The next installment of MMC’s Meet the Media interview series spotlights the HealthGal, Amy Hendel. In addition to her Weekly Health Pearl e-newsletter, Amy is a medical and lifestyle reporter, columnist, author and health host who focuses her recommendations on a unique blend of nutrition, fitness and psychology. She holds a Masters Level R-PA (Registered Physician Assistant) degree and is also certified in nutrition and exercise.
In our latest interview with Amy, we learned how she evaluates the health claims behind nutritious foods as well as the latest diet trends. Her insights from both the health and media spheres shed interesting light on the world of wellbeing and how women are currently consuming health-related news and sharing their learnings at home.
What gave you the idea to start HealthGal and the Weekly Health Pearl?
It was actually my young teen son who came up with the name, saying that I am a really healthy person, who practices what I preach to others so the slang format HealthGal that he suggested seemed a perfect fit. I definitely realized years ago that simply offering one tip on a regular basis that people could use to embrace healthier lifestyle habits was a great way to connect with them. So just “one easy change a week” was what ultimately evolved and became the Weekly Health Pearl.
Are there any health trends that you’re sick of hearing about?
I wish people would realize that if it’s such a great diet as in the “next greatest diet plan” – everyone would do it and would be able to not only achieve weight loss but sustain the weight loss. Why you carry extra weight is often a combination of genetics, aging, hormones, emotional eating and entrenched habits that are hard to change – conquering all those issues requires more than just the next “great weight loss plan.”
What topics still excite you?
The concepts of wellness and prevention really excite me because it means the person takes charge of their health. I can lecture the average person till I’m blue in the face but until they want to take charge of their health (or the health patterns of their family) what I’m preaching is pretty useless. When I get a consumer or patient excited about small changes they can make to improve their health and quality of life and prevent or delay disease – and they actually see the payoff – there’s nothing like that feeling as a health professional!!
When evaluating a new “healthy” or “good for you” product, how do you determine whether or not that product lives up to its claims?
My “line in the sand” is double blind clinical trials that demonstrate the claims being made. So for example, if a company is putting “high fiber” on a label and then making health claims, I want to see the actual data that supports the specific type of fiber, in the specific amounts and have it correlated to scientific data that concludes there are health benefits from consuming the food product.
Do you think people/women are looking more proactively for health information than they ever have before? If so, why?
Well, if you look at TV programming which often mirrors consumers’ interest patterns, then it’s obvious that there is more health programming than ever. The Doctors, Dr. Oz, specials by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and even OWN’s new programs that involve health experts are all getting good ratings and reviews. I do think mother’s are finally realizing that like charity, health begins in the home and the troubling statistics of obesity, diabetes type 2 and other health concerns in their kids and teens has been a wakeup call. The Boomers who want to live healthy and not age quickly and have good quality of life are also driving the desire to have more health information readily available to they can enter their senior years actively engaged in enjoying those last decades.
Where do you see the best health reporting?
Tough question. WebMD used to be one of my recommendations to consumers for health information but the dramatic increase in advertising, especially embedded advertising has made me scale back on sending consumers and patients to that site. I like to think that the segments I’ve done for HealthiNation.com are pretty objective in terms of nutrition recommendations and the blogs I write for healthcentral.com are also based on extensive research. If I had to choose internet sites – I would go directly to .gov for health information and I do think Dr. Gupta and some local news stations that use doctors are doing a good job of offering solid health recommendations and coverage of breaking health news.
Who is your dream interviewee?
High profile person would be the President because I would love to hear his perspective on exercise and smoking and how he was able, while working the toughest job in the nation to quit smoking. I don’t think people get how hard that is. Second “less high profile” would be the oldest person(s) currently living on earth so I could really find out with my own questioning what they feel contributed to their longevity.
Why do you think certain women’s health topics are still taboo? What women’s health issue do you really want to get out of the closet?
I still think women feel uncomfortable sharing invasive anti-aging therapies they’ve used and my attitude is that if you are living a healthy lifestyle and want to look as good as you feel – own it and be OK with sharing it. No one should be critical of that philosophy (within reason).
I think many women suffer with painful sex after menopause and it is the “big secret” that needs to be shared.
I think I am also somewhat blunt – and I don’t think women are currently living the best lives they can – so I’d like to combine some empathy and bluntness and get women exercising more, choosing foods that support better health and certainly realizing that aging is probably the biggest explanation for weight gain – so they need to work even harder to “work their lifestyle choices” and spend less time in denial.