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New Ulm Medical Center

Don’t wait for tomorrow for your chance at better health

When Eric Gramentz’ daughter brought home a picture she had drawn in kindergarten one day, something seemed amiss to him. His wife and two daughters were clearly recognizable in the picture – represented as stick people. Eric himself was a little larger, which did not surprise him. What he couldn’t figure out was why he had two smiles in the picture. When he asked his daughter she explained in the innocent and honest way that five-year-olds are known for that one was his smile and one was his chin.

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New Ulm Police Officer Eric Gramentz decided it was time to take control of his health when his daughter drew a family picture and he had two “smiles” (one of which was an extra chin). Gramentz has found support in his wife, co-workers and the Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project.

“That’s when I decided something had to be done,” said the eight-year New Ulm Police Department officer. On Oct. 1, 2011, Eric decided it was time to put serious effort into portion control, watching calories and physical activity. His starting weight then was 290 pounds. Today he weighs in at about 260 with a final goal of 240.

“I had gone to see Danny Cahill (at The Heart of New Ulm Project’s Annual Community Summit in October 2010) and the one thing I took away from that is that tomorrow never comes,” he said. “You have to start today.”

It was a year (and that illustrative wake-up call from his daughter) before taking those words to heart. But Eric credits his wife as being his biggest supporter and motivator. Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) has also helped him keep on task with materials and recipes.

“Getting the information from Heart of New Ulm helps as a reminder and we will take some of the recipes to see how we can use them,” Eric said. His wife is not able to eat any gluten so they often revise recipes.

A new daily routine

Eric’s daily routine starts out with the treadmill at 5 a.m. - or whenever he wakes up, depending on which shift he is working that day. “I have to get it out of the way first thing when I wake up. Then I know I’m done with the workout for the day and the focus for the rest of the day is on eating right.”

Eric ran in the HONU Jingle Bell Jam 4-mile fun run last December, which was a proud moment for him.

“The first time I ran a quarter mile back in October 2011 I almost died,” he laughs. “But I progressively built it up and added a little more and a little more each time until I was able to run four miles without stopping.”

During a six or seven-week period, an injury kept him from the treadmill and he was surprised to find that he actually missed it. He is back on the treadmill now after listening to his body, letting the injury heal and not injuring himself any further.

His lunch habits have gone from leaving the drive-thru with four chicken sandwiches to a plain turkey and cheese sandwich (no dressing) with carrots, fruit and trail mix. Fruit is also a daily snack.

“I used to joke that, when we went to a buffet, my goal was to make them lose money on me,” he said. “We still go to buffets but my first plate is always a salad or fruit and I’ll have two plates total. Not four or five like I used to.”

Portion control is important, he said, when temptation comes calling at work. “There’s always food at the police department. People are always bringing in food – trying out a new recipe or treating their co-workers. And it’s great. It’s really nice. But I really have to watch my portion size or skip the treats altogether.”

Though there’s plenty of temptation at work, Eric stressed that there is also plenty of support.

“My family and co-workers are very supportive,” he said. “I have a co-worker who was kind of a ‘weight-loss buddy’ initially and we would talk about what worked for each of us. A couple of my co-workers have said ‘if you can do it, I can do it’.”

Fitting it in your day and your budget

Getting in shape doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, Eric points out.

“Half an hour a day isn’t that hard and you don’t have to own a treadmill. You can throw on your shoes and head outside,” he said. Eating healthy also doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Eric and his wife plan ahead by keeping cut-up vegetables in the freezer, ready to be thrown into a hot dish.

Eric hopes to inspire his daughters, ages 5 and 3, to maintain good health, too. “I know what it was like in school being heavy and I would never want that for my daughters. I will do anything to help them be healthier.”

Even though it may seem like a long haul to lose 30 pounds or more, Eric says, once you get started, it doesn’t take that long before the benefits start to become obvious.

“I did the Heart of New Ulm screening in 2009 and when I got my results I almost fell over when I saw how bad they were,” he said. “I went in for a physical last fall or early winter – not that long after I started making changes – and the numbers were already drastically changing.”

His advice to those looking to start down this path toward better health?

“You’ve got to start today even if it’s something small,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. But if you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.”