It’s hard to get on a spinning bike or elliptical machine in many Western New fitness clubs on Saturdays in January. Come two minutes late to a Pilates or aerobics class and you’ll likely be out of your own patch of floor space, too.
A half year later, in July, there’s much more elbow room – and better weather is usually a small part of the reason.
More importantly, all those good intentions that came with New Year’s resolutions long since vanished into the familiar forms of our lives.
“Everybody wants to set a New Year’s resolution because we love the idea of change,” says Jennifer Read, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, former fitness trainer and avid runner. “It feels like we should change and it feels like we do want to change, but change is incredibly hard and it’s not typical.
“What’s typical is that we do what we’ve done before.”
But not every Western New Yorker who set noble goals for themselves earlier this year surrendered them to the comforts they’ve long known. This is the story of three of those people, who all share their experiences with the knowledge that if they could change bad habits the rest of us can, too – no matter what time of year.
The next step: Pairing food and fitness
Nancy Tetro started 2013 exhausted.
She was putting in long hours at the gym, but felt “thick” body-wise, particularly around her midsection. She lacked energy. She wasn’t sleeping well.
“I work out four to five days a week and I had it in my mind that I would work out so that I could eat whatever I wanted,” she says.
Josh Stewart, one of her trainers at the Hive Lifespan Center in East Amherst, told her, “It’s not going to happen”; that without a proper diet, her well-toned muscle would continue to hide under a layer of unhealthy fat.
So she decided a change was in order with the onset of the new year. Her goal: Lose 20 pounds and tune up her body.
Tetro, 46, of Williamsville, a married mother of four, is 5 feet 2. She weighed 132 pounds when she shifted gears. She worked with her fitness team to change up her workouts, keeping her twice a week spinning regimen but adding more strength training and a weekly Pilates class. She started training with others, instead of training alone. And she sought nutrition help from a friend, Karen Calandra, a registered nurse who recently became a holistic health coach.
She started reading food labels and controlling portion sizes. Away went the breakfast cereal and other starchy processed foods, in favor of an egg white scramble mixed with mushrooms, spinach and other greens, and a bit of feta cheese.
“I’ve taken the white out of my diet and all the fiber and the protein are coming from my fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Instead of reaching for a muffin or sweets at snack time, she now carries a plastic pouch of snow peas and carrots in her purse, and keeps frozen grapes at the ready in her freezer. And she doesn’t beat herself up if she occasionally slips and has some hard-to-resist red licorice. If she does the right thing 90 percent of the time, that’s better than surrendering constantly.
Tetro has met her weight loss goal since New Year’s. Her finely chiseled body has emerged. She lost three dress sizes and now wears a size 2, she says, “and I sleep so much better.”
“You have to eat the right foods,” she advises, sharing an insight from Calandra, whose husband, Salvatore, is a cardiologist:
“No one has ever gotten fat eating vegetables.”
Smoke-free and enjoying the savings
Wayne Kast will turn 50 next month, so he started a closer examination of his life last August, when he turned 49.
Kast, who works in purchasing at Iimak, a thermal printing and imaging company in Amherst, was overweight and he smoked.
As fortune would have it, his company decided last fall to offer a BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York weight management program, about the time Kast learned he had pre-diabetes, so he signed up. But his 30-year smoking habit seemed more daunting, so he put off quitting until this year, figuring he’d lose weight first, in case he packed some back on.
Kast tried to convince himself he was only a pack-a-day smoker, unlike others he knew who smoked two or three times that much. But in recent years he could feel the addiction grow stronger, including on his pocketbook. He was paying $78 a week – more than $4,000 a year – to buy cigarettes on Tuscarora Indian territory.
As the calendar year turned and his big birthday grew closer, he was ready to make a change.
Kast called the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (866-697-8487), which turned him to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Inhale Life program (877-500-2393). He was provided free nicotine patches and weaned himself down from the 21 mg patches to the 7 mg patches, to no patches at all. He also participated in a BlueCross BlueShield smoking cessation program at work this spring, after Iimak made its plant and surrounding grounds smoke-free.
“I didn’t think there was that much access (to services) for me” to quit, Kast said, or that it was free.
Not that it’s been easy. He admits to still getting cravings, though they usually only last for a minute or two.
Kast, who has tried quitting before, is confident this time things will stick. He’s banking his savings on cigarettes with plans for a nice birthday Aug. 26 and a two-week vacation in the coming months to North Carolina.
“Who would have thought a year ago I would have lost 60 pounds and quit smoking,” he said. “It’s all good.”
Making the sacrifice for family’s sake
Joe Biagiotti might be a native of Chicago, but he embraced the Buffalo lifestyle after moving to Western New York 15 years ago.
Chicken wings, pizza and beer.
It was a combination, over time, that pushed his weight to 365 pounds.
Biagiotti lived a good life along the way. After playing football at Division II Central Missouri State, he landed executive management jobs with Nationwide Insurance. He has run Biagiotti Nationwide Insurance in Amherst for most of his years in the region, and has been active in civic groups and at his church, St. Gregory the Great, helping manage Friday night Lenten fish fry fundraisers – and enjoying a good meal and some beers afterward.
As he pushed into his 50s, he knew his choices came with consequences. His father had died of a heart attack at age 51, and heart disease had claimed other male family members at ages even younger than that.
He decided early this year, at age 57, that he was living on borrowed time, and that time with wife, Belinda, and sons, ages 31, 26 and 24, were worth the sacrifices that would come with better health.
“It was more than a New Year’s resolution for me,” Biagiotti said. “It had to be.”
He reached out to Dr. Robert Gatewood at Buffalo Cardiology and Pulmonary Associates in Williamsville, who put together a 12-week program that focused on better nutrition and exercise.
This year, the foods that once dominated Biagiotti’s meal table have been replaced by vegetables, healthier proteins and plain Greek yogurt, with fresh fruit. Instead of sweating while getting dressed in the morning, or climbing the stairs, he sweats in the BCPA Fitness gym. Pop and two pots of coffee a day have been replaced by one cup of joe and lots of water.
“Cart and beer golf” has been replaced by walking 18 holes, just like the old days, and three weeks ago, Biagiotti beat all three of his sons in a family golf outing, for the first time in years.
He plans a camping trip on Labor Day weekend to celebrate the loss of “the first 100 pounds,” and fully expects to lose 150 pounds by sometime next year.
“I will make that,” he vows. Meanwhile, “I’m off all my meds and my blood pressure is great.
“Am I missing anything? I don’t think so.”