‘If You’re Not Moving Ahead, You’re Falling Behind’

BillMietelskiRush employee Bill Mietelski reflects on his healthier lifestyle, weight loss and ongoing participation in the Rush ELM program.

Has it really been 18 months? Around this time last year, I was looking back at my first six months as an “ELMster.”

I had lost 65 pounds — over 20 percent of my body weight — and was looking forward to a maintenance program Jennifer Ventrelle was creating for our Rush ELM group as we were about to “graduate.” The thing is, a healthy lifestyle is (cliché alert!) a journey and not a destination.

Since I had a little more weight to lose than most I was still shedding pounds as the maintenance phase got under way. Finally last fall (after 12 months) I reached my current weight of 195 and the real challenge began. (Losing weight is easy, but statistically only one in five overweight people are successful at long-term weight loss).

As folks switch gears from losing weight to keeping it off they often fall into the trap of thinking they’re “done,” but if you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind. One area we focus on is goal setting to keep our new lifestyle moving forward. Our two overarching nutrition goals are to get a half plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner and to eat home-prepared meals (all day) at least four days a week. All those healthy meals help fuel our other goal of at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

Simple? Sure. Easy? Fortunately I’ve got three coaches watching my back.

Everyone’s heard of “SMART” goals, but what happens when life throws a wrench into your Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-oriented plans? My coach Lisa gets us to not only set goals, but enables us to reach them by having us accept that problems inevitably conspire to get in our way. We problem-solve so we’re proactive rather than surrendering to stressors (or “hooks” as we like to call them).

We also learn how habits work and how to identify the components of “habit loops,” which consist of cues that trigger behaviors that ultimately provide rewards you crave. Many people try to either avoid the cues or deny themselves the rewards, when the real issue is addressing the behavior. The key is to have a plan. (We’re big on planning.)

In addition to leading us through 30 minutes of physical activity at the beginning of every session, Jen also reminds us to act mindfully, and we brainstorm solutions to time and stress management issues we all face daily. While you can’t always control your environment, your reaction to it is a conscious choice. Since overeating and avoiding exercise are two of the more common ways people cope with stress, learning healthier ways to manage stress is huge.

On the nutritional side, our coach Avril shares her strategies and tips for maximizing the healthful benefits of brown bag lunches, leftovers, sandwiches, salads, etc. While preparing your own meals four days a week may sound prohibitive on a busy schedule, with the right planning (are you detecting a theme here?) you can get by with as little as two days of prep weekly by being smart about reusing your leftovers.

So how am I doing? I could cite personal stats (dropped over 90 pounds, body fat down from 35 percent to 25 percent, etc.) but numbers only tell part of the story. In my case I don’t think the most telling aspect can be quantified on a scale or recorded in a food log. Sometimes anecdotal evidence says it all …

Typically when my sister-in-law and brother ask what I’d like for Christmas I’ll suggest a gift card for either iTunes or Golf Galaxy, a chain of golfing superstores. This year I asked for a Sur La Table gift card, which I parlayed into a Vitamix blender to make healthy and nutritious smoothies, soups, desserts and veggie dishes.

(Mashed potatoes top my list of comfort foods. Last year during a cooking class a chef showed me how to make mashed cauliflower. I still remember her Vitamix transforming a touch of garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, fresh chives, and a head of cauliflower into a bowl full of awesomeness. I may never eat mashed potatoes again!)

So as 2013 unfolds the question is: would I still fit in my 36-inch jeans without the support of my group? Or without Jen’s, Lisa’s and Avril’s coaching? Maybe, maybe not … but for now I’m “re-enlisting”. Oh yeah, I’ll also be swinging kettle bells. My goal for the next six months is to gain a few pounds — of muscle, that is.

Will it work?

Check with me next year.

Rush ELM (Eat well, Love better, Move more) is a comprehensive six-month weight and lifestyle management program. Only six spots remain. If you have already participated in at least six months of Rush ELM anytime in the past, 15 spots remain for the follow-up program. Call Angel or Janiesha (312) 942-3133 or email rush_prevention_center@rush.edu to sign up. Call Jennifer at (312) 942-8336 or email jennifer_ventrelle@rush.edu for more information about the program.

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3 thoughts on “‘If You’re Not Moving Ahead, You’re Falling Behind’

  1. Bill,
    I am thrilled with your results and enthusiasm. I’m working on eating better (healthier choices, non-processed, non-GMO, fresh and homemade). You are an inspiration and we have the honor of seeing you around the campus as a constant reminder of how amazing it can be commit to a new way of life!

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