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‘Change your relationship with food’ | Health beat

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In February 2020, while running through the Atlanta airport to catch a flight, Steve Johnson noticed severe pain in his calf.

“I had 22 minutes to get between the gates of Terminal A and Terminal D,” Johnson said. “I did it, but I had some challenges in the process.”

The New Era, Michigan resident travels a lot for work, so he’s well used to the rigors of travel. But when he boarded this particular flight and took a seat, he couldn’t ignore the pain in his leg.

Later, he met with a doctor.

“‘You’re going to be depressed for at least six weeks,’ that’s what the orthopedic surgeon said,” Johnson said. “And he was right almost a day.

“My weight reached 250 pounds and I was unable to reduce it with exercise. I was literally depressed for six weeks from the calf injury. “

The COVID-19 restrictions took effect shortly after your injury, further limiting your ability to stay active.

“I had some challenges during COVID, like everyone else,” he said. “I developed bad habits over time. I’ve always been overweight, but I’ve never been in the Class 1 obesity category before. “

With the leg injury, he didn’t like where things were heading. He knew that if he wanted to keep his weight in check, he would have to do it through diet.

So he signed up for a culinary medicine cooking class program.

Learning the steps

Johnson, 49, likes to cook.

When you saw information about a culinary medicine cooking class program offered through Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, where he works part-time as a pharmacist, was intrigued.

“I took it the first time because it seemed like a neat class and I wanted to learn how to cook healthier,” Johnson said. “I’ve always loved to cook, but growing up we rarely ate healthy.”

He took the program in the fall of 2020, but missed a class due to a trip. He took the show again in the spring of 2021.

In addition to working part-time at Spectrum Health Ludington and Gerber Memorial Hospitals, Johnson works full-time for a pharmacy management company.

Spring and Fall classes were offered virtually, and participants cooked at home during each class. They learned new skills and used ingredients provided through a grant from the local health department.

A registered dietitian and culinary medicine chef led each class, operating from the Spectrum Health Lifestyle Medicine cooking teaching at the downtown Grand Rapids market.

“I loved it,” Johnson said. “Instead of watching someone cook in a test kitchen, it teaches you to do all the steps yourself.”

Many of the class participants experience positive results from the program, said Chef Elizabeth Suvedi, manager of the Spectrum Health Culinary Medicine Program.

“It’s great to hear feedback from the participants,” Suvedi said. “From feeling more confident cooking to understanding the health benefits of eating healthier, it’s inspiring to hear stories like Steve’s.”

The program is also bringing people together.

“We get a lot of feedback that people also enjoy quality family time, being together, and the bonding that comes when you’re in the kitchen,” Suvedi said. “Not just the social time, but the culinary skills and health benefits that accrue for the whole family.”

Positive results

Lifestyle changes (eating right, getting back to exercise) make Johnson feel great.

“Change your relationship with food,” he said. “I have lost 30 pounds, which is great. And I haven’t really had to give up anything to do that, which is great too. “

At each cooking session, a registered dietitian provides practical information on vital nutrients, portion control, colorful plates, and reading nutrition labels.

“The focus is on optimal health and ensuring that what you are eating is something that supports your overall health,” Suvedi said. “It is being aware of not consuming processed foods, added sugars, fried foods, and red or processed meats.

“It is learning to cook with less oil and incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet, in a way that is also delicious.”

Class participants receive recipe cards to help them prepare a variety of healthy dishes.

“There is no excuse for not putting the material into practice,” Johnson said. “Having the recipe cards gives you a quick and easy guide to the program and helps you remember some of your favorite things.”

Top on your list? Bell pepper and chicken skillet.

“This is by far the most amazing recipe on the show,” he said. “It uses so little chicken, but it fills you up. This recipe tastes fantastic. Create enough to literally feed an army. “

He passed the recipe to his mother, who now cooks it once a week.

“Just by taking the show and sharing the recipe, I think six different people are making this dish now and they are loving it,” Johnson said. “So it has a wide scope in terms of making the community healthier.”

Working ahead

Originally from East Lansing, Johnson lives on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, a home his parents previously used as a vacation home. He often takes a morning walk on the beach to start the day.

“Every morning I try to walk two to three miles,” Johnson said. “Exercise is paramount, and not getting injured again is paramount.”

Johnson added an exercise room to his garage to make exercise a priority.

“I haven’t weighed this light since my freshman year of college,” he said. “The goal for me is overall health, because weight impacts your knees, it impacts your cardiovascular health. So if I want to enjoy a healthy retirement, which I do, then it’s important to act now and make some changes so that I can. “

He now weighs 219 pounds. His goal is to reach the overweight category versus the obese category, which for him would be 215 pounds.

“I missed it by a hair,” he said of his last official weigh-in.

Johnson likes to work ahead, prepare meals, and sometimes freeze them for quick and easy cooking later to fit his busy schedule.

“It’s proof that you can eat and do healthy things with a little planning,” he said. “The program helps you make better choices that are still tasty and delicious.”

Johnson has become an advocate for the culinary medicine cooking class program.

“It’s a great way to practice skills that you already know, probably, but you will learn some new things,” he said. “It’s a series of small changes that help make a big difference to your overall health. The culinary medicine team helps you put all of that together. “

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