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Wellness Journey: From ‘bulked up’ to slimmed down

by on October 19, 2015

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees and retirees. All employees and retirees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is from Glen Williams, project manager at AEP Headquarters in Columbus. 

Where I was and how I got there:

          Glen Williams prior to changing to a healthier lifestyle.

I have always “worked out,” lifting weights and in the past I ran 5Ks, 10Ks and even a few half marathons. I was mostly focused on bulking up as I was a high school and college football official and umpire, so I took a pounding working in the middle of the field. I generally weighed around 275 pounds, but even at 6’4” tall, that is still overweight.

After 20 years of officiating baseball, softball and football, I decided it was time to retire from officiating in 2013, as it had taken a toll on my body, primarily my knees, and it was time to pursue some other interests. I continued working out. I had worked up to a maximum bench press of 365 pounds and was shooting for 380-to-400 pounds. I had essentially stopped running because of bad knees, thus I did very little cardio. On May 7, 2013, I was doing a typical bench press routine during my lunch hour at the YMCA up the street from 1RP and due to some freak circumstances, I suffered a complete break of the humerus bone on my left arm about 1-1/2 inches above my left elbow.

The subsequent surgery left me with two stainless steel rods and 22 screws in my left arm. The healing and physical therapy took nearly eight months, and I quit working out during most of that period. My weight ballooned to 305 pounds and by the New Year, I was as big as I had ever been.

My turning point:

At the start of 2014, I noticed I wasn’t sleeping as well as I always had. I would wake up some days with a headache in the back of my head, which was unusual for me — I never had headaches before. I no longer had the high level of energy I aways had, and even my mood had changed. I went from the high speed, low drag, positive person to someone I didn’t recognize. It was Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, and I woke up for the third or fourth day in a row with a headache. I did not feel right at all. Once I got to work, I went to see the nurse and she weighed me — 305 pounds — and took my blood pressure — 146/105. The nurse wanted to send me to the doctor right away, but I resisted and told her I would schedule an appointment with my family doctor, which I did. I also vowed that day I would change my lifestyle.

Significant changes:

When I went to my doctor a week later, all the red flags were there — elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, and overweight. She told me I was a risk for a stroke or heart attack, and a high risk for diabetes. These were things I didn’t expect to hear. My doctor wanted to put me on medications including blood pressure and cholesterol medications. I resisted and asked if I could try diet and exercise, and I assured her that I would stick with it and we would schedule follow-ups over the next couple of months. She agreed.

It helped a lot that Ash Wednesday was the next day. As a Catholic, it has always been my practice to give up something for Lent. I was determined that I would give up “JUNK” — all types of junk! If it wasn’t healthy and good for me, I wasn’t putting it in my body. I also vowed to work out every day of the week, including cardio, not building bulk. My grandfather told me two very simple things about losing weight when I was a teenager — “Eat right and exercise. It’s that simple, boy.”

Some things I did:

  • Downloaded two apps for my iPhone, My Fitness Pal and RunKeeper. My Fitness Pal helps you log all food eaten and exercise done each day. You set your target weight and date to achieve, and the app tracks your progress. RunKeeper logs your cardio events regardless of the activity.
  • I resumed working out at lunch every day. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. I walked every evening, starting out with one mile and progressing to five miles. I quit sitting around wasting time watching TV and got moving. Eventually I began to run again.
  • I cut out all sweets, high sodium foods and high carbohydrate foods during Lent — cookies, cakes, candy, pies, ice cream (my biggest weakness), donuts and soda pop; also potato chips and other foods high in sodium, along with breads, all of it — no cheating.
Glen Williams now runs, takes the stairs and eats healthier foods.

By the end of Lent, I had lost 30 pounds. By October, I had met my goal of 252 pounds, and reset my goal to 235 pounds, which I reached by January 2014. I now weigh between 225 and 220 pounds, and my new goal is 215 pounds. I have lost 80 pounds to date and have gone from a size 42 to 34 waist. I haven’t been in size 32 clothing since I was in seventh grade. I can tie my shoes without losing my breath. I can fit comfortably in a coach seat on an airplane. There are so many simple joys that I have experienced by not being overweight anymore.

My blood pressure is now 120/70 and my cholesterol is under 200. I am 50 years young and I am in the best physical shape of my life. I can do 400 pushups a day, 200 situps, and I have run 5Ks, 10Ks, and plan to run a half-marathon soon. And energy, baby, I got energy to burn!

Staying on track:

I have a partner who supports me and encourages me 100 percent. She trains with me when she can, constantly encourages me, and drives me. Also, I need a challenge or a goal — something on the horizon that I am continually striving toward. I have found there are plenty of opportunities out there if you look for them.

My diet consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, light proteins like turkey sausage, egg beaters and seafood; whole grain breads and pastas; light yogurt is my sweet treat. Lifestyle change is a constant effort. I continue to take the steps at work and some days, I make myself “earn” breakfast — I take the elevator from my floor to the lobby, get my oatmeal with raisins and honey, and climb back up 24 flights of stairs. When I go to the store, I park at the back of the parking lot because those extra steps add up.

Pay it forward:

The biggest factor in my weight loss is that I had to do it for myself. I couldn’t do it for someone else. I had to want it and to desire it. I truly believe you have to do it for yourself first. The second thing is that it becomes a habit if you continue to do it. I travel a lot with my job, which can be lead to very bad habits, eating out all the time and not exercising. However, I have found that there are many healthy choices available and nearly every hotel has access to a gym. Believe me, it becomes addictive. You will not want to miss a workout and you realize how hard you have to work to get rid of the bad stuff you put in your body.

So like my grandfather once told me, “There ain’t no secret to it — eat right and exercise. Now get out there and hoe the garden!” I will never forget that advice. It really works!

Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? Your story can be about weight loss, overcoming an illness, maintaining good health habits or some other health-related topic. Just send an email to dpwaitkus@aep.com.

From → Wellness

2 Comments
  1. Good job…keep up the good work

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