Health Heroes

Want to be the healthiest top dawg on campus? The Health Heroes program involves competitions between residence halls, sororities, fraternities, organizations, faculty and staff, and students.

  • Individuals or groups submit an application to become a Health Heroes
  • All possible winners will be reviewed according to their healthy activities
  • Optional: log numbers of hours exercising, number of miles walked/ran, amount of weight loss, healthy eating habits established, tobacco cessation, participation in health program

The steps you take to improve your health with better nutrition and increased exercise will make a huge impact on your health, both today and in the future! Congratulations to all of our winners on making positive strides in your health.

The Easy Strider's Health Hero Story

Our group consists of individuals of varying shapes, sizes, and ages. Each of us is striving for different results, with different goals, and using different methods to reach our goals. Some of us are merely walking on a treadmill or outside. Some are more entergetic and will jog or run. Some of our group goes to the gym or does workout routines at home. Some are concentrating on nutrition and healthier eating, in additon to getting our steps. We are very encouraging and supportive of one another and check in with each other daily. Some of us have accepted challenges within our group – one being a 12,000 daily step goal for the month of February. Three of the group members did a Weekend Warrior Challenge to see who could achieve the most steps- all three reached over 20,000 steps.

In addition to using the Stridekick smartphone app, some of use are using My Fitness Pal to journal our food intake and track calorie intake.

We have found that together we are able to accomplish more than we ever could alone!

Exercise Health Hero - Rogelio Realzola's Story

Growing up, I was a tap dancer for 13 years and regularly played sports, soccer being my main focus. In 2007, my Freshman year of high school, I completely shattered my ankle in a freak football accident. After reconstructive surgery, it took 6 months of bed rest and Physical Therapy to get back to enjoying an active lifestyle. During those 6 months though, I gained around 60 lbs.—going from 170-225 lbs. That is truly where my journey began. I started reading and learning how to lose weight, the basics of nutrition, and how to live a healthier lifestyle. Since then, my passion and inquisitiveness for fitness and performance has grown. I began to focus on how to build a better physique through healthy and smart diet approaches and was encouraged to compete in bodybuilding shows to gain a better understanding. Unfortunately, through lack of understanding recovery, and some plain bad luck, I ended up herniating a disk in my back and tearing both hamstrings. After another 6 months of physical therapy, I began to focus on fixing muscular imbalances that caused these injuries, which ultimately led me towards a path of understanding how to create a healthier, stronger body. I began competitively powerlifting in November of 2015 in an attempt to feed the competitive nature in me, while simultaneously creating an avenue where I could test all that I was learning through classes, research and personal experience. I graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Exercise Science in May of 2016 and am a Graduate Assistant of Fitness at the Joe Frank Sanderson Center. I am currently working towards my Masters in Exercise Physiology and plan on attaining a PhD. I try my best to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle, to positively affect those around me and am constantly pushing myself to be better—not only for my own health, but for my family and my community. I was raised to believe that there is a higher purpose to the things you do and that it is within your duty as a human to give something back. All I really want to do is give back all that I have learned in order to make people healthier and to help them understand that there is untapped physical potential in all of us.

Exercise Health Hero – Debra Lloyd’s Story

I am so grateful that these kinds of events /activities are taking place here at MSU, and particularly in our own work environment. It is pretty common to see events tailored for student’s engagement, so opportunities that get staff and faculty involved is really awesome.

As a person who loves life in general and want to stay healthy for years to come (smile), I periodically find myself drifting from that healthy side of life and lacking motivation. To be a part of this challenge gave me something to look forward to each day. Although walking has always been therapeutic and enjoyable for me, over the years I stopped making time to do one of the things that really worked for me (walking). Because the tools were made available for me to exercise, I had a sense of urgency to put the effort in each day to try and reach the number of desired steps for the challenge. After walking three to four miles a day, I’ve increased my water intake, and started consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel good and I’m off to a great start. MSU on the move 43 Day challenge has been a great motivating factor for me to get back on track. I feel rejuvenated and I’m re-directing my energy to being healthy again.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Smoking Cessation Health Hero – Blake Fitzhugh’s Story

I started packing on the pounds when I was fourteen years old. Coincidentally, that was the year I picked up my first cigarette. I was moving around a lot, and it was cutting into my activities at school. I loved to be outside, exercise, and play sports. However, we would move, and I would have to try-out for the new school’s team. Often times, they would be filled, and I wouldn’t be able to get on the team. This left me a little agitated but worse than that: stationary.

I was bored, and honestly now that I look back, that was why I ate poorly. I’m not a ‘foodie,’ I mean, I love food, but that’s not why I ate so much. I was bored. Other exercises I could do weren’t as interesting, I moved away from my friends, so I didn’t have anyone to go outside with, and it was hard making new friends in a different state. The friends I did have weren’t what I would call stand-up guys. So I would go with them and do more ‘grown up’ things like smoke and drink.

Everything came to a head when I moved back home. I started exercising a lot more, started playing sports again, but there was a problem. Actually, there were two problems.

The first problem was that after an extended time of mindlessly eating junk to ease the pint up boredom and restlessness had become a grade-A addiction. The second problem was my actual addiction, smoking. I slowly realized that I couldn’t run as far as I used to. I couldn’t stand the heat that I had grown up in, and never had noticed before. I was starving after every exercise I did. Oh, and it was unbelievably difficult to get up in the morning. Now keep in mind, I was smoking nearly two packs of cigarettes a day, which takes a toll. I had chronic bronchitis, I would cough up phlegm so often it had become a morning ritual, and I couldn’t wait until I got my first one of the day…right before class.

Then things took a turn for the worse. I stopped playing sports again. It wasn’t worth the unrelenting gasping for breath, dry-heaving, or pain in my gut. I was smoking two packs a day, ate whatever-whenever I wanted, and grew a bit depressed. My grades dropped from a 3.1 GPA to a 1.9 (yea, I know, like whoa, really? Yes really.) I was 5’10 and 250 pounds. Doesn’t sound like much, but do please keep in mind that I was a walking chimney.

It all came to a head when I remember (and this is a bit silly) seeing a Bruce Lee movie while aimlessly flipping through channels on TV. The little guy was walking around on his hands as if he was taking a leisurely stroll. I thought to myself that looks easy! I bet I could do that. So I got to my feet, put my hands on the ground and flipped my legs over my head.

I won’t kid you, I won’t hide behind my pride here, I won’t pretend like my arms didn’t give out almost immediately and that my face broke my body’s fall as I crumpled into a pitiful heap. The fact is, it DID happen, and I couldn’t be happier. You see, in that moment I saw myself as an outsider. I had a veil over my eyes, I thought that what I was doing wasn’t wrong or bad or destructive to my health. I thought it was normal. Heck, it felt good when I was doing it. I saw someone that loved a lot of things he no longer did. I saw someone that couldn’t do things he wanted to try because of self-induced limitations. I saw someone that ignored his body for the wrong reasons. Then I saw that that someone could turn it all around, it was early after all. I could still do somethings. I could still escape the hole I was digging.

But what was my goal? All the teams were filled up, I quite skateboarding because I couldn’t ollie high enough (curb height) to keep up with my friends. What was my goal? Why, walking on my hands of course.

The first month was actually the easiest. This was pre-iPhone days, so I did this the old fashion way. I stopped eating what was delicious (not for long, stay with me) and started eating what sucked. I stuck with it, slowly finding out how to make those sucky things taste better and started integrating high-fiber (as suggested by a teacher of mine) into my diet.

I started exercising gradually. I did fun things (which I found out later is one of the most effective ways of weight-loss exercising: keep it fun). I swam often, skateboarded even more, and went fishing…let me clarify; it was bank fishing on a huge lake, lots of walking. Essentially, being outside for a change did wonders. I lost twenty freaking pounds the first month. Could I stand on my hands? Heck no, but there was progress; none of my size 40 jeans would fit. My XL shirts were also extremely loose.

Second month, I kept up with my fiber rich diet, added more chicken and fish, put in some more greens, and surprisingly, I gave myself a gift after every meal. Dessert…my weakness-but I told myself I could have one after every meal. I forgot to mention that the previous month held a few binge days where I would resort back to my old habits (and still lost 20 pounds!). This reward thing I did, for the most part, prevented those binge days.

I increased my exercise to less fun things like weight lifting and cardio. I kept with it more so than I would have in the first month. Why? One word: results. Results are like a fuel to the dieter’s flame. I didn’t press myself too hard in the first month, but when the results came, so did the motivation. I lost another twenty or so pounds and consequently had to buy a new wardrobe. I now sported 36 waist jeans and size L shirts. Walking on hands? Nada, but I could do a hand stand. Progress.

The next few months I dropped an additional 40 pounds. All in all I went from a size 40 waist to a 32, a XL shirt to a M, even my shoe size went from a 12 ½ to a 10 ½. I went from 5’10, 250 pounds (my highest), to 170 (my lowest). The best part? I could walk circles, on my hands.

That was 10 years ago. I currently weigh 174, my waist is a 32, my shirt is an M, my shoes are a 10 ½ and I can still walk on my hands but it’s since lost its initial appeal. Oh, and since I’ve lost my weight, I eat whatever I want to. I do want to stress that I keep to my healthier diet. However, with my new high metabolism, my shrunken stomach (it can’t hold what it used too), and larger amount of exercise, I can binge every now and again but not gain a single pound.

There’s one problem with the whole story thus far, and you might have noticed. What about that smoking thing? Yea well…I did it all while smoking. Albeit, I cut back to one pack instead of two, but you may be asking, ‘Why is this a problem? You lost all that weight!’ Well, it was a problem because it only reinforced my mind that smoking wasn’t all that bad. This would prove it much harder to quit. I lost the weight 10 years ago but I kept smoking for another 8.

Everything came to a head with smoking too. My grandmother had COPD because of smoking, and my mom was trying to quit after 30+ years of smoking. I thought, well if she can quit I can quit! HA!

Quitting smoking was literally the hardest thing I ever have done. I loved smoking. I mean, I loved it. Loved the smell, the hit on the back of my throat, the smoke itself as I exhaled, opening a fresh pack, and the feeling I got when I took a drag. I knew all the smoke tricks, I could do smoke rings, all forms of different variations of inhales, I could fix a cigarette that had been broken in half by reinserting it back into the filter, I had smoked twenty different brands and was a critic and connoisseur.

Then I realized a few (many) things. First, I wanted to be a dad and my wife and I were seriously contemplating trying to get pregnant. Second, I could have lost that weight and it would have been twice as easy if I didn’t have the lungs of a coalminer. Third, my grandmother was dying because of it. Fourth, my mom was quitting (which I thought would NEVER happen) and was making me look like a chump because she was showing progress. Fifth, I always hated smoking before I smoked because of the habits of my mom. Sixth, chronic bronchitis, enough said. On top of all that, I wanted to quit because I didn’t want something to have control over me. NOTHING else in this world does, so why does smoking? I wanted to be the person that could do things when he wanted and how he wanted, but could also put those things down. Plus, I wasn’t about to be a smoker with a pregnant wife, let alone in front of a baby created by said wife.

So I tried…And failed. Then I bought Chantix. And failed.

Then I bought nicotine gum, an electronic cigarette, popped Chantix like an addict, crushed up my cigarettes, threw away all of my lighters.

And subsequently drove 80 mph to the nearest gas station to fail.

Now be forewarned. This is a spiritual spoiler alert. I am religious but I understand and respect that you may not be. That being said, if you are not religious, please read this story whilst ignoring that I’m bringing up God at all. I do not want to offend you. If you are religious, please read this story.

I prayed. And said that I was failing, that I couldn’t do it-at least not on my own, and to (direct quote) ‘please help me out man.’ I literally saw no hope; I was actually shocked that nothing was working. Oh, and on top of that, I was smoking less than half a pack and very, very angry. Withdrawals are real, and they are not fun.

And I didn’t fail this time. Except…

God has a humorous side, I think. You see, he answered my prayer, but he did it with style, some spiritual finesse. Actually, he went Old Testament on me. I was struck with the absolutely worst bronchitis I had ever had in my life. I was stunned to find out that I also…had the freaking flu…in the middle of June!

I always smoked through bronchitis in the past, always, (always) but this was an inhuman sickness. I was freaking dying. My lungs were on fire. Every time I took a hit of a cigarette, it felt like I was trying to swallow a ball of nails-pelican style. When I coughed, anyone around me would jump out of their skin. I would let out, in the best and only way I can describe, a hybrid wet phlegmy wheeze/cough/choking cackle. It sounded like a Rhino screaming in frustration while trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, with a mouthful of yogurt. It hurt so bad to smoke that I eventually couldn’t take it anymore. I stopped. I was sick for over a month, which was plenty long enough to keep me from relapsing. I had a lingering cough for months after the fact. However, I had finally quit smoking after 11 years. That was over 2 years ago. I learned that every single negative effect that smoking had caused me would eventually go away. I will even have the lungs of a non-smoker someday. I tell you what. I can’t believe I ever was a smoker, I can’t believe how horrible smoke smells now, I can’t believe how well I can breathe, how far I can run, I can’t believe that I have a superhuman sense of smell now (and can smell smokers from a mile away, or that I can guess what the wife is cooking right when I walk in the door), and most of all: I can’t believe that my grandmother knows that I’m a non-smoker, and I can’t believe that my child won’t smell smoke his or her whole childhood like I did.

I can’t believe any of it, but I’m unbelievably, undoubtedly grateful.

In closing, I must acknowledge that I really couldn’t have quit smoking without my faith in God, but I also couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my wife and family. To answer some lingering questions, my mom did quit smoking after over 30 years of dealing with the habit. She even beat me to it. I think it is important to note the thing that really helped her (in case any of you smokers out there want to quit, think of it as having another tool in your quitting toolbox. Take it from me, you can never have enough weapons in your arsenal), she made a ‘money jar.’ She put what she spent on cigarettes in the jar daily (that would be roughly 8 dollars for her). After a few weeks, the sum was substantial. A few months, literally shocked her. It’s different when calculating versus actually seeing the money that you usually spend on cigarettes in your hand! It was pretty effective for her.

If you decide to go forth on the journey of cessation or weight loss, don’t give up and don’t give in. I hope that you find this story helpful and I wish you the very best of luck.