Two steps from a heart attack

"Big John" Rowgo

“Big John” Rowgo was tired all the time. At 300+ pounds, the 47-year-old Home Depot supervisor had already undergone two knee surgeries because of his weight.

He loved his job, but it required him to be on his feet all day. That was taking a toll on his body. He started thinking about his future. And his family’s future.

“My family was the biggest influence on my decision to change,” said John.

His idea of healthy: Vegetables on a burger

John rarely exercised. He also wasn’t eating right. An average dinner was two hamburgers and a plate of greasy fries.

“Back then, my idea of healthy was putting vegetables on a burger,” he said.

John’s weight was straining his health, physically and mentally. It dragged his mood down and crushed his attitude. His wife, Pam, grew worried as John came home from work every night and planted himself in front of the television.

But like so many other people who see a need to change, John couldn’t find the motivation to do it.

“I was two steps from a heart attack,” he said. “I was a ticking time bomb and I wasn’t getting it.”

John’s wake-up call

In 2010, John took a health risk assessment on his Aetna secure member website. The results were scary.

“My cholesterol and my blood pressure were both off the charts,” John said.

The news that his cholesterol was still high, even after being on medication for two years, alarmed him.

John couldn’t argue with the results of his health risk assessment. He knew he needed to change his lifestyle if he wanted to be around to provide for his family. But he still wasn’t sure how to start.

Then he got a phone call.

The game plan

The results of John’s health risk assessment identified him as a candidate for a wellness program. Ricky Moore, an Aetna coach, called John. Ricky offered to help John lose weight.

 “Ricky really got involved and became a friend,” John said.  “I don’t think he realizes just how big a part of this he was.”

Ricky helped John set up exercise and diet plans, and gave him advice on sticking to them. When John’s knee problems flared up, Ricky coached him through the setbacks.

John had a very specific goal in mind. “I knew exactly how I needed to obtain it,” he said. “Once I got started in that mindset, nothing could stop me.”

Making the change

After starting the program, John’s mood improved. His attitude changed at home and at work.  “I was finally happy with the person staring back at me in the mirror,” he said.

Pam noticed a change, too. John used to come home from work each night and plop on the couch. Now he couldn’t wait to get to the gym.

“It’s amazing what a healthy body and a healthy mind will do to change your entire life,” John said.

Staying the course

John has lost 125 pounds since he began the program. He doesn’t have to take cholesterol medication anymore.

And he’s also helping others to meet their health goals. John organizes wellness events at work, and motivates others around him to live healthier lives.

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