A guest blog post by Jim Toth.
So there was this guy ... you all may know a guy just like him. He’s about 70 lbs. or so overweight, he drinks diet soda all day, his job is overly stressful, he smokes pretty close to two packs a day and eats processed/fast food daily.
Sounds pretty plausible in America right?
He may look something like this ...
Yep, this is me!
This picture was taken shortly before the event that changed my life and the lives of many people around me.
The Perfect Storm
You can see from the photo above that my lifestyle was fairly typical in the U.S.
For about a year I had been having some discomfort in my chest. I had been to my family MD, the ER twice and had done two nuclear stress tests, the diagnosis... ANXIETY! Here have some Xanax. In fact, on my last stress test, the technician doing the imaging actually told me I had the heart of a twenty year old ... WOOHOO Smoke up Johnny!
While all of this is going on, my work-life was unstable and stressful. We were in the middle of a merger between two goliath wireless companies and there was essentially twice the number of employees that were needed.
My Lifestyle Finally Catches Up with Me
August 23rd. 2009, at the age of 38, I was doing my usual Sunday yard work and I was just a grumpy cuss. No real reason, just aggravated and not myself. I had been taking breaks very often and I attributed it to the August heat.
Later that evening, as I was sitting with my wife I mentioned that my chest was heavy and that I was having pain radiating down both arms and up into my jaw. She asked ever so sweetly, “Do you want a Xanax? or you can put your head on my lap and relax?” (Thinking I was just having “another anxiety attack.")
Within an hour, I had become nauseous and began having cold sweats and asked Danielle to take me to the ER ... again!
This time was the real deal, full on heart attack, turns out if all of my arteries are blocked equally ... and my stress test imagery reads as a healthy heart. I had an 80% blockage in my LAD (Left Anterior Descending) and two 80% blockages in my right Coronary artery. I was told during the heart catheterization that if the condition was not caught before the MI that I would have been in for open heart surgery immediately.
The Moment of Truth
Let me step back to the defining moment (for me anyway.)
Just before we left the house, as I was holding my left arm in the classic “hey I’m having a heart attack pose,” you know the one ... I reached over and stamped out my last Marlboro. I got up and left my pack of smokes that had not left my side in over 20 years sitting on the coffee table and headed to the hospital.
The Progression of Change
I was given some heart healthy guidelines while at the hospital from the American Heart Association and followed them strictly for about 6 months. My workouts were getting better and were mostly cardio focused, on the treadmill and elliptical.
At my first stress test and blood work, I saw improvement and had dropped about 15 lbs. I had about 8 prescriptions and my cholesterol levels had improved pretty significantly. I attribute that mostly to actually moving and cutting out fast food completely.
I was constantly searching for info and ways to adapt my diet; I came across the China Study and Dr. Esselstyn which suggests that all oils need to be removed and a strict vegan protocol be followed. I did this for about three months and noticed consistently my workouts suffer, my mental sharpness was gone and my work was even suffering.
Back to “google”! I started to see articles about the side affects of statin drugs and the brain’s need for good fats.
At this same time, my lovely sister Laura was in the midst of revamping her lifestyle due to my too-close-of-a-call. She was sharing Paleo blogs on Facebook daily and I thought well that’s interesting and read this and that and kept adapting my diet with different studies I was reading until I came across Robb Wolf on a podcast.
I quickly realized that my system was basically Paleo with the exception of legumes and a small amount of grains. I am proudly Paleo for two years now, and off all meds except Plavix (due to the three stents in my heart.) I’m also proud to say that the rest my family has followed suite and are going on almost a full year living Paleo.
The Physical Movement Piece
From the moment my cardiologist said go, I was hard at getting in shape.
It started with light cardio, and as I got stronger, I logically progressed into more exciting and stimulating forms of cardio. I stumbled into a spin class and was hooked.
At this point I was getting into strength training as well.
Much like everyone with a membership to a mega gym, I was on my own making mistakes in form and movement and thinking I was doing it great.
I struggled for a couple years with the physical (vanity) aspect, (I was defiantly healthier and my blood work was awesome).
I met a great trainer named Mike in RI, who became a great friend. In working with him, I was able to make some pretty astounding advances in strength and conditioning. He introduced me to HIIT and some other unconventional training methods that emphasized whole body strength and movements.
After saying goodbye to RI returning to Ohio, I was looking for a gym for almost two years that had the same feel as my beloved gym in RI.
Also at this time I started to explore more unconventional methods like Kettlebells, indian clubs, battling ropes, and much more body weight work. I had thoroughly fallen in love with kettlebells and the full body benefit they afford in minimal time.
Home at Last!!!
Just about a year ago, I got a message from that same lovely sister pointing me to a group of people that work out and live Paleo just to the north of my town in Dublin, Ohio called MovNat Ohio.
I did some looking into it and I think I sent an e-mail for info and it slid to the wayside as life and work took over for a while.
Until a chance post on Facebook by Lori from MovNat Ohio of her breakfast, looking all yummy in it’s Paleo goodness, and that prompted me to comment and Lori invited me to come work out.
It was an instant feeling of being home. The focus on wellness and food as medicine, incorporating natural human moment and efficiency of that movement into daily life, AND!!!! she is RKC certified!
So, I am in my higher primate heaven.
In the two months with MovNat Ohio, we (Danielle and I) have seen amazing increases in strength, flexibility, and wellness. The best part it’s done so with out massive soreness and injury that usually accompanies a do-it-yourself-the-hard-way regimen.
So I Guess What I’m Trying to Say...
Don’t wait until you are nearly dead and facing open heart surgery to make a change.
I was extremely lucky and SO stupid! With the wealth of information literally at our fingertips, don’t let the fear of change or discomfort of starting a new exercise program stop you. Believe me the alternative is far more expensive, painful, life disrupting, and terrifying.
Today Jim is an inspiration to us all as he trains toward acquiring his RKC.