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Wake up call.

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(Click here to print the poster)

MARCUS HICKLEY. Six months before his son Taj was born four years ago, Marcus Hickley, 32, rushed to the hospital with pain in his arm and heart palpitations. The pain subsided, but Marcus heard the wake-up call loud and clear. He had always wrestled with his weight, but now faced the reality that his entire diet could put his future — and his family — at jeopardy.

Now was the time for a change.

First, he eliminated pork from his diet.

Then, he decided to keep his intake of ground beef to a minimum.

Next, he chose to remove pasta from the menu more often.

Marcus also increased the amount of fresh produce he included with meals. As his diet changed, his outlook on nutrition changed as well. “I realized that the kind of food I ate before was just sustenance. It fills you up, but it’s not doing anything for you.”

As healthy eating became a priority in his life, Marcus began to educate himself on what defines “healthy,” as well as the need-to-knows about organic produce, GMOs (genetically modified organisms in vegetables and fruits), and what you can learn from a PLU (Price-Look Up) code.

What he discovered led to a sea change in his understanding about diet. Beyond weight concerns, Marcus found that the foods he ate had a drastic effect on the clarity of his thinking and his ability to make good decisions. As he is quick to point out, when good food is not available in a community, each member of that community is at a social and professional disadvantage — an issue that the partners of Live Well Springfield are active in addressing.

“If you’re not eating the fresh food your body needs, it affects your thinking,” said Marcus. “You can’t listen, can’t comprehend.”

In addition to a significant shift in his eating habits, Marcus dialed up his activity level– and did so creatively. “When I wake up in the morning, that’s a sit-up. When I bend down to tie my shoe, that’s a squat. When you take two stairs at a time, that’s a lunge,” he explains. “You don’t need to go to the gym to exercise; it’s in how you live.”

Marcus lost nearly 88 pounds over the course of two years as a result of changing his eating habits, but for him that is merely one of the many benefits he has experienced. He did not aim to lose weight, however; he aim was to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Find out where you can get fresh produce and healthy meal options in your neighborhood.