By Douglas Martin, Site Manager, Erie, Pennsylvania, BASF
Nearly ten years ago, I accepted a new assignment at BASF that led to a major change in my life. It wasn’t the need to relocate my family from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New Jersey. It was something that happened at the doctor’s office when I underwent a physical exam. The doctor’s scale said my weight had reached nearly 300 pounds.
I went home that night and asked myself: What am I going to do? I was forty-two, had a wife, young children, and a demanding new assignment. In addition to being overweight, I had hypertension—a very common disease among African Americans that could eventually cause serious health issues if I maintained my current course. That day, I decided things had to be different. I changed my diet, ate less, and ate healthier foods. I started taking long, brisk walks for exercise. When I could no longer walk fast enough to keep my heart rate elevated, walking became running. I ran outside nearly every day regardless of the weather, and within two years, I lost a total of seventy pounds.
The personal benefits are obvious, but there have also been advantages for my company. My daily exercise provides the energy and stamina I need, even when I have to work long hours because of a demanding or high-stress workload. My department head has overlooked the occasional long “lunch break” I take to fit in an afternoon run, and encourages me to exercise every day. And support has come from my co-workers as well, including one member of my organization who helped me form an informal running club that meets after work two to three times per week.
My company encourages good health and well-being too. Our new corporate headquarters building has a well-equipped health club, while HR provides wellness programs designed to fit individual needs, including those of minority employees.
Despite the help and support I’ve received, one important fact can’t be overlooked: When it comes to our health, we need to take control of our own situation. My doctor’s only advice a decade ago was to eat less and exercise more. I decided to choose a course of action and stick with it long-term in order for it to be successful. I did, and it worked.
Today, I continue to watch my diet and exercise every day. I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss and, with the combination of diet, exercise, and medication, lower my blood pressure as well. I encourage everyone, during National Minority Health Month, to make the investment in your own health to ensure that you can have a long and happy life and a productive career.