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Debra Luben, ​M.D.

April 2016

Dr. Debra Luben learned in October 2014 from a bone density test that she had the beginnings of osteoporosis. It wasn’t a complete surprise. Osteoporosis runs in her family and she’s had low bone density for years. Her doctor recommended she get a trainer. She followed her doctor’s advice and started a strength training program. She hits the gym four to five times a week and pays closer attention to what she eats. Her commitment has made her stronger – physically and mentally. Coworkers have noticed her sculpted physique and so have patients. In fact, it has sparked conversations with her teenage patients who want to lose weight. Most importantly, however, Dr. Luben’s recent bone density test showed her condition has reversed. She no longer has osteoporosis and her bone density levels are back at what they were 10 years ago.

What were your lifestyle habits before being diagnosed with osteoporosis?
I had been going to the gym, but apparently what I was doing wasn’t enough. My doctors recommended that I get a trainer and really take the strength training more seriously. That’s what I did. I had enough calcium in my diet and was already taking vitamin D, along with a medication that was prescribed to promote bone health – so this was the only other thing I could do.

What are you doing now to manage your condition?
I’ve become much more diligent about weight-bearing exercise. I go four to five times a week to 24-Hour Fitness where my personal trainer guides me through my program.

What’s the benefit of a personal trainer?
Using a trainer is an expense, but it’s a good investment in your health. Sometimes when you do it on your own you don’t push yourself as much. When you have someone else pushing you out of your comfort zone it really changes things.

Have you lost some weight while strengthening your body?
I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I can tell in my everyday activities I feel better, I’m stronger. I can lift things like a case of water and it’s not a big deal.

Have others noticed the changes in you?
Yes. I’ve always worn my lab coat and one morning I was running late and didn’t have it on and suddenly everyone noticed that I’d lost weight and toned up. My goal has been to be healthier. Losing weight and looking better is an extra bonus. Suddenly, nurses and patients were saying, “Oh my gosh, you’re so little underneath that white coat.” I haven’t worn it since. So yes, I’ve received a ton of positive feedback and it made me feel really good.

What do your patients say?
They’re asking me about it and we’re talking about it. A lot of my teenage patients and even younger patients with weight issues want to know how I’ve gone about making changes. I tell them how I used to hate going to the gym and that if I can do it they can do it; it’s just making that commitment. I try not to call it a diet. I call it a healthy lifestyle. I try to keep it positive. And that’s how I think of it too.

How do you stay motivated and committed?
That’s a great question. I would say when it became a medical issue that was my wake-up call. It became very personal and very real to me. I decided I needed to do something. I’ve had a gym membership and trainer before but wasn’t serious about it. This is the first time I’ve been 100 percent committed to it. You ask yourself, “Do I want to live a life on medications or do I want a healthier lifestyle.”

You have to have the mindset that you want to change. Once you make up your mind that you’ve got a problem and want to do something about it, that’s the first step in making a positive change.

What advice would you give to other employees who want to become healthier?
It does take effort. I would say start off with small changes. If you haven’t been exercising, maybe start off walking. Park a little further away from the door. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Try not to drink your calories – stay away from sodas and sports drinks that are loaded with sugar. Drink more water instead. Also, stop the late-night eating and do more mindful eating. If we eat in front of the TV or computer, we tend to eat more because we’re not paying attention to what we’re eating. Lastly, cook more meals at home instead of dining out and eat more fruits and vegetables.

I go by the 80/20 rule – if I’m good 80 percent of the time then I can indulge every once in a while. After you’ve done it for a while, it becomes your new norm, and that’s where I’m at. When I get home from work, I don’t ask myself, should I go to the gym. I just do it. And I feel better afterward. It’s a great way to destress, too.

What have you learned about yourself?
When I really put my mind to something I can get it done. It blows me away that I’ve done this and that I’m being recognized as a wellness hero.

My trainer has a shirt that says you can have excuses or results but not both – and I say amen!