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11 Tips for a Healthier You: Advice from Lady Luck's GM
We’re six months into 2016, and it’s likely that many of us have let our New Year’s Resolution go by the wayside. There goes our chance at a healthy lifestyle! But there is still time to get back on the bandwagon.
Making changes in our lives is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Lady Luck Casino® Vicksburg’s General Manager, Paul Avery, is a perfect example! His inspiring story might be the inspiration we need to get back on the health track in 2016.
Paul worked hard to not only lose weight and get in shape, but to also change the unhealthy habits that he was used to. Along the way, he not only transformed his physical appearance, but his overall outlook as well!
We asked him 11 questions to see what words of wisdom he had for us:
1. What has been your biggest challenge throughout your weight loss journey?
Paul Avery: The biggest challenge came early in the process. After the initial weight loss, I had to understand and accept that there would be weeks when I would hit a plateau, and wouldn’t seem to be making any progress.
2. What does your diet and exercise plan consist of?
PA: This is not a temporary eating plan; I changed the way I treated my body in every way, from nutrition to activity. From the onset, I implemented what I call the 4 P’s: Positive attitude, Produce, Protein, and the Pavement.
a. Positive Attitude – I list this first because it is the most important. You have to remain positive about yourself and what you are trying to accomplish. There are certainly days when I eat something that I know isn’t healthy for me, but that’s okay. I just don’t let those days become the norm.
b. Produce – I love that I leave a grocery store now with more items from the produce section than any other area. I’ve introduced myself to new things like spaghetti squash, zucchini, and other vegetables around which I can base whole meals.
c. Protein – Nothing fills you up like protein. I normally will make a salad every day and top it with some form of protein; chicken, pork, or steak. I also found a low sugar / high protein shake that I drink for snacks during the day.
d. Pavement – Running. When I started, I could barely run for 60 seconds, which was fine. I found an app for my iPhone called Couch to 5k, which literally gets you off the couch and running. I saw the 5K as the ultimate goal. It is hard to imagine for some, but I thought to be able to run 3.1 miles without stopping would be an amazing achievement. You can always find an excuse not to exercise so don’t. I get up at 5AM, have my running clothes laid out already and hit the pavement by 5:15. By 6AM, I have already had my cardio for the day. Before I started getting healthy, I wouldn’t even get up until 6:30. Also, “Runner’s High” is a real thing; there is something you feel when you get done; you just feel better. I can’t think of a better way to start the day. It really puts you in a positive state of mind.
3. What was the hardest food to cut out of your diet or eat in more moderation?
PA: I am 50% Italian, so my mother, who was born and raised in Bari, Italy, raised us on pastas and bread, and I didn’t want to give it up. However, I soon found alternative ways to enjoy these items; I use spaghetti squash in place of pasta, and found a good low-carb wrap that I use for sandwiches / hamburgers. Sometimes, I just use a big piece of lettuce instead of bread or buns for hamburgers. It was hard at first, but after almost a year, I don’t miss it anymore.
4. Did you find it hard to stay positive? What words of encouragement would you have for others trying to change their lifestyle?
PA: One day at a time. When starting out, just try to have more good days than bad. If possible, exercise in the morning; it will set the tone for your whole day. Drink lots of water. Sometimes when you think you are hungry, you are really just thirsty. Don’t weigh yourself every day. Pick one day a week, and do it that same day at the same time. Even if the numbers on the scale are not what you expected, believe in what you are doing.
5. What were your short term goals?
PA: My goals were not weight related. I wanted three things: 1) Get off blood pressure medicine, which I took because of my weight; 2) Get off cholesterol medicine which I also took because of my weight; and 3) Get my waist below 40 inches, not so much for vanity purposes but because storing that much fat in the stomach area leads to many health issues.
6. What are your long term goals?
PA: This lifestyle is my life now. I have been on diets in the past, but they were things that I mentally knew I would stop doing when I reached a certain weight because they were not sustainable.
7. How much total weight have you lost?
PA: I don’t know exactly, but it’s safe to say around 90 pounds.
8. Did you use any commercial diet books, programs, or plans that helped? If so, which ones?
PA: I did not follow a specific diet. I didn’t even count calories. However, if I could recommend to anyone two programs to use when starting out it would be MyFitnessPal and Couch to 5K. The first one is critical. It gives you accountability by requiring you to enter everything you eat. I set goals every day for carb and protein intake. As long as I hit those goals, I knew I was doing fine. Again, I didn’t look at calories, but if you hit the carb and protein goals, you normally would not have a problem keeping your calories in check. As for Couch to 5K, it was a life-saver. It guided me from day one, when I was only able to run for 60 seconds, to running a 5K by the end of week eight. Once I completed that, I switched to an app called MapMyRun, which now times my miles and sets goals for me.
9. What surprised you most about your weight loss?
PA: This may sound simple, but I can’t believe how good I feel when moving around and doing things. I find myself with so much more energy.
10. Did you set any expectations for yourself to reach in regard to the Magnolia Meltdown Half Marathon?
PA: A friend and colleague of mine talked me into doing the half marathon. I really was just happy shooting for a 10K. My goal was just to run it. I had no time goal; I just wanted to run the entire route.
11. So, what’s next?
PA: I still have work to do. I am now training for a sprint triathlon in August, which will feature a ½ mile swim, 22 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. After that, I will probably switch back to another long distance run. However, most critically, I want to help bring awareness to the importance of being active and choosing the right foods. My state has the 3rd highest obesity rate in the nation. I was part of the problem. I now want to help be a part of the solution. It is never too early or too late to start eating healthy and living an active lifestyle. I hope others will join me.
From our interview with Paul, it sounds like his most important rule is having a positive mindset. Anyone can lose weight or run a half marathon, but it takes a truly inspired person to seek change through positivity.
Positivity can be found all around us, from the attitudes we adopt to the way we treat ourselves and others. Even events like the Magnolia Meltdown, which seeks to raise awareness about the obesity epidemic in the United States, are so important to uniting communities and inspiring people to get active. Magnolia Meltdown continues to promote positivity and generosity, and all proceeds from the event are donated to the St. Dominic Community Health Clinic in downtown Jackson.
A huge thank you to Paul Avery for taking the time to recount his journey toward adopting a healthy and active lifestyle. Like he said, it’s never too late to make positive changes to your life, so get back on track with your New Year’s Resolution!