The first time we met Tony, a successful entrepreneur, he looked fearful, sad and desperate. Tony, a handsome Italian in his early fifties, had recently buried his wife.
Shortly after his wife’s death, Tony had a heart attack revealing an 80% blockage in one artery. Tony, only in his early fifties, found himself on a bunch of meds, a stint in his artery and scared to death about his future. “I want to get healthy and stay healthy–I’ll do whatever it takes.”
At the end of our first session, my husband Phil, also a health coach, Tony and myself agreed on two simple steps; cut out alcohol and fast food for the next week.
The next week Tony’s countenance had changed. “I feel really hopeful with you guys on my team”. Tony continued to tell us he wasn’t able to follow his program the prior week because he had to go to two ball games in Chicago, and part of the ball game experience was the Chicago Dog and beer. He also mentioned walking by a local pizza place with real New York Style Pizza and, as tradition would dictate, Tony had to have a pizza and a pitcher of beer while he watched the game.
Tony explained to us “As an Italian every activity has a special food. That’s just the way it is for Italians; food equals love”. Phil leaned forward and looked Tony in the eye, “Look, Tony, you’re a great guy, we like you.” Tony grinned and nodded, Phil continued (to my horror), “The bottom line is you are either going to follow this program or you’re not. If you don’t want to go any farther that’s OK with us, you paid us $3,500. We got our money; we’re good. You can quit now if that’s what you want to do.”
Tony stopped smiling, sat back, hit himself on the head and said “I paid you guys $3,500! I’ve got to get serious!” And that was all it took. From then on Tony followed his program–no excuses–and his program became a life changer.
Tony’s Breakthrough: Health problems weren’t the real motivators for Tony, however, “I paid good money for this, I better do it” motivated him to life long change.
Sal was also Italian and, like Tony, Sal had food for every activity, event, and emotion. I worked with Sal off and on for about six years. When he started feeling bad or wanted to do something athletic he would come see me, drop a few pounds and then gain back more.
Now Sal was desperate; he was about to turn fifty, at his highest weight, his blood pressure was up, his cholesterol was up and his doctor wanted him to take medicine. Sal read the side effects of the medicine and decided he didn’t want to go that route–so he called me–once again.
I listened to Sal give me his “I’m going to do it this time for sure” speech and then I asked him, “Sal, why do you keep coming back to me. You don’t stick with what you know works. What’s the real reason you want to lose weight and get healthy?” Here’s Sal’s response in his words:
“I think she (Celeste) realized I knew what to do, but I just wouldn’t do it. So she asked me why I wanted to change. She wouldn’t accept the standard answers relating to getting healthy again or losing weight. She asked, “why” do I want to do those things. I thought to myself, what a ridiculous question, but she continued to press. So I explained how my Mom, Rose, lost a battle to cancer at the age of 61.
And it was a long battle–11 years to be exact. So I saw her ups and downs and the pain and discomfort from all the various treatments. I also saw how if affected my brothers and my father. We weren’t being selfish–we were saddened by what this was doing to one of the sweetest people we knew and loved.
Then it hit me. I didn’t ever want my wife and boys to go through what I went through losing Rose. It tore me apart, even as an adult. It was so simple, yet so impactful. I knew that I could control my health if I started now. I don’t believe Rose was at fault, but I do firmly believe that we can all lessen our chances of succumbing to such diseases if we make radical changes to our eating and exercise habits.
Sal’s Breakthrough: Sal finally discovered the real reason he kept coming back “I didn’t ever want my wife and boys to go through what I went through losing Rose.”
George, a successful business owner in his late fifties, came to us with his wife, however, through some unfortunate circumstances ended up in separation before our second meeting. His wife called and canceled but George asked if he could keep the session. “This (losing weight and getting healthy) is something my wife has been on me to do. Maybe —”
George started with a few simple steps and each week built on the next. Within three weeks, George started feeling tired, weak and nauseated. He was worried this “health kick” was damaging his health. George’s doctor ran tests and gave his report. “Your health has drastically improved. We need to take you off your medications.”
Once off the medications that were keeping his blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and mood in check George began to feel fabulous. Feeling good kept George going, and he went on to lose over 30 pounds.
George’s Breakthrough: When George began to feel better than he had in years he stopped doing things to please his wife and others and began to do things for his betterment.
We call these breakthrough’s “Trump Cards”. You’ve probably played a card game with a Trump Card of a particular color or suit takes all. Having that “Trump Card” in your hand gives you an incredible feeling of power and control, you know you will win.
When you have a personal “Trump Card,” the real reason you want to make any change. You are able “throw down your Trump Card”, stick with your plan and you know you will WIN.
Tony’s Trump Card changed from “being Italian” to “paying a premium price to get healthy”. Six years later Tony writes:
“I’ve dropped 40 pounds; not since high school has that happened, a jaw-dropper for this 56-year-old and my cholesterol has dropped 60 points.
The doc said my advanced blood lipid panel was perfect. My cardiologist also supports my regiment, letting me know that the medicated stent I had for an 80% clogged artery nine years ago is literally a thing of the past. Regenerated, rejuvenated, and recalibrated. I am off all heart medications, and I’m one of the few people I know who prepares one of the most bodacious breakfasts in a Vita-Mix.
My goal of not paying hospital, medication, or doctor bills and living life to its fullest is on track. I know that when it is time for me to go it will be God’s calling–instead of the three cannoli’s I had the night before.
Knowledge and habit formation has taken the place of stupidity and ignorance and places me at a very restive point in my life. I no longer dwell on my mortality, no more pings near my heart, and no cravings at all for the foods that in the past have sabotaged my well-intentioned plans.”
Sal’s Italian Trump Card helped him achieve his goal in spite of a job that keeps him on the road. In just four months Sal was off his blood pressure medicine, down 42 pounds and his cholesterol dropped into normal from 220 to 134. Sal went on to lose 55 pounds in eight months and his Trump Card has helped him maintain his good health for over two years. Sal’s new found health has helped him improve his time in ironman and marathon competitions.
“Every time I have an urge to go off plan, I throw down my Trump Card. I feel like I did on that school bus playing Euchre in 1974, holding the Jack of Clubs—”NO-Unhealthy Lifestyle—I just trumped you!”
Six years later George is still off his medications. Although is marriage did not reconcile, George’s new Trump Card “Feeling Good” has allowed him to experience a fulfilling and exciting life leading mission trips around the world. George continues to eat well so his body is able to accomplish the dreams of his heart and fulfill God’s plans and purposes for his life. George shared his story on our radio show in 2014:
“I am convinced the changes from junk food and fast food and lots of sugar and soda to nourishing foods like fresh vegetable juices and raw fruits and veggies gave me the ability to change my thinking and eventually change the condition of my heart. I can honestly say I’m a different man than I was six years ago and I am very thankful for that.”
Men in their fifties and sixties begin to look for new life adventures. Is your body able to accomplish what your heart and mind dream? What is holding you back?
What is your Trump Card?
Author’s Note: Tony, Sal and George are real people who have given me permission to share their stories. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy. You can read their full stories on our website, www.thewellnessworkshop.org
Photo: Flickr/ H. C.