While we take pride in sharing the message that a healthy lifestyle is important, it’s also critical to follow that advice and live a healthy lifestyle yourself! Highmark employees don’t just talk the talk – they also walk the talk (#IWalktheTalk). In this ongoing series, we’ll explore how individual Highmark employees stay healthy. They’ll share their tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle – and also share what makes them tick when it comes to health.
In this interview, I spoke with Nicolette Lupinacci, who works here at Highmark. After spending two decades eating unhealthily, Nicolette realized that she wanted to live a healthy lifestyle–and help her family adopt healthy habits early in life.
Jasmine Davis: How do you stay healthy? What steps do you take to lead a healthy lifestyle?
Nicolette Lupinacci: I try to eat natural foods. Although there is always room for improvement, I believe in an organic, natural diet. No fake foods, no artificial anything. My ideal goal is to follow more of a paleo-style diet. Eating right is my biggest struggle, but I am trying to implement better food choices in my life.
I am also new to running. I appreciate that it doesn’t cost anything, just some good shoes, and there is no commute or extra preparation involved… I can just step out of my house and go! I enjoy getting out into the fresh air, and running about 10-12 miles a week. I run 50+ miles most months. It’s a great stress reducer and an opportunity to spend a little time with yourself and your thoughts, and a chance to develop an increased self-awareness.
JD: What is your favorite health tip for leading a healthy lifestyle? Keeping in mind that everyone is different, what would you recommend to people looking to start or maintain a healthy life?
NL: Set a goal. Let everyone know it, and be accountable. I use social media and friends and family as a support group. If I post on Facebook that I am going to get up at 5am and run… if I do not post that I did it, people will call me out on it! I also sign up for races throughout the year whether 3, 5 or 10 miles to give me something to work for. After the EQT 10-miler on November 3rd I started training for my first half-marathon.
JD: So, we know you recently completed your first half-marathon. First of all, how did you train for the race (especially given how cold it was this winter!)?
NL: I joined the Highmark marathon training team here. They provided me with a training schedule and running diary. Every week we had to report our miles into the Wellness Center, so it was nice to be accountable. I spent a ton of time on the treadmill and elliptical during the cold months. I had a coworker who was going to the gym quite often, so I would make her drag me over 2-3 days a week.
I also bundled up and ran during the colder days. One time, it was so cold my eyelashes froze shut! So, at that point I would only run when it was 25 degrees or warmer. I also ran a lot during my lunch hour, when I wasn’t at the gym. I found a great route from Highmark, through the Strip District [in Pittsburgh], to about 27th Street and back. It was flat and fast and I really enjoyed it. I also stayed in touch with my Highmark Running 101 coaches, who I would meet up with on the weekends for longer runs. I trained up to 10 miles, as the training program told us to do.
JD: That’s impressive! What kept you motivated, both when training, and then during the race itself?
NL: I was running the half-marathon and raising money for a cancer support group, so I had a lot of friends and family donating money. I had a ton of support, and raised almost $3,000 in my last 2 marathon events (the relay last year and the ½ this year). My husband has also participated in every event I signed up for, and always put the kids to bed so I could go out for my 8pm runs when I needed squeeze them in.
During the half, I felt really good for about 7+ miles. I got an extra boost around mile 8, when I saw my little brother volunteering at the Medic Tent, and he ran along with me for a bit until I saw my mom with her husband, and my 2 kids cheering for me. That really motivated me to keep going. Mentally, I started checking out around Mile 11. But I was 2 miles away from doing this! It would be insane to stop… and anyway how would I get to my car?! The last 2 were grueling, but all of the spectators were awesome, and it was great to just push through and do it!
JD: What’s the weirdest health advice you’ve heard? Have you tried it? Did it work?
NL: I watched a documentary on juice fasting. I did try it…. I bought a juicer and fasted for 14 days, drinking only the fruit and vegetable juice I made. Everywhere I went I would bring this bottle of green stuff so I wouldn’t get hungry. I think it worked… jump-started my attempts at eating healthy and it was a great cleanse for my system, and I lost my first 20 pounds of the year.
JD: Wow! Was the juicing hard to stick to, for you?
NL: The juicing was hard to stick to for the first couple days. I just tried to keep busy and away from the fridge. My husband cooked dinner for himself and the kids so I wasn’t tempted to pick on their food.
JD: Why do you feel that health is so important? What are your motivations for leading a healthy lifestyle?
NL: I have over 2 decades of bad eating habits under my belt. It’s difficult to change habits that you watched other people do for so long in your life. Now that I have children, I want them to grow up with the head start of a living a healthy lifestyle, and not have that uphill battle. I want to be around for a long time, and I want to enjoy life with no restrictions. When you live a healthy lifestyle, your whole body operates the way it should.
What are your favorite health tips? Do you have any questions for Nicolette? We’d love to hear ‘em! Share with us in the comments!
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