Gray: The direct route to better health

Last week, my husband Jeff was a keynote speaker at an environmental conference in Tobermory, Ontario, a beautiful village on the other side of Lake Huron. When he mapped out his trip on Google Earth, he was delighted that it was only 90 miles away from our home in Alpena. The problem, however, was the huge body of water that separated the two locations.

To get there the fastest and most directly, he would have needed a plane or a ferryboat. Neither of those were options. So, he drove. Round trip from Alpena to Tobermory by vehicle was 870 miles. That is a considerably longer distance. He spent more than 18 hours and $300 in gas for the trip- basically a lot more time and money – to get somewhere that was just a hop, skip and jump away.

This same analogy is true for your health. There is a short distance between “Point A” (your health right now) and “Point B” (an improved state of health). You can take a direct route or you can wind your way around and spend a lot more time and energy to achieve a similar result. It is not about taking shortcuts, it is learning to find a more direct route.

Let me tell you about a local man who found a direct route and less than one year later has added years to his life.

Kevin LaPorte, 46, of Alpena avoided his annual physical for 25 years. He had not been to the doctor since high school. Why? He was unhealthy and he knew it. He did not want a doctor to prescribe pills to fix his high blood pressure or high cholesterol. He did not want to know that his weight was causing back pain, knee pain, or that he had a greater chance of getting heart disease. He simply was not ready to hear it.

Kevin had been an athlete in high school, but those days were long forgotten when he started working the family business and raising a family. He stopped exercising and began eating whatever he wanted, often rewarding himself for a hard, long day of work with unhealthy food and drinks.

One day he looked down and wondered when he became so comfortable letting his belly hang over his belt. He realized he needed to take care of himself or else he would end up like his father-overweight, over worked and suffering.

Kevin started walking before and after work. Just a half-mile at first, but he soon worked up to three miles. He also started eating more salads and making smarter decisions on the menu when he was eating out at business dinners. He was known for bringing boxes of doughnuts to job sites. He stopped. These small changes, done on a consistent basis, helped him lose 30 pounds.

With that success, he felt ready to challenge himself more. He joined a health club because he knew that would get him to the next level in fitness. He felt welcomed and met people who would cheer him on and support his journey.

To get started, he met with a certified personal trainer to design a fitness program that was safe and effective for him. After years of avoiding fitness, he wanted to commit full force and needed some guidance to start the right way.

It worked. He has a cardio and strength program that he loves. He is a creature of habit and comes up to the club every day after work. Even on evenings when he would rather head out for a motorcycle ride, he does his workout first. It is his “new normal” and he is not looking back.

Today he is 45 pounds lighter and finally went to the doctor for a physical. Kevin already felt healthy but now he has a doctor’s stamp of approval too. His blood work and weight are right on target and in a healthy range.

Kevin’s story shows us that you can turn your health around at any time in your life if you just decide. Decide to eat better foods. Decide to exercise even when it is not convenient. Decide that living life without medications is better. Decide to surround yourself with healthy people.

Kevin has gone from unhealthy habits to being a mouthpiece for health and fitness. Once he decided to change, he took the direct route by cleaning up his eating and exercising. He found a plan and he found support from others. He arrived at his new destination happier than ever.

Trina Gray is the owner of Bay Athletic Club, a mother of two, a national presenter on fitness and wellness and a change agent in the community. Her wellness column appears monthly.