When you make the decision to focus on your health, choosing the next steps can be overwhelming. How do you get started? Should you join a gym? Maybe cut out sugar? Ask David and he’ll tell you, “Find a Health Coach.”
After breaking his hip at work last year, David realized he had to make a change. “That was the catalyst to start exercising,” he says. It was his “ah-ha” moment – when he realized he’d been neglecting his health for years. He had found himself lagging behind his wife when they went for walks in the park, and visiting their children at college in Pittsburgh was another eye-opener. “It’s all hills, I mean, I was really huffing and puffing.” At work, he realized he was skipping the stairs more and more often. “We have a five story building, and I couldn’t make it up to the fifth floor without taking the elevator.”
David’s eating habits weren’t helping the situation. “I ate pretty much whatever I wanted to eat, all the time.” He lists ice cream, hoagies, sodas, and pizza among the foods he used to indulge in. “I didn’t really realize how much I was eating. My wife and I would go out to breakfast on Sundays and I would get the three eggs special, with scrapple, half a pound of homefries, toast, a couple cups of coffee. When I added it up, it was around 3,000 calories just for breakfast.” All that scrapple was taking its toll – David was already taking blood pressure medication when his doctor told him she wanted to prescribe Lipitor for his cholesterol levels. “My cholesterol has been high the past seven or eight years,” he reflects.
It’s not hard to understand how David lost control of his health without even realizing it. It happens all the time. Everyone seems to be busy these days, with no signs of slowing down. Rushing to work, to drop off the kids, to pick up the kids…in all that rushing, our health often gets pushed to the wayside. It’s estimated that 20% of American meals are eaten in the car, and despite growing awareness of the negative health effects of fast food, 1 in 4 Americans still consume it at least once a week.
“Our life was very hectic, it was always just run, run, run, going to some sporting event or other activity,” David describes life when his kids were still at home. Like many families, they just didn’t have the time to plan and eat healthy meals, so they often turned to a quick stop at a hoagie or pizza shop for dinner.
When his kids left for college, David stayed in the same routine. “I’d get home from work before my wife and just start eating.” He’d often “snack a whole meal” before dinner. And while his wife has always been health-conscious, he never gave much thought to his own fitness. “My son’s an athlete, so I would go to his things, but I never really exercised per se. I was always in a physical job of some sort, and I thought, ‘Oh that’s good enough.’”
It became clear that it actually wasn’t “good enough,” and David began working with a Health Coach after a Wellworks For You health risk assessment came back with some alarming results. “At my original assessment I had a lot of red flags. I was at such a point that I needed to work on everything.”
Hearing that would be overwhelming for anyone, but when you find a Health Coach, they can help you break it down into steps towards improvement. “It really made a difference, having a coach along the way,” David says. He’s been working with a Health Coach for a little over a year now, “It’s like a lightbulb went off, I can’t tell you how happy I am with these results.”
Having someone there not only to guide you, but also to motivate and support you, is one of the greatest benefits of having a Health Coach. Without his coach, Leah, David says, “I would have fallen back into my old ways because you need that support system there.”
Leah has helped guide David towards health by making big changes in his diet and physical activity. When he was younger, David could easily lower his cholesterol or drop a few pounds simply by making small lifestyle changes for a week or two, but now that he is nearing 60, those tiny modifications were no longer working. “Red meat used to be a staple, but we switched it out to fish, and we eat a lot of poultry.” He has cut out sugar in his coffee, makes his own healthy salad dressings, and reaches for vegetables and hummus when he wants a snack now, instead of brownies. He’s begun actively searching out healthy foods, instead of complacently eating whatever is available.
David’s Health Coach allows him three ‘free meals’ a week, but he only takes advantage of that on Fridays, when he and his wife have ‘date night.’ “That’s been manageable doing it, knowing I have those times I can eat anything.”
Like anyone, David still has temptations and days that he eats healthier than others, but he’s committed to this lifestyle change. “The temptation is there to eat the wrong stuff still. Every Monday they bring donuts into work and it takes all the willpower on the face of the earth not to eat a donut. In the past I could eat a whole box of donuts and not think twice about it.” He is also going to the gym three or four times a week, choosing the stairs at work, and walking more rather than driving short distances.
Skipping the donuts is a small sacrifice in David’s mind, compared to the results he’s seen since deciding to find a Health Coach. His doctor no longer sees a need to prescribe Lipitor. “My cholesterol came down 70 points, so I’m really excited about that.” David has also succeeded in lowering his blood pressure enough to stop taking that medication. His cholesterol level is down to 157 from 228, and he’s lost over 30 pounds.
“Working in a retirement setting now, I see the end of life more up close and personal than I’ve ever seen it before, and I know that we all have a finite amount of time here, so I just want to maximize my health and live a healthy life.” Both of David’s parents, as well as several cousins have all had heart attacks, something he’d never really thought about but is now actively combating. “I took a Penn Medicine heart age test a while back – I was 58 and my heart was 60 something. Now my heart is younger than my age.”
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you very, very much for changing the way I’m living. Wellworks For You extended my life. They really have.”