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WellBeing: February 2015

"You need to lose 25 pounds.” Those were words I knew were coming but I sure did not want to hear them. I had to have surgery (that’s another column) and those were the doctor’s instructions to me. I quietly took them in, and I think the doctor could sense my disappointment; the disappointment was internal for letting myself get to that point. The doctor then took me down the hall and introduced me to a nutritionist.

February 4, 2015 
By Mike Vilneff

I believe we all know when we are getting a little overweight. Male or female, there are tell-tale signs – the next hole in the belt, blaming your partner for shrinking everything in the dryer, not being able to bend over and put your socks on. I don’t need to make this list any longer. The point is that you know in your heart and mind that you should shed some weight.

The nutritionist was very understanding and gave me my marching orders. I was to go on a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet with daily exercise. That was it. There was no need to buy this program or eat these certain foods, just follow this simple advice and I would reach my goal.

The high-protein part was very easy – I love my red meats! The low-carbohydrates was a little tougher; I also love my potatoes. The exercise part is the reason for this column.

I was an athletic youth – played hockey, raced motocross, and waterskied. As I aged, those activities slowly declined until I basically reached zero on the exercise scale. So what was I going to do for my daily exercise?


Two days before the doctor gave me the weight-loss directive, I sat in on a session at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs annual seminar. The guest speaker was Chief Tim Beckett of Kitchener Fire (Beckett is now the chief in Mississauga). Chief Beckett rode into the session on a bicycle and spoke about his weight-loss experience. I left the session impressed with what Beckett had accomplished, but not wanting to admit to myself that I needed to do something similar.

Two days later and while driving home from the doctor’s office, I was re-evaluating my take-aways from the session. My conclusion was that I would also take up cycling.

I started out riding my son’s downhill bike – that thing was a brute to ride; it was heavy and had big knobby-type tires that did not roll too well. The first week of riding was discouraging. I was only going about four kilometres and my body was killing me. It took a couple more weeks before my body started to strengthen and my distances gradually increase. I finally realized that I was starting to enjoy riding and decided that I needed better equipment. I bought a good hybrid-style bike and a pair of shorts with padding.

My distances continued to increase – seven kilometres, 10 kilometres, 13, 14, 18, 21 and, finally 22-kilometre rides became frequent. I continued to enjoy my red meat and continued to miss potatoes, but my weight was dropping as promised. I reached my goal and actually went a little past it (28 pounds).

I had my surgery and was not able to ride for about a month. By this time, the weather started to change and the days were becoming short. I found myself missing the exercise and saw the next hole in the belt getting close again.

I did not need the doctor to give me the wake-up call this time. I went out and bought a stand for my bike and am now able to pedal in the dark on the deck. The scenery may not be the best, but it sure feels good to be active again.

The point of this story is that we all need to listen to what our bodies are telling us; they might be saying go see your medical professional to get something checked out, or they might be telling us to get out and go for a walk. Maybe walking or biking is not for you. Your body might be telling you to go dig out the old skates and buy a stick and go play pond hockey.

The point is that you need to find an activity to which you are willing to commit.

Not only will you most likely lose some weight, but you will most likely see other beneficial results: more energy; increased productivity; improved self esteem; and who knows, you may be able to pull out that whole selection of clothes in the closet that you could not fit into a couple months ago. Go ahead . . . just do it!

Mike Vilneff is the fire chief for the Cobourg Fire Department in Ontario. The 34-year veteran of the fire service is also a member of the Ontario Ministry of Labour Section 21 committee and is the chair of the advisory committee for the Fleming College pre-service program. Email Mike at and follow him on Twitter at @84supra

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