Okay, so I’m frustrated… at myself. I have been trying, relentlessly, to pull up the clip of Fox Business News featuring the heart disease survivors, Natasha Fleishman and Eileen Drezcka, who were on to discuss their “Red Dress Ready” success by losing weight on Nutrisystem (I need to state that I don’t endorse Nutrisystem. They are working with my charity of choice, WomenHeart: The National Coalition of Women With Heart Disease. I’m just for women being empowered and losing weight to better their health–no matter the diet program).
Anyway, I watched the clip live and they looked fantastic. They spoke fantasticly. I was impressed.
So instead of streaming the Fox segment, I want to share some of Natasha Fleishman’s inspiring story and include the lessons I personally took away from hearing it.
In 2002, when I was 33, I suffered sudden cardiac arrest followed by CPR and five shocks from the defibrillator. I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (a weakening of the heart muscle or a change in heart muscle structure), but my arteries were clear.
Lesson 1 (Chels). Heart Disease strikes even the young. I’m 30 and I read mags like “Heart Healthy Living” because I know prevention is key to a happier life later on.
It was surprising that I had a heart condition because I exercised faithfully and ate plenty of organic vegetables and tofu, though that doesn’t mean that I was thin. My problem has never been which foods to eat or how to eat healthfully. My problem has always been too much zest for life and feeling like if a little something is good, some more is even better!
Lesson 2 (Chels): Just because foods are healthy, doesn’t mean you are allowed to throw portion control out the window. Even though 100% whole wheat bread is better than white bread, if you eat five pieces of it, your still taking in lots of carbs and calories. And don’t get me started on how organic is a faux license to eat with abandon.
I lost weight immediately after my cardiac event, when I was fearful that I must do everything correctly or die. As my heart stabilized, with medication and an implanted defibrillator, I became more complacent about making sure that everything I did was heart healthy. There’s something about facing death down once–suddenly there isn’t an occasion to small to celebrate. Every moment with my kids (3 and 6 at the time of my arrest) was to be cherished with a lunch out (a healthy bagel, of course, no Big Macs here) or celebrated with ice cream. My weight went back up.
Lesson 3 (Chels): Once you decide to lose weight, you have to be in it for the long-haul. It really isn’t a diet, it should be a lifestyle (I know you have heard this before). Also, once you lose weight, your metabolism slows and you don’t need as many calories. Therefore, you need to reduce food intake as your weight drops.
About 4 years later, I joined a diet study of sudden cardiac arrest victims at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I was put on the Mediterranean diet and followed it faithfully. I was once again thin by the end of the study and was determined to stay that way. I did wonderfully through my father’s battle with cancer and eventual death. I kept the weight off for a full year. I only gained it back after a harrowing school board election where I was elected, serving on the Board on top of my full-time job and my son being diagnosed with a special ed condition and kicked out of his school. The stresses were too much and I resorted back to my habit of eating with stress, on top of not having enough time to exercise regularly.
Lesson 4 (Chels): Stress can derail your good intentions. God, I can relate to this. Something that is so important to keep in mind, especially as women (aka caretakers) is that YOU ARE ONLY ONE PERSON. And if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to optimally take care of anyone else!
Check back for more heart-healthy tips, recipes and motivational stories throughout February. You can also visit Womenheart.org to learn more about these amazing “Red Dress Ready” WomenHeart Champions. As always, keep counting.