A Lifestyle of Health
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Mary Grace Johnson
Weight loss can be an intimidating concept. Facing the challenge of navigating fad diets and the potential for lifealtering diseases are just a couple overwhelming factors involved.
With a combination of science and compassion, obesity medicine expert Dr. Wendy Scinta, founder of Medical Weight Loss of New York, has developed a successful approach to helping her patients establish and maintain healthier lifestyles.
Wendy began her career as an electrical and computer engineer, before eventually switching gears and choosing family medicine. While completing her residency at Duke University, she noticed many diseases were treated with “bandaids,” she said, explaining that people diagnosed with high blood pressure were given blood pressure medication; those with high cholesterol were prescribed cholesterol medication; and so on.
Through the Rice House Healthcare Program, she became familiar with a new approach — lifestyle management. The concept just clicked.
“Go after the core issue, and the rest will follow,” Wendy explained. “Get people off their medicines. Reverse diseases, don’t treat diseases. They don’t have to last a lifetime. Reverse the diseases by getting them healthier through lifestyle management.”
After beginning her medical career in family medicine, Wendy eventually realized obesity medicine was her calling and took the leap, devoting herself to the niche practice full time. A number of her family medicine patients were interested, as well. She found success “right away, because it fed itself,” she said.
Obesity medicine is defined by four pillars, Wendy explained. They are nutrition, what and how you eat; behavior, the why behind eating habits; exercise, how much you move; and medical management, probably the most important piece of what she personally does, Wendy said.
“And that is: what is contributing to this from a medical standpoint that I can potentially reverse?” she said.
Though Wendy’s practice offers treatment to people of all ages, she is a nationally recognized expert on childhood obesity. Along with programs for adults, Medical Weight Loss of New York offers the BOUNCE program, an acronym for behavior, optimizing metabolism, united as a family, notation of food, counting steps and elimination diet. Wendy’s recently published book, “BOUNCE: A Weight-Loss Doctor’s Plan for a Happier, Healthier, and Slimmer Child,” outlines the program in detail for those parents who can’t make it to Wendy’s office.
Her approach to helping adults is similar to that of helping children; with each patient, she considers the whole person, taking into account all four pillars of obesity medicine.
There’s no magic pill or magic bullet, she stressed. She recommends people stay away from unregulated diet pills, adding that even regulated pills alone aren’t a good solution. In terms of trendy diets, she’s seen some prove successful, but said there’s no “master diet” that works for everyone.
“It has to be a lifestyle change, and it has to be something you can stick to for the rest of your life,” she said. “And you have to take into account your finances. You have to take into account what it is you like and what you think you can do long term that’s healthy.”
Wendy’s advice is simple and straightforward: eat five times a day — three meals with snacks in between; always have a healthy breakfast; stick with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and ancient grains; stay away from processed foods; drink water; and if you’re stuck at a desk all day, try to move every 30 minutes.
While she’s a nationally recognized weight loss expert — Wendy is the president of the Obesity Medicine Association — her roots still run deep in the tech world. Two years ago, she cofounded software company One Stone Technology, and recently began piloting text message-based software aimed at patient engagement. The team’s goal is to develop the tool into a commercially viable product, Wendy said.
Patients do well the day after they visit Wendy’s office, she said, but healthy habits can be more difficult to maintain as time goes on.
“If we can keep them engaged and keep them interested in the journey throughout the time they’re connected to the clinic, it really helps with the weight loss,” she said.
In everything she does, Wendy’s spirituality inspires her. This extends from Medical Weight Loss of New York to One Stone Technology and beyond, to Dora’s Dream, the foundation she recently established.
Shortly before Wendy’s lifelong friend passed away of chronic myelogenous leukemia three years ago, she connected Wendy with local pastor Carl Clark. From that connection grew the foundation, which aims “to prevent and reverse childhood obesity and related conditions in minority communities through food, fitness, family and faith,” according to Wendy’s website.
“I really would like to make Syracuse the mecca of how private and public sectors can work together to improve the health of a community,” Wendy said. “I would like to get that message out at some point.” SWM
For more information on Wendy, visit drwendy.com.