By David Pan
Seeing is believing for Joe Piscatella, a best-selling author and speaker on lifestyle and health issues.
Last year, Piscatella brought a program called Six Weeks to a Healthier You to South Snohomish County and the results were impressive.
About 500 people participated in the program at the Lynnwood Convention Center and by the end of the six weeks, they had decreased their total cholesterol by 13 points and also increased their self-reported exercise time by nearly half an hour in those six weeks.
Six months later, participants continued to report significant accomplishments. One man ended up losing 85 pounds, while a woman said she lost 45 pounds.
The Verdant Health Commission is bringing Piscatella and the Six Weeks to Healthier You program back to the area again. The program will take place one night a week starting May 13 through June 17. The fee is $49 per person with group discounts for 10 or more ($39) and scholarships are available for those who qualify. You can register and find out more about the program here or call 425-582-8600. The registration deadline is April 26
One of reasons for the program’s success, Piscatella said, is that it takes a moderate approach to improving people’s health. Participants receive biometric (blood) health screenings from Swedish/Edmonds staff before the first session and then around session five to help them gauge their progress.
“In six weeks you’re not going to get giagantic swings,” said Piscatella, the author of 13 books and the president of the Institute for Fitness & Health. “The whole purpose of the program is to let people know that in six weeks you can start to develop habits regarding positive lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, managing stress, that kind of thing, that ultimately will cause you to get better numbers in the biometrics. … The program is essentially about helping people create healthy habits.”
Topics covered include nutrition, healthy eating, exercise, stress management, family support, cooking and children’s health. “We really pay attention to the entire lifestyle,” Piscatella said. “It’s not just a diet program or an exercise program. We’re really looking all over. … People know they are going to come away with practical tools.”
Piscatella designed the program to maximize the potential success of participants. Support is a critical element in most people’s success.
“People find it hard to do it on their own,” said Piscatella, who serves as the only non-medical member of the National Institute for Health’s Expert Panel on Cardiac Rehabilitation. “We do it as a group, so there’s a lot of support. … Information alone does not lead people to make changes. Cognitive information does not lead to behavior change. If it did, we’d be a nation of non-smokers, if all you needed was information.”
Piscatella came to believe that how information was delivered was as important as the information that is being delivered. “We do it in a way that’s entertaining, non-threatening, highly motivational,” he said. “We’re all about success stories.”
Piscatella doesn’t have to look far for an example. At 32, he underwent heart bypass surgery. His health crisis was totally unexpected. He was playing tennis on a Monday and a couple of days later he was in the operating room. At the time, one doctor told Piscatella, who had a genetic tendency toward high cholesterol, that his future prognosis was not good. The doctor even went so far as to say that lifestyle choices wouldn’t help and that Piscatella might not live to see 40.
Piscatella had other ideas. He and his wife jumped into a healthy lifestyle.
“Today I’m 35 years post-bypass,” Piscatella said. “I may be the longest living bypass surgery patient. There aren’t many in the U.S. that have lived 35 years or longer from bypass surgery. I didn’t change my parents. What I changed was my lifestyle and the results have been very good.”
The biometrics screenings are an important part of the program. “Biometrics are great motivation,” Piscatella said. “I think people do like the numbers. They want to know where they are.”
The biometrics likely are going to show participants that they have some control over their health.
“Your genetics is not predestination,” Piscatella said. “You can’t change your DNA, but you can change those biometric numbers by really relying on more positive lifestyle habits. I think that’s a message that doesn’t get out as much as it should. People have an impression it’s been stamped in the womb you’re going to have high cholesterol and that’s that. I have seen a lot of people offset bad genetics with good lifestyle habits.”
The program will be at the Lynnwood Convention Center on Monday evenings with the exception of one Tuesday session. Each session is from 6:30-8 p.m.
“What we want people to understand is wherever their numbers are, there is an ability to influence them more positively based on the way you’re choosing to live,” Piscatella said. “So let us help you make better choices and put that into action and you will get much better results.”