When Ron Prague reached the finish line of a one-mile walk test at work last year, he was out of breath. He was sweaty. His legs, feet, and knees ached. And he seriously wondered if he needed medical attention. In the 22 minutes it took him to walk one mile, another co-worker walked two miles. And at 360 pounds, Prague realized that his health, weight, and lifestyle habits were at a tipping point.
"I felt like I was going to meet my maker that day," Prague says. "I was breathing so hard I couldn't have a conversation. I thought I might not be able to finish, and someone would have to come and pick me up. It was a complete eye-opener to realize how far I had really let my health go, and I started thinking about my mortality in real terms."
The one-mile walk was part of the annual Wellness Day at Wellsource, where Prague is a systems administrator. Ironically, even though he worked for a company in the business of promoting corporate health and wellness, Prague admittedly neglected to embrace the concept of eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and living a healthy lifestyle.
He was not alone. An estimated 68 percent of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about half of all Americans exercise at least 30 minutes three days a week, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise are the top reasons why people weigh more than ever. Those are also reasons why heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the top 10 causes of death in United States.
"I was really, really in denial about how bad my physical condition had gotten," Prague says. "My results from the one-mile walk, the fitness day, and the HRA just blew my mind. I realized I had to do something different. And it couldn't be the same crazy, restrictive diets or exercise programs I've tried before. I've lost a lot of weight that way, but it's not sustainable. I had to find a different way."
Prague read back issues of WellNotes®, a monthly health newsletter published by Wellsource. He reviewed the health recommendations in his Personal Wellness Profile™. He read a series of books on behavioral change and habit formation. He turned to co-workers for advice about how to eat healthier and exercise more. He asked his wife and family for support. And he began formulating a plan to change his ways, eat healthier, and be more physically active.
"I came to the conclusion that I really had to make a lifestyle change," Prague says. "I've heard it said so often, but the words never held any meaning for me. I decided to embrace it and the whole idea of wellness. Instead of going on a restrictive diet, I decided that I was going to make healthier choices and exercise more. But it's easy to decide you want to change. Actually doing it is a lot harder."
Prague didn't let old habits keep him from trying. He put his scale away. He started taking his dog for a walk two days a week. He planted a vegetable garden so he could make his own salads. He played active video games with his kids where they challenged each other to jump rope, punch blocks, and perform dance moves. He curbed his craving for soft drinks and fast food. And he hardly noticed the changes taking place until the next Wellness Day one year later.
"I lost 40 pounds," Prague says. "And I improved every aspect of my life. Across the board, the results from my fitness test and HRA were better. I feel better. I move better. And I don't have the aches and pains I used to have. The side effects of eating healthier, being more active, and making healthier choices have been incredible."
This year, Prague finished the one-mile walk in 16 minutes. He talked with co-workers along the way, and wasn't out of breath when he was done. A few days later, he checked off another accomplishment. He hopped on a bicycle and rode nine miles to work. "I'll be honest," Prague says. "If I hadn't done the one-mile walk last year, I have no idea where my health would be at this point. This wellness program changed my life, and I feel like I have the momentum to keep going."
About Ron Prague
Systems Administrator for Wellsource, Inc.
Favorite healthy snack
Sliced Persian cucumbers with red wine vinegar; turkey slices with avocado
Favorite exercise activities
"My attitude. I have no short-term goals, but I have a direction. That direction is to live a healthier life on a day-to-day basis. That's been the key to being successful and will help me going forward."