Rush 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).
The snow is falling. The winter winds are raging, you are over 50 years of age and you have to shovel the driveway. You may be aware that heart attacks are increased in winter, almost twice the rate as at other seasons. Why and how can you protect yourself?
The reason for the increase in heart attacks involves the cold weather primarily, although snow shoveling helps. Cold weather causes the arteries to constrict, increasing the work of the heart by raising the blood pressure. When the arteries have arteriosclerotic plaque, this decreases blood flow even more. Also, cold causes the heart rate to increase, making the work of the heart even greater. Finally, lifting snow with your shovel is an isometric exercise adding to the work of the heart by an increase in blood pressure.
If you want to shovel snow early in the morning, beware! This is the time of day when heart attacks are greatest, because of the surge of adrenaline that occurs around the time of awakening. With the decreased daylight hours there is also a tendency for depressed mood which can also affect the function of the heart.
When I arrived at Rush two years ago, I was a cheeseburger away from weighing 300 pounds.
I still remember the Sunday morning I got on my scale and it mocked me with three numbers: 2-9-9. I actually got on and off several times thinking the scale must be broken. Losing weight was always something I’d do “next week”. Suddenly next week was here; I had no desire to join the 300 club.
I always thought I could change things myself — after all, living a healthier lifestyle was simple, right? — so I never gave a second thought to any other way. Over the next few months I actually lost 25 pounds, but (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) the weight crept back, and 10 of those pounds returned like a bad penny.
The thing that finally got me on track was taking (for me) a real leap of faith: I let someone help me.