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The journey is its own reward

Every challenge opens new doors

It’s been six years since one Aetna employee took his first step toward healthy living – and had his last cigarette. Since then, he’s also lost more than 150 pounds while finding new ways to stay motivated

Joe Dragon began his quest for healthy living when he quit smoking on March 25, 2008. Drawing on willpower, as well as phone support from the Healthy Lifestyle Coaching program, Joe dealt with the cravings.

“My coach helped me understand withdrawal, and what I was feeling in my first few days and weeks,” Joe. Those days and weeks became months. And his coach continued to motivate him, always reminding him how far he had come. In March 2009, he marked a tobacco-free year – a huge achievement!

He also had gained weight, and was nearing the 400-pound mark. From earlier attempts, Joe knew taking off the weight would be tough.

Making it happen

But this time would be different. “I decided the dreaming was over, and it was time to get it done,” he said.

To work toward his goal of losing 150 pounds, he joined Weight Watchers. And he began to steadily lose weight. But results weren’t coming as quickly as hoped. So he added regular exercise to his schedule.

By fall 2010, Joe was walking four miles a day. And when the weather grew too cold? He joined a gym, working out three to four times a week.

Getting inspired

The weight was coming off. Still, Joe wanted more of a challenge. “If I’m out of my comfort zone, I’ll push myself harder,” he said.

So he signed up for charity walks. By June 2010, he had shed 83 pounds. Around that time, Joe also joined the Get Active healthy-eating and fitness challenge at work. “It’s a great tool. And it kept me accountable for my progress,” he said.

The passing of his grandmother, a big supporter of his new healthy ways, spurred Joe to amp up his routine even more. In the fall of 2011, he completed a 2-day, 33-mile charity walk. Then he ran a 5k race honoring the 9/11 firefighters.

Joe had lost a whopping 130 pounds by spring 2011. Still focused on that 150 end line, he kept pushing himself.

Finding success – and new challenges

By April 2013, Joe surpassed his goal, shedding a total of 155 pounds.

These days, he continues on his journey. This means eating right, hitting the gym and competing in events.

In his free time, Joe visits local companies and talks about his experience. He hopes to encourage others to take that first step – whatever it might be. He’s going back to school for a degree in nutrition. And he’s training to run his first marathon. But of his hard-fought success, Joe noted, “This isn’t a race. It’s a lifelong journey. And I love every second of it!”

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