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A Race For Life

Story ID:1512
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Person:Ken Kopp
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A Race For Life

This story is in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul, released January 2006. The title in the book is A Second Chance At Life

A Race For Life

By Nancy Julien Kopp

Over a number of years, I gained five pounds here and another five pounds there; all of it seemed to settle between my waist and my knees. Part of getting older, I told myself. I could lose this weight, I told myself. I did exactly that many times. Whenever I quit dieting, back it came, along with a few more pounds. I finally hit on the perfect rationalization. The only way to keep this weight off is to diet for the rest of my life, and I'm not willing to do that perfect reasoning for someone who loves to eat and enjoys cooking and baking. My goal was too tough to achieve. I dismissed it with a shrug, and continued eating the good things I created.

Then my husband, Ken, threw a curve ball at me. One clear February day, Ken, who had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, was Mr. Easygoing, and only a few pounds overweight, had a heart attack on the golf course.

Golf buddies rushed him to the clubhouse and called an ambulance. Off he went to the Emergency Room where he was stabilized and transferred to a tiny little helicopter for a 50-mile flight to our state capital and a larger hospital.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, the cardiologist had performed a heart catherization followed by angioplasty. He inserted a stent into the main artery of Ken's heart. This critical artery showed a 99% blockage. Ken came ever so close to not making it. Needless to say, many prayers of thanksgiving were offered by me, by our family and our friends, and by Ken himself.

After a short hospital stay, the cardiologist discharged him with instructions for a brand new lifestyle. From that day on, diet and exercise became the keywords in our vocabulary.

Like a race runner, we tore away at the starting line. Our goal? Simply to live a long and full life. To do that, we had to change our way of eating, our exercise habits, and our attitudes. Easy enough to do, we thought, when living is the prize.

I'd been given the diet instructions, which turned out to be pretty simple. Think low-fat. Think low-cholesterol. Most important of all: Have small portions of all things always!

I was determined to run this race the best way possible. I'd stay out in front and get to the finish line for both of us. I subscribed to magazines with light recipes, checked out low-fat cooking websites, and spent time revising old favorite recipes. I filled our plates with far less food than ever before, remembering how the doctor had emphasized the importance of small portions. I baked only occasionally, and used canola oil instead of butter when I made cookies or muffins. At restaurants we ate half of what we ordered and brought the rest home. The whole new lifestyle was easier than I'd feared. We were winning the race. I could ignore a grumble or two from Ken about how I was starving him.

And then, someone yelled, "Hey!" distracting us like a runner in a race. We hesitated. We slipped back a little bit when we were invited out to dinner. There before us lay a table with forbidden foods and a hostess urging us to fill our plates and have seconds. I suddenly had a brief glimpse into what Adam and Eve must have felt in the garden. We ate more than we should have, and we felt miserable. Our stomachs were no longer accustomed to such rich food.

At home, back on track once again, we ran the race by staying on the prescribed diet. Fruit in place of cookies and cake, carrot and celery sticks instead of chips, four ounces of steak rather than eight. The longer we did it, the easier it became. The pounds we shed encouraged us to keep on running the race.

"Hey!" We hesitated once more. This time the voice that tripped us up came in the guise of a three-week vacation on a river cruiser. Meals were gourmet offerings including lavish buffets, scrumptious desserts, and delicious breads artery-cloggers on a plate. No doubt about it. We ate far less than most of the other passengers, but we also ate far more than we had been doing at home. But when we arrived back home, we went right back on the program.

Right now I feel like we are winning the race. Yes, we slide occasionally but only a little, and we go right back to our new lifestyle diet. In almost three years, it has become a habit. Ken has lost 40 pounds, and I've shed 28. We're both down to our college days' weight, and we feel great. Maybe that mysterious voice will call out "Hey!" now and then, but we won't collapse in a heap and shed tears. No, we'll keep on running this race for life, today, tomorrow, and forever.