On the Road to Getting Healthy
On April 28 I attended the Southwest Florida Sustainability Summit, going to the Healthy Lee session. Healthy Lee is a collaboration of businesses, healthcare facilitators, religious leaders, education systems, municipalities, physicians, and others who work to reduce healthcare costs, improve nutrition and active lifestyles, and enhance medical record services in Lee County. Current Chair & President of Edison National Bank, Robbie Roepstorff, and Sally Jackson, System Director of Government & Community Relations for Lee Memorial Health System, stressed “5210” as a common-sense formula to better health.
This interested me greatly.
As a young Baby Boomer, I am getting old, with health ever more important. I am in reasonably good shape despite being heavy my entire life, and recently ended of a four-year relationship by finding it impossible to drive past any fast food restaurant, putting on 20 additional pounds in 3 months to balloon to 247. On top of that, my beloved younger cousin Anne Marie recently received a brain cancer diagnosis.
Ms. Roepstorff and Ms. Jackson explained that “5210” stood for 5 daily helpings of fruits and vegetables, no more than 2 hours of electronic entertainment, along with 1 hour of exercise and 0 sodas or sugary beverages. Fruits and veggies are relative strangers to me, and I, like most, spend more than two hours in front of the television and electronics. One hour of exercise is non-existent, but fortunately I never drink soda.
I began my 5210 on May 1 and surprisingly the “5” so far is easy and delicious, but the “2” is problematic. As for exercise, I bought new workout shoes but have yet to use them. And I lost 2 pounds, though that can be put back on with just one ice cream soda!
I attended a lecture by Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, the System Medical Director of Wellness and Employee Health for Lee Memorial Health System. Better known as Dr. Sal, he is a living legend in local healthcare.
The Legend does not disappoint! Knowledgeable and personable, funny and engaging, Dr. Sal takes complicated medical issues and distills them into a language easily understood by all. He reinforces over and again that we – each of us individually – are in charge of our overall health. He points out that the list of control factors include age, gender, heredity, race, ethnicity, nutrition, weight, diet, exercise, sleep, smoking, alcohol consumption, and sugar, with Lifestyle components making up 80% versus just 20% for Heredity.
Dr. Sal summarizes that good health is a Total Body Issue: “Once a patient is sick, they discover every disease is a journey. People must realize equally that good health is a journey too, with proper steps along the way. Live healthy so you do not need medical insurance except in an emergency. The best healthcare is taking the best-possible care of yourself!”
After two weeks on 5210, I told Dr. Sal I am down 4 pounds. While applauding my achievement, he suggested I split the 5 into 6 + 2: “Adults need more vegetables that are nutritious and provide fiber for the GI tract, as opposed to fruit with sugar that converts to fat, so eat 6 vegetables and just two fruits each day.”
I am ahead of my time – barely!
Healthy Lee is promoting The 5210 Pledge for Summer 2016, under the slogan “5210 – Eat, Reduce, Play, Limit” with those words corresponding to each number: Eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables, Reduce recreational screen time to 2 or less hours, Play or exercise 1 hour, and Limit sugar or sweetened beverages to 0.
The Healthy Lee website gives easy tips to make these changes. Under “Eat 5,” introduce fruit into your diet as dessert. For “Reduce 2,” turn off televisions and cells during meal time and in bedrooms. Notice “Play 1” is not “Exercise 1,” meaning you do not have to join an expensive gym but walk or ride a bike, play games, or take advantage that we live in “Paradise” with over 300 sunny days each year and recreate outdoors! “Limit 0” is one word – water! Carry a bottle and refill it all day, and serve it with meals.
I signed my official Healthy Lee 5210 Pledge, and am 6 pounds lighter.
The world became a sadder place, as Anne Marie passed away. Annie was everyone’s Mom, with love, compassion, and care that ran through all she touched and loved. Her untimely passing at age 55 seems to violate the natural grain of time and destiny. God Bless Her Beautiful Soul!
The one-quarter pole, and I lost 8, to 239 pounds.
When I was a kid, there were penny weight machines everywhere. You not only learned your weight but it spit out a piece of paper with witticisms or sage advice. Comedians had an Old Standard about the small minority of obese people from that era: “I knew I was overweight when my fortune read ‘one person at a time!’”
That terrible joke came to mind when dressing today; I buttoned my pants and for the first time in months thought: “There is only one person wearing my clothes!” That uncomfortable tight feeling is gone! I am now down 13 pounds in 7 weeks. The best part is I accomplished this without ever going on a “diet,” with all the accompanying stress and guilt.
I am now a disciple of Dr. Sal, who teaches that “the way you lead your life either turns on the good things or keeps them off. If you make correct decisions, you may not need medications. Many, however, avoid this because it is easier to take the pill. When it comes to excess fat and physical inactivity, the leading causes for heart disease and hypertension, these are preventable and completely in our control. The best treatment is to prevent them in the first place, and the simplest way is to make healthy choices. Healthcare begins with us, and the best healthcare is taking the greatest-possible care of ourselves.”
The halfway point and I lost 7 pounds in June, to 232. Fruits and vegetables are easier and tastier every day, and while I need to limit my television and computer time, one hour of daily fun is fun, with a mixture of treadmills, golf while walking the course and carrying my bag, along swimming, beach walks, and bike rides.
I survived a major test – vacation! As often occurs on trips, I did not eat as healthy as I should, though I dined on salads over anything else, and drank more than necessary, but I balanced this by walking 7 rounds of golf while carrying my bag in 90-degree humid heat, returning to Southwest Florida down 18 total pounds.
At the three-quarter mark, I am firmly into a healthy diet that is 80% plant-based. I lost 5 pounds in July to weigh in at 227. Am I perfect at this stage – hardly! I have chicken on salads, and when friends invite me for a home-cooked, generally meat-and-potatoes meal, I savor every unhealthy bite! As a semi-regular fan of the Fort Myers Miracle, I devour a kraut-dog and couple of cold drafts, and the 2 or 3 Rum Runners on Fort Myers Beach every few weeks are not in my best interest! And I am still a sucker for cheese, despite it being 70% fat.
The flip side is, I bought a bag of potato chips on April 28, and it remains unopened!
In the midst of all this, I got sidetracked with Vertigo that resulted in one ER visit, and a second requiring hospitalization. I found it gratifying that MRI, EKG, stress-test, and blood work consistently returned in the healthy range, including lowering my bad cholesterol from 236 to 199 in the past year. My physicians were happy I already dropped 30 pounds, as the “healthier” you are when becoming ill, the quicker you can regain your health.
It Is Done – but for the rest of my life, only beginning!
Everything kicked in during August, as I dropped an incredible 14 pounds, making my final figure 34 pounds over 123 days, from 247 to 213; a healthy average of 2 pounds-a-week. When I lose another two, I will be my lightest since 1981!
Small changes do produce big results. Bananas and strawberries, tomatoes and grapes, broccoli and cauliflower are scrumptious, and an hour of fun is so much fun in Paradise. My big nightly bowl of frozen bananas, strawberries, and yogurt easily supplants ice cream that was an addiction for decades. I now walk past the rows of chocolate bars at grocery stores and gas stations that harkened my name, and no longer buy chocolate milk by the gallons.
And it really was enjoyable, delicious, and easy! It may be a cliché but if I can accomplish this, anyone can. Take these simple steps and watch your life change for the better, and before you know it, your new math will be 5 + 2 + 1 + 0 = 34 too!