didn't know I'd basically staged an intervention.
We gathered around a patio table — me, Jeff, Debbie, Neill and Joseph. With us were several other people: Olympic athlete Joe Jacobi; personal trainers Robyn Pendleton and Tracy Woodie; and Sherry Andrusiak of Oklahoma City Riversport.
The next hour was fantastic. Joseph started things off by talking about his own weight loss and how much better his life has been since he's become more active. Neill encouraged Jeff to turn off the television and start moving. Joe, who won a gold medal in canoeing in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, discussed setting internal goals and carving out time each day to pursue personal excellence.
Above all, they stressed to Jeff how lucky he is and how much he has to live for.
Then Robyn and Tracy offered to help Jeff get back in shape. They'll coach him, develop a workout plan for him and even accompany him to the gym so he won't feel so alone there. Sherry told the O'Hagans about water activities available to them and their children on the Oklahoma River and Lake Overholser — and set them up with free passes to give those activities a try. She also offered to let them exercise in the gorgeous, high-tech gym at the Chesapeake Boathouse.
Jeff and Debbie were a little shell-shocked, I think, but they were also excited.
And we still had a couple more surprises for them.
My dietitian, Karen Funderburg, is going to teach the O'Hagans about good nutrition. She offered up her services at a greatly reduced rate.
"We're definitely going to do this,” Jeff said. "I've wanted to work with a dietitian for a long time now.”
Of course, even at lower rates, he'll need a way to pay for Funderburg's services. He should be able to do that soon, because James Farris Associates, a local placement firm with a national reputation, is going to provide Jeff with career counseling and help him find a job — free of charge.
'A new respect'
We all stuck around for awhile after that, talking and hugging and sharing contact information. Neill, Joseph and I are going to work out with Jeff periodically. I'm going bicycle shopping with him when he gets back from a family vacation.
Jeff and Debbie e-mailed me on Tuesday.
They're doing great.
Jeff has been eating better, choosing lighter options and smaller portions. They've gone out to restaurants a couple times, including Interurban in Yukon, where Jeff shocked his family by ordering lemon chicken with steamed vegetables instead of a steak or burger.
"I won't lie,” Jeff wrote. "There are times when I feel hungry, but you know, when I came away from Interurban I didn't feel miserable and bloated. ... I felt satisfied. I like that feeling better.”
Debbie lost four pounds in less than a week.
"Jeff is someone I've never seen in the 7 years I've known him,” she wrote. "He cares about Jeff; he cares about his body. He's taking charge of what his son eats, too, and he's spending less time in front of the television. ... I have a new respect for Jeff because I see him respecting himself.”
Jeff has a tough road ahead of him. I know, because I'm walking that road myself. He's off to a great start, though, and I'm confident he can make it.
If you know Jeff and Debbie, drop them a line or give them a call. Let them know you're supporting them. If you haven't met them yet but see them out and about, introduce yourself and offer some encouragement.
This is how we can make this a better, healthier world — one day at a time, one person at a time, all of us doing what we can to help each other.
Trust me: It feels good.