What Drives Me to Create a Healthier Generation
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My name is Chris Avtges and I am using my story to create a healthier generation.
Today I prepare healthy meals, design menus focused on nutrition, and create a culture of wellness at schools for a living. I am a triathlete. I am a mud racer. I am the Food Service Director of Vernon Public Schools in Connecticut.
That has not always been the case. It is actually probably the farthest thing from the case.
Five years ago, I was weighing in at about 375 pounds. I was on medication for cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure. And I lived pretty much a completely sedentary lifestyle.
My occupation was still in school food service, but my credibility for getting kids to eat healthier options was essentially nonexistent due to my own health. It is hard to convince young people of the benefits of nutrition and moderation when you yourself live a lifestyle that is contrary to those convictions.
My job was just that – a job, a paycheck – not part of a larger mission like it is now. And then, it wasn’t even that. In January 2011, I was let go and began what was to be a six month period of being unemployed. Like many life-altering events, losing my job was a catalyst for change. What that change was, I had no idea at the time, but now I know that it was the start of something much larger than myself.
After about two solid weeks of an inevitable pity part, I came to the realization that we only get a few chances to make a complete wholesale change to the way we live. And I had one of those chances right in front of me. I may not have had control over my circumstances, but I did have control over my health. So I focused my energy there. I started by simply tracking the foods I ate, creating a food diary. And then joined the local Y. For the next six months, the routine was get up, look for a job and then go spend time at the gym.
My new focus on healthy living worked..
Eighteen months later, I went to see my doctor. After he did all my blood work, he came back into the room and told me, "whatever it is you are doing, it’s working. You don’t have to take any more of these medications."
To hear those words from my doctor – someone who used to tell me that I was a ticking time bomb – was music to my ears. I had not only lost my job, I lost 140 pounds and gained a future that was beyond anything I had ever imagined. I realized that my life had changed and I vowed to never go back to that old self.
And that is why I do what I do now. Not just for my own health, but for the impact I can make for our kids.
Knowing where I was, and knowing where I am now...
The thought of going back is not even an option. I have endless opportunities now with my new health, but the one I hold most dear is my ability to use my story as an example to inspire others and, most importantly, inspire our children to start living healthier now. Giving our kids the best chance at health is what inspires my work every day and is the reason I work with the Alliance to get the support and resources I need to increase my impact.
Living on both sides of the spectrum of health, and knowing intimately the process of having to turn your life around, has put me into the position to help our next generation make healthier choices the first time around. And working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at my schools has given me the opportunity to make these healthier choices the first choices kids make as they start to develop the habits they are going to keep for the rest of their lives. Habits they will not have to change 20 years down the road.
If I can prevent one kid from going through what I went through...
And it’s not just the physical part, but the mental and emotional aspects as well – for me, that’s a success. If I can impact a whole generation of kids, well, even better.
You can help us!
A tax-deductible donation today, will give the Alliance for a Healthier Generation the much needed funding to continue supporting students like mine all across the nation. For me and my generation, we’ve had to relearn the importance of health. With the help of the Alliance, the next generation has the chance make health the norm from the beginning. And you can help them do that.
Make a tax-deductible donation today to help support more than 20 million kids around the country live a healthier life.