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A nudge down a different path

Pharmaceutical Industry

ON the wrong track? A catalyst for healthful change doesn't have to be gargantuan. Joey Esposito was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Maurice Goldberg bumped into a newly fit old friend. Whatever the impetus, the key is to take small, but significant steps -- and to think of the changes as a lifelong pursuit, not a temporary fix.

The wake-up call

After his diagnosis of high cholesterol in May 2005, Esposito, a 42-year-old Los Angeles attorney, resolved to try to lower it without prescription medication. He began with niacin.

But niacin should be taken with food to reduce side effects such as skin redness and itching. Never a breakfast eater, Esposito went full-tilt with a cheese omelet, bacon and potatoes. "I wanted to prove to myself and my doctor," he says, "that I could do it this way and not have to go on medication. And I discovered it was somewhat enjoyable."

Perhaps it wasn't the most healthful choice, but that uber-breakfast staved off hunger. So he started to cut back on typical meals of high-carb Mexican or Chinese food, sandwiches or leftover pizza -- finding that eating salads or a bowl of soup made him less sleepy in the afternoon. After about six weeks, he started to drop weight. (He also tweaked his breakfast, switching to egg whites and nixing the cheese at his doctor's urging.)

Losing a few pounds inspired him to start exercising, something he had rarely done since getting married and having kids. His approach was to treat the workouts as "a little extra something," instead of trying to do too much too soon, which in the past had resulted in burnout, followed by not exercising at all.

Esposito now runs for half an hour in the early morning about three days a week. He's lost more weight, has considerably more energy -- and no lower back pain. He still takes niacin, but he has reduced his cholesterol from about 240 down to 171.

"It's very sustainable for me and really requires almost no effort at all. It makes me really happy -- my clothes fit, and I like that my wife will say, 'You look good.' "

The old friend

When Maurice Goldberg ran into an old friend several months ago, he was shocked at the change. The last time he'd seen his friend, the man was pale, hunched-over -- even shuffling. He was now posture-perfect with a rosy complexion and a spring in his step. "I asked him, 'What have you been doing?' " says Goldberg, "and he said he was working out with a trainer."

That was the impetus Goldberg needed. The 55-year-old Beverly Hills jewelry designer and manufacturer called the trainer almost immediately.

Experiencing all the typical pains of middle age was something he had thought went along with the territory. "I thought it's what happened when you aged," Goldberg says.

Although he wasn't quite convinced that working out twice a week would restore his energy -- much less take away his pain, Goldberg gamely began a moderate regimen of stretching, cardio workouts and strength training. And, after a few months, he started noticing that his aches and pains were disappearing, he was sleeping better and his ability to concentrate was improving. A friend even remarked how much more relaxed he'd become. He also changed his diet, cutting out fast food.

"What I've been trying to do," says Goldberg, "is make a lifestyle change. My portion sizes have been changing. I go to a restaurant and I take food home."

Although he hasn't weighed himself, Goldberg is on the last notch of his belt and his jackets are too tight in the shoulders, indicating fat lost and muscle gained. The other day he was able to climb four flights of stairs without gasping for breath. He's talking to his doctor about tapering off his high blood pressure and cholesterol medication.

That, plus one more thing, is enough to keep Goldberg motivated for now. "I don't want to look like an old person," he says.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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