As many of us know, putting your health and fitness first can be a major challenge with the busy schedules we adhere to every day. Between his three jobs as a donor center coordinator, tissue recovery technician and paramedic, Buck Feris recognized this difficulty but decided to take the challenge head on by changing his typical commute to work and modifying his diet. The 40-year-old Dallas, Texas native is fighting to regain a healthy lifestyle one mile and one meal at a time – and it’s making all the difference in his life. See for yourself in this question and answer why Buck Feris is an Everyday EMS Athlete.
Question: You’ve taken action recently to improve your health. Can you tell us what life was like prior to this change?
Buck Feris: I was the usual fast food eating, sedentary, just-this-side-of-morbidly-obese kind of person who usually works in EMS. 5’ 7”, 265 lbs. Like so many people in EMS, my body shape started to change quickly soon after choosing that profession. From the outsider’s perspective it looks like a very active lifestyle. But anyone in the business knows that there is a lot of sitting, a lot of standing, and a lot of fast food. The combination does not do a body good. When I got married I was still trying to fight off the weight gain. I was active when I was younger. I played soccer and football. I used to run three miles a day. But the EMS lifestyle finally caught up with me when I slowed down as a family man, and I ballooned out to 265 pounds.
Q: What motivated you to get in shape and make a lifestyle change?
BF: I do a lot of things to support my family, and currently work three jobs. As you can imagine, there is not a lot of time for exercise. My wife was discussing this with me one day while I was rooting around in the garage looking for something. To be honest, I was annoyed by the conversation and I was a bit short with her saying, “Just when in the hell am I going to have time to exercise? All I have time to do is go to work.”
Just as I said that I was looking at a bicycle in my garage that was gathering dust. We had purchased it because I was taking classes at the local university, and parking there was awful. I purchased the bike to get to class, but to be honest I never rode it to school once. But there it was, and I was staring at it thinking, “If all I have the time to do is go to work…” So I announced that from then on I would ride my bike to work. My wife rolled her eyes and said, “We’ll see how long this lasts…” That was about 7 months ago and I have lost about 60 pounds.
Q: How difficult was it to change your habits, both with diet and exercise?
BF: That’s the interesting thing about the bike. It wasn’t that hard to change the habits. So many times I had tried to lose weight by
joining a health club. But it takes forever to drive to the club, wait for your turn at one of the various hamster wheel machines, exercise, take a shower, drive back home…it is utterly boring and time consuming.
When I ride my bike to work, I am doing something that I would have already been doing. It just takes me a little longer. For instance, it used to take me 10 minutes or so to drive to my organ procurement job. On a bike it takes me about 20 minutes. So riding to work and back gets me 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. But I would have spent 20 minutes driving anyway, so I have really only lost 20 minutes of my day. Who couldn’t give up 20 minutes of their day to get 40 minutes of exercise? When you put it like that, I really have no excuse not to do it.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
BF: One day I was going out with the tissue team to do a post mortem recovery on a donor. The patient was extremely obese and when I made my first incision I didn’t even get through the fat layer. In fact, it took me a while to dissect through the fatty layer to get to what I wished to expose. I took a moment, stepped back from the table, and realized that this patient was not much larger than I was. So many of our donors die due to obesity, heart disease, and adult onset diabetes. I was staring at the deceased result of bad lifestyle choices. That’s when it hit me. I said, “That’s it. I’m getting healthy. I’m not going out like this.” I had already started riding my bike to work, but that’s when I really started to tweak my diet and get serious about a lifestyle change.
And now that I have made these choices and changes, an underlying truth has started to emerge: most of my patients make themselves sick. I see them in organ and tissue donation. I see them on the ambulance. I see them in the grocery store. There they are, obese Americans with disease processes that are fuelled by their own sedentary lifestyle and diet choices. If you are morbidly obese, and your shopping cart is filled with Mountain Dew, fruit juice, cookies and other deserts… whose fault is that? I go to the department store and see that they have stocked up on motorized carts for their patrons. Who uses them? Obese people. Has it really gotten to that point? People are so sedentary and obese that we have to provide motorized vehicles to allow them to shop? I ride my bike to the same store and run circles around them.
Q: What are your three stick-with-it secrets?
- Be realistic. I see so many middle-aged, overweight professionals look at something like the P90X workout. They think to themselves, “I’m going to get back in shape. I’m going to get some protein supplements. I’m going to be extreme!” All of these people are still fat and I have lost 60 pounds just riding my bike to work. Just let that sink in a minute.
- Do not eat until you are full. This was the hardest lesson to learn. For some odd reason the nervous system signals from your stomach are on about a 20 minute delay. If you eat until you’re full you have over stuffed yourself. Get a plate. Fill that plate with a reasonable portion of healthy food. Eat it and walk away. Twenty minutes later you will realize that you have eaten enough food.
- Don’t make it too complicated. Us ‘transportation’ bike riders really dislike the ‘spandex’ bike riders. You don’t need to buy $200 worth of spandex, clip on mirrors, and a $1,000 bike to get some exercise. Don’t worry about how high your heart rate is, or how many calories you’ve burned. Just get to your destination and eat good food. The rest will happen by itself.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
BF: The bike did it for me. But it may not do it for you. But I urge everyone to find your bike. It needs to be something realistic, affordable, and sustainable. I see older ladies doing that power walk thing through the mall. That works for them. They can do it in all weather. It’s a way for them to see all their cronies a couple of times a week. And afterwards they can sit and have a couple cups of coffee together. Brilliant. It’s effortless and that keeps them coming back. Maybe you love bird watching. So you get yourself a pair of binoculars and get yourself out of bed to hike around in the forest 3 times a week. Whatever it takes. If you love going to the health club and you are motivated to do it, then great. For the rest of us, we are going to need to find something that isn’t so boring and doesn’t require a monthly payment.
Alexis Nascimento is the public relations and social media manager at Magnum Boots USA. With fitness always being an important component of her life outside of work, Alexis trains in a local bootcamp program that focuses on endurance, strength training and a healthy diet. You can connect with her via Twitter at @alexisnasc or @MagnumBootsUSA.