Every day, doctors talk with their patients about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. But physicians at Botsford Hospital don’t just talk about living a healthy lifestyle—they’re actually doing it. Despite demanding jobs, these three doctors take their own advice to heart by eating right, being physically active and carving out time to de-stress.
Working up to 70 hours a week, pediatrician Carla Oska-Gerak, D.O., admits she has little time for the gym. But with a big yard, a husband and two young kids, Dr. Oska-Gerak, 34, doesn’t need four walls and a treadmill to stay fit.
“I stay active by being with my kids,” she says. “We also have a neighborhood that is great for walking.” On weekends, she can also be found jumping with her little ones in a bouncy castle.
Dr. Oska-Gerak has recently taken up the dance-based workout Zumba. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “I may have two left feet, but I have rhythm.”
Also a trained nutritionist, she makes a point to prepare healthy meals ahead of time. “I buy fruit and veggies and cut them up at the beginning of the week, so I can just grab them and go,” she says.
Dr. Oska-Gerak offers two more healthy choices that she has made: to never smoke and to wear sunscreen every day.
Savitha Balaraman, M.D., an oncologist, says her patients often ask her how she manages to look so good at the end of a long day. Dr. Balaraman, 40, says it’s all about being proactive.
“You constantly have to stay ahead of the game,” she explains. “To stay ahead is to stay healthy.”
Growing up in southern India, Dr. Balaraman’s ideas about health were shaped early on. Taking cues from her parents, she began practicing Hatha Yoga and meditation when she was just 8. Today, she and her husband, Ramesh Ramanathan, still make time for Isha Yoga and meditation daily. These techniques help them get through even the most difficult days with a sense of calm.
“I’ve experienced significant benefits from a mental balance and a physical health standpoint,” says
Dr. Balaraman. “It becomes a way of being.”
Yoga and meditation are also a way of life for Dr. Balaraman’s family members, including her teenage son and daughter. She notes it has brought tranquility into their fast-paced lifestyle.
“We may still be running around, but it is not stressful anymore; we live joyfully,” Dr. Balaraman says. “If things don’t go our way, we just laugh about it. It has made us come together beautifully.”
When she was young, her family also followed a vegetarian diet—something she continues today.
“The high fiber content is extremely healthy. It’s also a well-balanced diet,” she notes. “We use all the colors—green, orange, yellow and red. We also eat tons of berries.”
Dr. Balaraman walks or jogs on hilly terrain four to five times a week. Music also helps her achieve balance in her life. “Indian and American fusion is just amazing. It takes me to a whole new level,” she says.
As a family medicine-geriatric medicine specialist, Peter R. Schoeps, D.O., says exercise is the fountain of youth.
"I tell this to my patients daily and try to motivate change," says Dr. Schoeps. His own mother Margo, 90, a resident of the Botsford Commons Senior Community in Farmington Hills, performs 30-minutes of exercise while sitting six days each week, with encouragement from a recreation assistant. She benefits from improved circulation, greater endurance, better balance and an overall boost in energy. Dr. Schoeps says, "Mom is a great example that those who keep moving live longer—with a better quality of life."
Taking his own advice, Dr. Schoeps, 56, does what he did in high school to stay fit and de-stress: run.
"I run two to four miles at least every other day, or spend about 35 minutes on the elliptical trainer," he says.
"I feel better and it allows me to be more focused at work, handling other people’s problems."
Dr. Schoeps says there is truth to the old expression, "If you don’t use it, you lose it."
“So often people retire and slowly lose their sharpness," says Dr. Schoeps. "Life is constantly changing and the way we deal with that change makes a difference."
He notes, however, that no one is perfect and being healthy isn’t always about deprivation.
"As physicians, I think we all try to lead by example, but life is short and we also have to enjoy those things that bring us pleasure," he explains. "It’s just important to do everything in moderation. Balance is the key."