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Less bread and more exercise a winning combination

March 2017

Mike Maggard stands in the exercise room at the company’s Brosnan Forest business conference center.

WellNS, Norfolk Southern’s voluntary wellness program, promotes employee health and fitness. During 2017, BizNS is featuring some of the company's WellNS Champions, employees who are getting active, eating healthier, or shedding pounds – and inspiring co-workers.

A WellNS health screening sparks changes for the better

Any way you slice it, Mike Maggard and his family liked bread.

“Homemade biscuits, cornbread, French bread, Italian bread, it didn’t matter what kind,” said Maggard, supervisor maintenance and construction at the company’s Brosnan Forest business conference center in Dorchester, S.C. “We had bread at every meal.”

That, however, was before Maggard participated in a screening sponsored by WellNS, the company’s voluntary health and wellness program. He learned from the April 2016 screening that he showed symptoms of prediabetes, a precursor to type 2 diabetes in which the blood sugar level is higher than normal. About 86 million people in the U.S. over age 20 are considered prediabetic. Early treatment through lifestyle changes – such as weight loss, exercise, and smoking cessation – can prevent prediabetes from progressing to diabetes.

“My sugar numbers were pretty high, and I knew I had to do something,” Maggard said. “I took it seriously and made changes to my diet.”

Going into attack mode

With his doctor encouraging him to adopt healthier eating habits and get more exercise, Maggard went into attack mode. He started by giving up bread completely for three months. He also cut back on pasta and started eating more vegetables.

“I figured it would be hard to give bread up, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be,” he said. “You have to be willing to make some changes.”

Maggard’s family joined him in his quest to eat healthier, although initially, his two sons were less than thrilled about eating more vegetables. “They’re teenage boys,” he said, chuckling, “but they got used to it, and everybody was on board with it.”

The family prepares a home-cooked meal almost every night, and Maggard has learned to pay more attention to not only what he eats but how he much he eats. “Portion control is a big thing. I was eating a lot more than I thought I did when I really started looking at it,” he said. “Now instead of two plates, I’ll have one plate.”

He also began working out, joining co-workers in the exercise room at Brosnan Forest. “I do one hour of circuit training two times a week,” he said, adding that he makes a point to exercise a third day with his younger son. “A little bit of exercise goes a long way.”

Small changes add up to big results

With exercise and a healthier diet over the past six to eight months, Maggard has lost 14 pounds and lowered his blood sugar to within normal range. In addition, his doctor has taken him off cholesterol medicine. “I’m super shocked at how much progress I’ve made,” he said. “I feel immensely better, and I have a lot more energy.”

His advice to others dealing with similar health concerns: Small changes can add up to big results.

“The biggest thing is that it doesn’t take huge, monumental efforts and changes,” he said. “Making those small changes can make an overall difference in health and well-being.”

Since achieving his health gains, he occasionally rewards himself with a slice of bread.

“We’ve gone back to eating bread, but we’ve cut down on it,” Maggard said. “We’re using moderation and common sense and have it a couple times a week.”