It took one terrifying scare to make some incredible changes in the life of one St. John’s man
Bill Jeffery lost one hundred and sixty pounds in just over a year and it has, as one would expect, changed his life. While that accomplishment in itself is quite the reason to celebrate, the take-aways he’s earned in the process are pure gold.
Lesson one? Never ignore the warning signs. “It’s funny. I just read the story about Jesse (Stirling, A Second Chance) and he had a heart attack and ignored the signs, and so did I,” Jeffery begins.
Men, he continues, are often brought up to not seek help, often leading to delays in treatments for many ailments, both mental and physical.
“I had symptoms for about an hour or so one day and I was drinking coffee. I figured I was heartburn, so I threw the coffee out and it went away.”
The next day, off he went to work and he once again experienced the same symptoms.
“It was in the afternoon and I experienced a crushing type of pain in the lower chest area. I figured it was heartburn again. I was drinking coffee. Again, I threw the coffee out. This time the pain didn’t go away.”
Still, he remained at work.
“I got through a couple of meetings, squirming and in a lot of pain. I went home and I rested. My wife, Leanne, asked why I was lying down. That’s something I generally don’t do. I’m like, I’m fine. No big deal. Then I started to experience shortness of breath. More pain. Just to appease my wife, I drive myself to the hospital. She’s in the passenger seat, not figuring I was having a heart attack. But sure enough, when we got in, that’s what it was.”
That this father of two – Erica, 15 and Reed, 14 – is here to tell the tale is miraculous, and no one recognizes that more than Jeffery.
“I’ve lost weight a couple of different times in my life, but I’ve always found that eventually I end up back on the couch and I’m eating badly and putting weight back on. But this time it could go one of two ways. I had to either get moving and get some of the weight off or go the other way, which wasn’t an option for me. I’m a father, for one thing. You look at your kids and you say, ‘well, what are we going to do here?’ You’re modeling behavior for them. Still, it’s a whole lot easier to say I got to get healthy but a whole different mentality to actually get healthy.”
Jeffery revamped his diet and he started to move, often with his wife at his side encouraging him along the way.
Once he was able, the 47 year-old began going to the gym multiple times a week. The first change he noted? He just started to feel “better.”
“You feel better, you look a lot better for sure. Your mentality changes. You feel a new or a newer purpose. Now, every day is still a struggle when it comes to eating and eating properly and that sort of thing but the big shift for me was focusing on getting healthy as opposed to losing weight and focusing on what I can eat versus what I can’t eat.”
For Jeffery, this was about saving his life, not just about eating for weight loss, so having his head in the game was critically important.
“It’s a lifestyle. It’s a whole different way of looking at being healthy, because you’re looking at the kids and you know they’re watching what you’re gonna do here. You got some adversity you face, and dad has always been bulletproof and now he’s home on the couch. But how did he respond to this?”
His son began going to the gym as well, and everyone in the family seems to be embracing a healthier overall lifestyle these days.
“We reject fast food and convenient meals, for instance, not just me, but the kids too. Funny how you can make these changes for yourself and sometimes you’re not cognizant enough, good or bad, that you’ve got little eyes that are there following what you’re doing. You’re certainly impacting kids as well and changing how they view adversity and life overall,” he says.
His advice to other men facing similar challenges? “Find something that works for you and stick with it. Everybody’s different,” he says sincerely.
Not everything he did will work in all cases. The key is to be consistent. “Change your focus. Remember, there’s a mental component when it comes to losing weight and recognizing that was the biggest thing I did that led to my success.”
For many of us from this province, our eating styles have been passed down through many generations.
“Here in Newfoundland, we got things like a baloney cookbook. We got our salt meat we need to have every Sunday. We’re not necessarily known for having the best eating habits to begin with so our culture doesn’t help. Our weather, as we know, certainly doesn’t help by encouraging us to get outside. But you’ve got to find things that you do like and you either do it and embrace the fact that you’ve got to keep doing it for the long haul while also making that mental shift towards getting healthy, or you give up. And giving up just wasn’t an option for me,” he says.
Jeffery says that for him, looking around at all the reasons he had to live for helped him make the right choice.
“I saw how important it was to getting healthy for not only me but for my family, both physically and mentally. A lot of us got other people watching to see how we’re modeling behavior, and that should be a motivating factor for a lot of men. I know it was for me.”