Sixty pounds lighter and three pants sizes smaller. You’d think Michael Prater would be at the finish line of his wellness journey.

But he’s just beginning. “I’m at the point now where I think the real work starts,” says Prater, the director of facilities at IU South Bend.

It was a tough wakeup call, but it encouraged him to take action.

Prater grew up in a household that relished food, and not necessarily the healthy variety. Like so many of us, those childhood eating habits continued into adulthood. 

When Prater went in for his free, annual health screening a couple years ago, it showed up in his lab results: “My numbers weren’t good.”

It was a tough wakeup call, but it encouraged him to take action. “I saw the effect of diabetes on my father and knew I’d be there, too, if I didn’t change.”

Making changes

With the help of Laura Hieronymus (former staff at the IU South Bend Health & Wellness Center) and his cardiologist, Prater started on the long road of behavior change.

He began to exercise and eat a more balanced diet, which includes more leafy vegetables (“weeds and grass,” as Prater likes to call them), chicken, and fish. As for his favorite foods, Prater says he doesn’t “cut anything out, but I watch the quantity.”

More than a year later of incorporating these healthy habits into his daily life, Prater says both he and his cardiologist are pleased with the results.

He’s able to move around a lot more, and he likes the way he feels. “I have aches and pains now from the exercises I’m doing and not from the fact that my joints are hurting.”

Setbacks are inevitable. If you stumble or fall, just get back up.

Looking forward

Maintaining his healthy lifestyle takes work.

“My history has been that it’s hard to keep weight off, so now the challenge is to maintain the weight, keep the good habits alive, and avoid the yo-yo diets that I’ve done before.”

How does he stay motivated? He takes it one day at a time. Setbacks are inevitable, but Prater doesn’t let them keep him down for long. “If you stumble or fall, just get back up.”

Another motivator? With a smile, Prater says, “I threw a bunch of clothes away, so I don’t want to go back.”