Q & A with Weight-loss Expert, Dr. Madge Zacharias

By Bill & Shelly | March 2nd, 2014

Dr. Zacharias on staying healthy this holiday season and actually upholding those new year’s resolutions


Dr. Madge Zacharias is founder and co-managing partner of the Richmond-based Zacharias Ganey Health Institute, which she runs with her sister, Mary Jane Ganey. The institute specializes in weight-loss maintenance through education and lifestyle change and physical activity.

The holiday season, she knows, is full of pitfalls.

We talked in the Lite 98 studio. Here are excerpts.

Q. [WE ARE] VERY EXCITED ABOUT HAVING THIS LADY IN OUR LITE 98 STUDIOS TODAY. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INSPIRED AND IMPRESSED WITH WHAT SHE’S DONE. DR. MADGE ZACHARIAS, WELCOME. THANK YOU FOR COMING IN.

A. Thank you, Bill.

Q. IN THE ’80S WE HAD GYMS, AND IN THE ’90S PEOPLE HAD PERSONAL TRAINERS, AND PEOPLE TRIED FAD DIETS AND ALL OF THIS. AND YOU AS A DOCTOR TOOK A LOOK AT ALL OF THAT AND CAME UP WITH THIS HYBRID SOLUTION … MOST OF US AREN’T ATHLETES, AND WE LIVE OUR LIVES. WE’RE TAKING CARE OF KIDS, WE’RE TAKING CARE OF OUR JOB, WE’RE TAKING CARE OF OUR PARENTS OR SOMETHING, AND WE’RE NOT TAKING CARE OF OURSEVLVES.

A. You’re exactly right. What’s happening is that our life’s day does have us on a road that’s giving us health issues. We’re all sitting behind a desk, we’re sitting at computers, and then we’re eating a diet that’s really not as normal as it used to be. So people are finding themselves with not only weight as a health issue, but other things that go along with it: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes –

Q. – CHOLESTEROL, THE WHOLE THING.

A. Yeah, all of it kind of goes together, and I think people do need help. Weight loss is not simple. Actually, maybe I should back up, because weight loss itself can be pretty simple. It’s weight maintenance – it’s allowing your body to accept a lower weight, getting your body composition to a point that your body can handle this and you can do this long-term. I think, ultimately, the real job is that nowadays people actually do need to be proactive; they need to actually take care of themselves every day. What we try to do, really, is educate people.

Q. WE’RE HEADING INTO THE TIME OF THE YEAR, WITH THE HOLIDAYS AND HAM BISCUITS AND ALL THE GREAT SWEETS AND EVERYTHING. HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT? HOW DO WE GET OVER THAT AND ACTUALLY MAKE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS WORK?

A. The question of holidays presents a lot more challenges for people. But we find at ZG, we really find that holidays can be a real positive – when people make it through these daily challenges, these yearly challenges, that happen every year. It gives them a sense of empowerment that they really can continue to move forward and do this, so their lives really are changing. And some of the tips I tell people are – No. 1, it’s not just a lot of food, it’s a high-stress time. And we know we tend to make bad choices when we’re tired and we’re stressed. So make rest a priority. Trying to get our rest in, trying to make healthier foods to bring to parties. Don’t go into big-party events hungry. We teach our people to actually get a good, high-protein meal in right before the event. It kind of gives them a sense of control. Making it through an event like that and still tasting some good holiday treats but coming home feeling, “I did OK,” is a real positive. And then we definitely get everybody walking more, moving more, recognizing you’re going to eat more over the holidays. Movement, walking, all those things not only help your metabolism, but they’re also a stress reliever. And you’re going to find, you make it through those holidays feeling good, feeling positive, but really enjoying them. You’re ready to move forward come January.

Q. WHAT DO YOU TELL THE PEOPLE WHO COME IN AND SAY, “I’VE DONE EVERY DIET KNOWN TO MAN, AND I ALWAYS PUT THE WEIGHT BACK ON”?

A. Well, that’s pretty much everybody who comes through our door. It really is. And people have tried everything. And, the fact of the matter is, diets do not work — we know that – and that’s really why we’re here. Your body has a weight set-point just like [the one that] controls your temperature. And you could lose weight through all your willpower, but if that’s all you’re doing, your body will find a way to bring your weight back. It’s under hormonal control. We know this. And having people understand what they’re up against, I think, again, it gives them [a sense of control]. When people walk away from these diets and feel like a failure, they feel defeated [until] they realize, “Hey, it’s not all me. There’s a lot going on [that influences] why my weight comes back up.” What we’re trying to do is put the knowledge and the support and all the things in place to truly help them change their body chemistry – and help them change their body composition – and really teach them what they’re going to need to do for the rest of their life. We tell them what we try to do is build “health-athletes.” You say, “We’re not athletes.” Well, our people really are. They’re health-athletes – they’re learning how to train every day, how to move, what they need to do. How do you combine that with eating, so that they can win at this long-term? And it’s rewarding.

Q. I KNOW YOU’VE GOT LOTS OF SUCCESS STORIES WHERE PEOPLE HAVE GOTTEN OFF MEDS AND HAVE LITERALLY TURNED THEIR LIVES AROUND. DO YOU HAVE ONE FAVORITE YOU CAN TELL US?

A. I look at everybody who is in the game everyday as winning. But I guess one that comes to my mind: We have a woman in our place, Yvette, and she came to us in a wheelchair. She had been told she’d never walk again. She had had a lot of health issues. She’d had an accident – things that really made her life a struggle. We have watched her not only lose a tremendous amount of weight, but she’s actually moved from that wheelchair to a walker, and now she teaches line dancing. And she’s got her life back. … Not everybody gets to an ideal “chart weight.” That’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting your health and your quality of life that’s sitting in front of you.

Q. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, AND THANKS FOR TAKING A MOMENT FOR US. 

A. Thank you so much, Bill.

Bill Bevins has been host of the top-rated Wake Up Show with Shelly Perkins on WTVR 98.1 FM radio, Lite 98. Contact him at Bevins@Lite98.com. 

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