Three Associates' Journey to Health
It's said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For OhioHealth associates Scott Estep, Jessica Medina and Roland Tokarski, that step was taking control of their health through lifestyle changes that put them on the path to lifelong wellness.
Scott Estep, senior advisor of Portfolio Management, knew he needed to make some drastic changes in his life when he found himself in the emergency department with every clinical sign of a heart attack. Fortunately, there wasn't actually anything wrong with his heart, but his blood pressure was extraordinarily high – even with medication. Instead of prescribing him a third medication, his doctor advised him to manage his stress and lose weight.
Estep understood, at 283 pounds, he needed to get his weight under control. "But the whole cut down stress thing?" He said, laughing, "Not in this job."
A month later, Estep heard the same advice, this time from an executive coach he was working with through the High Potential Directors program. "He told me I had the most detailed corporate professional development plan he'd ever seen, but it wasn't what I really needed to work on. He said, 'Man, you need to take better care of yourself.'"
Estep's commitment to losing weight began with swapping meat and refined sugar for more fruits and vegetables. Along with a healthier diet, Estep began riding his bike and using a rowing machine a few days a week. More importantly, Estep acted on his coach's advice, and began meditating with the Headspace app.
"I did the whole Scott 2.0 reboot," he said.
Over the course of 18 months, Estep lost 55 pounds and went from a size 42-inch waist to a size 36. But more important than what he lost is what he gained through his meditation practice.
"It has completely changed my perspective on all things in my life," he said.
Estep meditates for at least 20 minutes each day. No exceptions. If he can't get a session in at home, he carves out time in his schedule at work.
"I've learned to be in the moment," he said. "Happiness is in the now. It's not in the past – that's over; don't dwell on it. You can't think about times you were happy a few years ago. You also have to stop thinking that you'll be happy when you get these six things done. Happiness is in the now."
Prior to taking his wellness journey, Estep admits he wasn't a happy person.
Now, not only does he feel better physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. "It's made a real difference in my relationships not only at work, but at home with my wife and daughter," said Estep. "And I'm happy. I'm just genuinely happier than I've ever been in my life," he added.
In 2016, Jessica Medina was not looking forward to her annual biometric screening. New to OhioHealth, she estimated that she hadn't been to the doctor for about 10 years, and was concerned that her results would not be good.
"I've been overweight my whole life and could just never find the time or motivation to work on it," she said.
Medina's screening experience was a positive one, made easy by friendly and supportive associates. But learning that she was prediabetic was a major wake-up call, sparking memories from her childhood of a health emergency her father suffered.
"I said, 'let's make this a pivotal moment and focus on yourself,' something I'd neglected for the longest time," she said. "I'm usually the last person on my priority list."
Medina was eager to jump into OhioHealth's wellness opportunities. She enrolled in the online Diabetes Prevention program because of her erratic schedule as a service excellence ambassador at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. But it just didn't click. "I need to interact with people," she said.
A co-worker encouraged Medina to join Weight Watchers at her care site, and on February 13, 2017, her wellness journey entered a new phase.
Medina's weight started dropping, and within the first month or two, she was down 25 pounds. "I was literally taking it day by day, so I just kept asking myself, 'why stop now?'"
Medina's goal was to lose 30 pounds by her 30th birthday, but by the time it rolled around, she'd actually dropped 60 pounds. When it was time for her annual check-up, she was excited to go to the doctor for the first time in her life. And with good reason – in total, she'd lost 118 pounds.
"I used to come home from work in excruciating pain," she said, adding that her job sometimes requires her to walk as many as 22,000 steps in a single shift. "Now, the pain is minimal, and that feels so good."
The Weight Watchers program at Riverside Methodist made all of the difference for her.
"Before, I was sort of self-reliant, and that would only get me so far. I needed that extra support from my OhioHealth family – people who knew what I was going through," she said.
She has found a similar environment at 9Round Fitness, which offers kickboxing-themed workout classes she attends with her boyfriend.
While there are obvious physical changes, Medina said her wellness journey is much deeper than that.
"The weight isn't everything. I just remember a year ago when I was in so much pain and how much better I feel now," she said. "Just try to be the best you that you can be."
A New Relationship with Food
Roland Tokarski, system vice president of Real Estate, Construction and Facilities, knew he was going the wrong way – from a health perspective, a weight perspective and from a biometric perspective.
He was beginning to notice his energy waning and, more importantly, so were his 12- and 14-year-old children. After viewing photos from a family trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, he decided to make a change.
He'd watched friends within OhioHealth successfully lose weight and regain their health through the Medical Weight Management program at OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center, and felt it was the right program for him. He joined in July 2018.
The Medical Weight Management program is designed to help people lose weight without surgery through one-on-one interactions with OhioHealth weight-loss experts. Tokarski's program initially included establishing his baseline biometrics, setting goal biometrics and creating a nutritional diet consistent with his weight-loss goals. Working with a nutritionist, he was restricted to a 1,000-calorie-per-day diet made up of protein shakes and bars, and one meal of protein and vegetables.
"At first I was thinking, oh my goodness, I'm not going to be able to do this," said Tokarski.
As a diet veteran, Tokarski initially believed that this weight-loss effort would end up like all of the others. But then he lost four or five pounds in the first week. That was all it took.
"After that first week, I wasn't really that hungry and I started feeling fulfilled," he said. "And I started thinking, this just might work."
It did. Through the program, Tokarski lost 50 pounds in just over four months.
"I've never really had much self-discipline in the food category – none actually," he said.
The program changed Tokarski's relationship with food by restricting his intake to prescribed shakes and a narrow category of low-calorie foods, as well as educating him about unhealthy ingredients in popular restaurant meals and portion control.
"You certainly begin to pay significant attention to everything related to eating. It's not just mindless anymore," he said.
In September, Tokarski reached a "crowning moment" of his weight-loss journey. At his annual biometric screening, all three metrics – blood pressure, A1C and BMI – were within range.
"That was absolutely staggering to me because I'm not sure I've ever been in range," he said.
Having reached his goal weight, Tokarski is now in a phase of the program meant to help his body adapt to eating a wider variety of foods while incorporating an exercise program. He's not worried he'll revert to old habits. The knowledge he's gained and ongoing support he receives from program managers ensures he'll stay on a healthy path.
Tkarski's transformation is inspiring colleagues, and he's happy to discuss the program with interested co-workers and associates.
"It's been a fun journey," he said. "I'm a walking billboard for it now."
Take Control of Your Health
OhioHealth boasts a robust Wellness program designed to provide associates, their families and the community opportunities to improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being. For more information on programs, contact your care site Wellness Champion or visit OhioHealthyHub.com.
This story was originally published in an internal OhioHealth associate publication.
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