need another pill.’ A holistic approach helps them deal better in those spans of time, so if they do have medications they’re not so reliant upon them.

How does this work here? Do they see a doctor who might say, ‘I think you might be helped with mental health services?’ You must get some interesting reactions to that. 

Sometimes people will get to my office and say, ‘I don’t really know why I’m here.’ When we start talking about it … then they get it. Sometimes they just have this idea that they’re going to come to the practice, we’re going to do whatever to them, and they’re going to be able to go on with their lives. The expectations of what treatment is doesn’t always meet up with their vision of what they’re going to be doing. … Sometimes, getting people to where they have more reality based expectations is important. They just don’t necessarily understand why do they have to do all this stuff, why can’t they just come in (get things fixed) and get on their way?

Sometimes it’s not so much anxiety and depression. You have people living their lives, and doing what they do, and then they can’t. I’ll see people who have family members dependent on them, then they have an injury or something happens and now they can’t be there for their people the way they’ve always been. And sometimes pulling out of roles is very challenging. They feel stuck in a way … Sometimes it’s helping them understand their priorities and putting themselves first. A lot of people here are middle-aged and they’re responsible for older people and they’re helping them to do things that aren’t always in their interest to do physically. It’s almost helping them to realize things are different now, at least for a while. You have to put yourself first and your recovery first, really get better.

A lot of folks probably don’t know how.

It’s that whole thing, Eastern versus Western medicine. Even at UB, the person who I trained with, Dr. Kim Dobson, gave us a training at one point and said in the medical school they’re starting to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It comes out of the University at Massachusetts Medical Center, and what they were finding at their stress clinic – for anxiety, depression and chronic pain – they were seeing these amazing results. People who were not able to function well were feeling a greater sense of well-being. So they were saying, ‘What’s up with this? It’s just breathing and meditating? How are we getting so much mileage out of this?’

What would a typical 45-minute session be like?

It’s ‘How’s it been since the last session? How are you doing? Did anything come up for you? Sometimes, we’ll talk about different things that stressed them out or how they were stressed out by their pain. Sometimes it’s problem solving around that. If they’re not getting good sleep, we’re focused on how improve their sleep, trying to get more restful sleep so they’re not feeling so emotionally tattered by the sleep deprivation. Sometimes it’s trying to deal with the worries they have.

I do tend to use cognitive behavioral therapy, which is really focused on the inner dialogue that they’re having, where they’re saying, ‘This is awful, I can’t deal with this.’ Really trying to break down a situation that’s negatively affecting their emotions. They might not necessarily be able to change their pain or change their situation but they can change their perception of it. Helping them to realize they have more control that they think. Trying to help them find where they have control in their lives, instead of having them feel disempowered by their pain or their situation.

We’ll do that for a while and then we’ll get into meditation, exercise. There are different mindfulness strategies. There’s meditation, there’s body scans, and then there’s yoga. We don’t do yoga in my sessions but that’s something that’s offered here.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Is your workplace ready for this challenge?

Karen Krysa and others in her office plan to do the Eat Well Live Well Challenge again in the spring. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

More than a dozen employees at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County are happier than many of the rest of us early in this new year.

I’m talking about those of us who had good intentions when it came to eating right during the holidays – until the rush of the season, the fast food stops and the treats and parties put the brakes on those plans.

About 15 of the Extension employees – all but a couple of the workers at the Lockport headquarters – participated in Wegmans Eat Well Live Well Challenge, a contest that has been used by more than 445 employers and 200,000 employees in the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas during the last several years.

The challenge at the Lockport organization was organized by Natalie M. Cook, grant writer for the Niagara County Extension, based on the county fairgrounds.

Karen Krysa and her team of six – Jennifer Grier, Margaret Lapp, Jamie Wasik, Shaun White and Lori Smith – won the challenge. Krysa, the overall office challenge winner, "had perfect participation in the challenge, a rare accomplishment," Cook wrote me in an email, "and also scored very high in both physical activity and healthy eating consistently during our 8 weeks."

I spoke with Krysa by phone earlier this week for today’s "What are you eating?" feature in WNY Refresh.

Below are excerpts I couldn’t squeeze into the piece.

Meanwhile, those interested in bringing a spring challenge to their workplace can click here for more info. 

The goal of the challenge, according to Wegmans, “is to encourage individuals to move more, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed and learn how to lead ‘healthier, better lives.’”

Participants are asked to use a pedometer and count daily steps; count and record the number of cups of fruit and vegetables they eat each day, and aim to have at least one meal a day in which half the plate is filled with veggies and fruit.

Krysa, an administrative assistant at the Cooperative Extension, helps folks who walk into the Lockport office, schedules catering events and hall rentals on the Extension grounds and participates in agricultural education. She plans to attend the national “Corn Congress” later this month. She is a master gardener who also handles the office’s newsletter, "Your Extension."

Did any of this challenge rub off on your friends or family?

It did. My husband eats a lot better now. He enjoys salads more because I put more in ‘em, and I do different things. It’s not the same old boring salad. Our fridge is stocked with more fruits, vegetables, frozen vegetables.

Were any prizes awarded?

We had a basket loaded with things. There was a hockey puck from one of the Sabres. There was a yoga mat. There were tickets to a basketball game. We had so many things. We split it up among all of us who won. I got to pick first, then we went back and chose another. I took the hockey puck and the yoga mat.

What was the hardest part about the challenge?

Sometimes thinking, ‘What I’m going to make to eat?’ Because everything sounded so good. Say you had something like spaghetti and wanted to think of creative ways to add something else. I started adding spinach and kale, so I felt I was getting a little bit more that way. It took a little of the boredom out of the sauce. Plus I’d have a salad on the side.

Did they give you recipes and include some creative ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables?

We did get a few recipes and you can go on the Wegmans site. I did that a few times, but I have so many cookbooks at home. I’d go through recipes looking for vegetables and if a recipe would call for a meat, I’d turn it into a vegetable instead. I still got my protein.

What was the hardest thing to resist?

I would say doughnuts. Sunday morning, my husband likes to say, ‘Let’s have doughnuts with our coffee. I wouldn’t do it. I would have my cup of coffee and have a pear or banana, something like that. It helped. It really helped. … If I really had to (give in), I would look at that doughnut and say, ‘OK, I will take a quarter of the doughnut,’ and I would eat it, and that would satisfy me. I wouldn’t have to eat the whole thing. I found that by taking a few bites of something really good, like chocolate, after the first two bites, it’s boring. The first two bites are the best in the world. So I’m not depriving myself, I’m trying to make better choices.

How did your eating patterns change?

I was really a big sweets eater. It’s really curbed me a lot. By the time you get done eating vegetables – there’s a lot of fiber in ‘em – and your fruits, you just get so full you say, ‘Forget it.’ We’d go to a restaurant and just totally turn down dessert, which I never would before. If something goes good, I might try to reward myself with a little something on the weekend. I figured if you totally take it away, you’d go nuts.

What was the impact of having so many co-workers also participate?

It was a lot of fun. It wouldn’t have been so much fun if you were doing it by yourself. Having everybody behind you – ‘Hey, what did you eat?’ ‘Look what I found.’ We’d share recipes – it was a wonderful experience.

During the Christmas season, I honestly didn’t eat as much as I have in the past. If it was a big cookie, I’d take part of it and say, ‘OK, I’ve had enough.’

When that ‘yum’ goes away, I just stop.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

To keep eating my fruits, vegetables, keep walking, exercise and keep healthy.

I know this challenge isn’t necessarily designed to help you lose weight but did you?

I lost 4 pounds, and now I’m right where I want to be.


Twitter: @bnrefresh

'The Biggest Loser' franchise to bring road race to Buffalo
As was the case with last summer's Color Run, The Biggest Loser RunWalk will set off and end at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

"The Biggest Loser" franchise will host its first run and walk in Western New York on Aug. 31.

Participants will have the option of participating in a half marathon, 5K or 1-mile Kids Fun Run.

 The Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, Fleet Feet Buffalo and the City of Buffalo will help with the event, along with The Biggest Loser Resort Niagara in JavaCenter.

“Having The Biggest Loser RunWalk come to our community is a real win for Buffalo,” Visit Buffalo Niagara Vice President of Sales Mike Even said in a news release. “It will have a positive impact on our region’s economy, while inspiring Buffalonians to lead more active, healthier lives.”

A portion of proceeds will be donated to the “Shoes on Students” program, a nonprofit that provides shoes to underprivileged young athletes.

Dan and Jackie Evans, organizers of The Biggest Loser RunWalk and contestants on season five of the NBC weight loss show, will offer the RunWalk as a non-intimidating environment for all participants, with a longer course time limit to complete the race.

The RunWalk, which will take place at several venues across the country in the coming months, began last fall and is known for perks that include a chance for fans to meet past contestants of “The Biggest Loser” TV show, a Biggest Loser running shirt, finisher’s medal and free downloadable race photos. The half marathon and 5K will be chip-timed for participants tracking personal goals, with special awards given to the top runners and walkers.

The race will take place rain or shine, starting at 8 a.m. for the half marathon and 8:30 a.m. for the 5K, at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront. To help kick it off, Jeff Nichols and Francelina Morillo, contestants from season 14 of the TV show, will be there to cheer on participants. Morillo lost 95 pounds and Nichols lost 181 pounds during their season. The kids’ fun run, for ages 4 through 12, will start at noon. A post-race concert will feature Dan Evans, former “The Biggest Loser” contestant and Nashville recording artist.

For more info and to register, click here


BAC to LA - Should I stay or should I go II?

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Both familiar staffers at the front desk when I got to the former Buffalo Athletic Club Eastern Hills branch Saturday morning were a comforting sight. The 9:15 a.m. spinning class also was familiar. All 50 bikes were taken, as usual this early in a new year. Same instructor. Many of the same classmates.

Just about everything else was different in this new LA Fitness outlet.

The first Saturday of 2013, every piece of cardio equipment was taken at the same time. Only about one-third were in use when I walked in this weekend.

Last year at the same time, when I left spinning about 10:15, a yoga class was filtering out of the small fitness room on the second floor, most of the exercise equipment was in use, and the large fitness room was crammed with more than 70 people, mostly women, taking a cardio class with Mary Anne Cappellino, who left the club last week for a new job at the BAC for Women.

The same time the first Saturday of 2014, the small fitness room was dark. The nearby bulletin boards had been stripped of the group fitness class schedules and information tacked to them by former BAC instructors. The 14 people working out in the large cardio room were led by a new teacher.

There were about 10 people working out on the exercise equipment. I got right onto the crunch machine.

If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought most of my fellow gym club members had headed to Florida.

But the old days at the BAC are gone. They ended last month, after LA Fitness purchased the four BAC coed clubs a couple of days before Christmas. About half the instructors and several of the staffers at the ex-BAC Eastern Hills are gone, too.

I won’t get into the background here. You can read my Refresh Buffalo Blog post from yesterday here,  in which I lay out my strategy for how I plan to decide how to approach my fitness club options during the next few weeks.

You can read the piece I wrote for Saturday’s WNY Refresh on how to choose a gym here

If you’re looking around, you also might want to check out the websites from some of these places:

LA Fitness 

BAC for Women 

YMCA Buffalo Niagara 

Catalyst Fitness 

Hive: The Lifespan Center 

Planet Fitness 

World Gym 

Most clubs in the region, big and small, also have websites that you can check before you walk into their doors.

One piece of advice I can give you is to shop around and ask to try out three or four places before you decide about where to join, if you’re not already locked into a place. There are so many options out there, and getting the best workout bang for your buck is worth a little extra effort.

Chris Salisbury, owner of Hive, gave me his sense last week about why the BAC sold off its coed clubs and kept its women-only clubs. He has no inside information, but is plugged into the greater WNY fitness community. What he said sounded sensible.

When he opened Hive in April 2010 on Transit Road near North French Road in East Amherst, there were four other fitness clubs along the stretch of Transit between his place and nearly five miles south at Main Street in Williamsville.

Today, there are 14.

The BAC, which hasn’t opened a new coed gym in the Buffalo area in more than a decade, saw a change in the coed market during that time. The growing number of small gyms that offer more personalized service started skimming off the wealthiest members, Salisbury said, and then the budget gyms moved in "and started to erode them from the bottom."

Then specialty fitness centers – think CrossFit, yoga, pilates, barre and spinning – also took a toll.

"The future of the big box gyms is now going to be determined by LA Fitness," which has more than 500 clubs and looks to double that number in coming years, Salisbury said.

Because the chain is looking for volume, its “cookie-cutter” clubs are designed to appeal to the greatest number of people.

LA Fitness needed to buy the BAC and Rochester Athletic Club coed facilities to gather the volume needed after committing to Western New York, Salisbury said.

BAC ownership won because it got a very attractive purchase offer from the West Coast chain, an amount neither company has disclosed. BAC can now focus completely on its growing womens’ clubs, and already is talking about expanding those options and renovating its existing spots.

LA Fitness wins, said Salisbury, because it knocks out its chief competition in the region and will skim off a significant number of former BAC coed members.

The YMCA and dozens of smaller gyms win because people are taking a closer look at them, including thousands of ex-BACers.

"I don’t think the consumer loses, either," Salisbury said. "It forced change. There’s so many options out there, there’s a right fit for everybody."

Are you thinking about joining a new gym? Do you recommend any questions I should ask LA Fitness as I work to decide whether or not to sign on to its clubs? If so, shoot me an email at the address below.

Meanwhile, I was relieved Saturday when my spinning instructor told me she planned to stay with LA Fitness. If the new regime allows me to try out a similar class at one of the new gyms they’ve opened in the region in the last year, they’d go a long way in making me feel better about the fitness changes I’ve been forced to endure in recent weeks.

I’ll keep you posted.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

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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 |