ANNUAL MANUAL: Our Town- Health

Slimmer down, Charlottesville!



Weird Al Yankovic sang, "Eat it/ Open up your mouth and feed it." That pretty much sums up Central Virginia, because let me tell you, girl, mmm, there's enough delicious food here to make Liz Taylor become a Virginia senator's wife again. 

  Based on my own observations, Central Virginia seems to be on the higher end of the bell curve when it comes to being overweight and obese. I would say 90 percent of my own patients are "robust" when it comes to weight.

  Additionally, we are probably on the lower end of the bell curve when it comes to regular exercise. Many of my patients tell me their bicep curls consist of lifting their fork to their mouths or downing a huge glass of a high-fructose beverage such as sweet tea or soda. What would Arnold Schwarzenegger say about that kind of work out? (Though he's looking a little paunchy himself these days.)

  I guess, like Arnie, Central Virginians are busy, busy, busy– but not like bees who do physical labor all day. Living in Charlottesville doesn't mean you're out of the desk-based rat race– you're just out of a big city; it's prettier here. We're so workaholic when it comes to family, work, and duties that diet and exercise rank low on the priority list. 

  Also, the gym options here are pretty limited– you might even say some belong on Rodeo Drive: expensive with shorter hours. (Hmm, maybe I'll open a gym here and everyone will have to wear Prada. No sweating, anyone! You'll ruin the Coach leather bench!) Actually we built a gym in our office because of this problem,but not everyone on my staff uses it. Ahem...

  I often hear, "Oh, I'll exercise when it gets warmer." Have you yet experienced the seasons here? Spring lasts for 30 seconds, and then it becomes hot and humid as fast as my temper rises when I listen to AM talk radio. Summer is so hot and humid that I feel like a Virginia baked ham. Fall doesn't cool down until The Great Pumpkin lands on the red clay. 

During these seasons, my patients say, "Oh, I'll exercise when it gets cooler." Folks, you would have to live in the enclosed-bubble world of The Truman Show to have that type of climate control.

My advice to all "newcomers" of Central Virginia is this, "Moderation in all aspects of life and health is a good thing." Get enough rest, enough good nutrition, enough physical activity, enough love, and just enough work to make it through the day. That's the doc's prescription to make you happier.

Editor's Note: John Hong is a practicing physician in Charlottesville, whose "Dr. Hook" column appears each week in the Hook.



Although many experts say that a plethora of healthcare providers doesn't translate into better health for an area, having both the Martha Jefferson Hospital (982-7000) and the University of Virginia Medical Center (officially: UVA Health System) (924-0211) in the same tiny town can't be too bad. Each has a 24-hour emergency room.


The Thomas Jefferson Health District- This is the main health clearinghouse for public health. Serving a five-county area including the City of Charlottesville, it offers everything from STD testing (972-6217), to a free walk-in clinic Tues and Fri 1-3:30pm (for more, call 972-6228), to restaurant inspections (972-6259), to septic tank advice (also 972-6259). 1138 Rose Hill Drive. 972-6219.

Birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates are available from the Office of Vital Records in Richmond. Don't get too excited, though. Only immediate family members can get the certificates. 804-662-6200.

The Teen Health Center- Provides pregnancy tests, HIV tests, gynecological exams, and other services for anyone ages 12 to 20. Operated in the Corner Building at 1400 W. Main St. as part of the UVA Health System. 982-0090

Charlottesville Free Clinic- Offers medical care to the underprivileged. Located on Rose Hill Drive. 296-5525


Charlottesville teems with holistic, homeopathic, and other alt medical providers. Some people swear by their chiropractor, some by their holistic healers, and some even swear by their shark cartilage pills, but please don't forget that many charlatans operate under the "alternative" healing banner. The good news is that UVA's Nursing School has set up the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies to conduct research and disseminate information about alternative medicine. 924-0113


There are more yoga classes around town than you can shake a mat at, plus classes in Pilates and the Alexander Technique and countless other wellness-related topics, but for the sake of space, here are the health club biggies– those full-service spots open to everyone and that exist solely to keep you feeling– and looking– your best.

ACAC: It ain't the cheapest game in town, but with three separate facilities, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, basketball arenas, a kid zone, and a new downtown facility, it's pretty hard to complain. And that doesn't include the still-new kid "arena" over at the Adventure Central location on Four Seasons Drive. 978-3800

Gold's Gym: For straight-up fitness, Gold's is the place. Lots of free weights, machines, classes, and kid care. One big facility, next to the K-Mart on Hydraulic Road. 973-1307

Boar's Head: Tennis, swimming, golf, and much more convenient for west-of-townies at the Boar's Head Inn on 250 West. 972-6067

–>>For more about all things exercise, see our "Sports & Rec" section.