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The Business of Amherst, Tony Maroulis: Add a healthy gift to your list

Need a nice gift idea this holiday season? Give the gift of health.

You or someone you know will probably overeat this month in anticipation of the New Year. Resolutions will be made to get fit and healthy. In the meantime, if you’re like me, you’ll begin to have two Danish at your boring morning meeting followed by a big lunch.

I did that for years. Flash forward to late April. About two weeks before my 40th birthday, I was strapped to a bed, connected to a monitor at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. My mid-life crisis was what I thought was a heart attack.

My blood work revealed a high level of hops, yeast and cheese, but otherwise I got a clean bill of health after a nice overnight stay. No one said, “Hey Tony, you’re chunky.” But they were just being nice. I dodged a big one. The reality was that at 230 pounds with high cholesterol and a stressful sedentary office job, I was an ideal candidate for future cardiac intervention.

So what do you do when you need to change? You consult your Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce directory for help.

As an auctioneer at the 2011 Rotary Auction, I had the winning bid on a gift certificate to a new Chamber member, Amherst Ideal Weight Loss. Working a quiet board during the 12 to 3 p.m. Saturday shift, I noticed the item wasn’t moving. I asked the auction managers if “the fat guy working the board” could make a bid. After I won the certificate, it sat in my desk drawer, a victim of good intentions and crummy follow-up.

I was too busy celebrating Amherst’s terrific restaurants. Last year, I described myself as “twice the man I used to be.” People laughed. I couldn’t pass up a loaded burger, or three slices of pizza. On Facebook, I once declared that the star of the show Man Vs. Food, Adam Richman, was my hero. Eating a lot was part of my schtick and had been since my mom bought my Toughskin jeans in the husky section at Sears.

I reasoned that if being a heavy-set, funny-looking Greek-American can work for Zack Galifinakis, it could work for me, too.

Being a 39-year-old guy strapped to heart monitor had a little to do with changing that view. The way I figured it, medicine doesn’t let you off the hook until you’re at least 80. I have another 40 years to go. How I choose to live it is up to me.

I finally cashed in my gift certificate nine months later. After an hour-long presentation by Dr. Jeanette Wilburn and her partner, Stephanie Friedrick, RN, which explained their product and the science behind the plan — a protein-based, low carb, low-fat diet with some interesting space food supplementation — I jumped in headfirst.

The results have been amazing. On the plan, I’ve lost 40 pounds, eight inches from my waist, and nearly 10 percent body fat. My cholesterol has dropped 100 points from its high of 270. The compliments I got were great. How I feel is even more important.

So, you’re going to eat this holiday season, and probably lots. You, family, and friends will probably indulge at one of our many terrific restaurants in celebration. Keep doing that. (Make sure you buy plenty of gift certificates to our local eateries, too.)

But New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. With Jan. 1 on the way, do consider gifting some health to your loved ones, as well. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to fitness, so consider some ideas — my gift to you! — yoga, Pilates, karate or Tae Kwon Do lessons, a gym membership or a farm share.

And if you need a jumpstart, go see Jeanette and Stephanie. It could change your life.

Tony Maroulis is the executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

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