“Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink,” I said to my friend as she was putting her shoes on getting ready to leave my house.

“No, but you can drown ‘em,” she retorted in frustration.

My eyes dropped and I shrugged my shoulders with uncertainty. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you.”

The last few hours had just been spent together commiserating as stay-at-home-moms watching our toddlers wobble around and suck on blocks while their slightly older siblings were experiencing three-year-old preschool.

On my friend’s heart today was her husband’s upcoming birthday, making him yet another year closer to the age that his dad passed of a heart attack at 39.

The two of us had been on a bit of a fitness kick lately. We were both feeling well, eating well, and enjoying the rewards of regular exercise. Her husband…not so much.

With an expanding waistline came the expanding fear of premature death. Of course, she knew that there was no certainty around this, but his inaction felt like he was taking no responsibility for himself or his health. And worse yet in her mind, the potential outcome for his family should his health catch up with him.

At that time, I couldn’t relate. My husband’s weight and health were stable. Or so I thought.

When you get married, there’s quite a bit left to learn about your in-laws. I’m still figuring some things out. But what DID uncover itself was knowing that a few genes on both sides of my husband’s family meant an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

In 2012, I started working with Dr. Paulson which opened my eyes up to understanding that our genes are not the greatest predictors of our health; our lifestyle is. Knowing your risks can help you make the most of your efforts to prevent chronic illness and disease – what we call personalized medicine.

When my husband turned the big 4-0, I finally persuaded him to get a cardiometabolic panel done. This lab not only looks at cholesterol in the way that most of us are familiar with (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) but rather expands that information for a more accurate risk assessment by looking at particle size and distribution, inflammatory factors, and more. When the results came in, my heart sank.

High-risk for cardiovascular heart disease and moderate risk for diabetes.

My panic turned into a list of action steps. With my heart filled with nothing but kindness and love, I brought the results home and shared them with Brad. He wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t angry. He was kind of nothing.

I let some days pass waiting for him to say, “Okay, I’m ready to listen. What do I need to do.”

But nothing happened. And if you know me, I am NOT the most patient person in the world. This was tough but I had to keep waiting because ultimately this was his decision to make.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink,” replayed in my head from years ago.

My damn horse didn’t even want to look at the water!

I resigned to leading by example. If I stayed the course and ate healthily and could reflect energy and vitality, surely Brad would want some of that too! So yes, we ate salads and stir-fries together. And we walked together. We were gaining momentum.

But wait – what the hell is this? I noticed lunches weren’t getting packed all that often. That meant eating out at work. What’s this empty Doritos bag doing in the garbage? Where did this Mountain Dew in the back of the fridge come from? Remember how Zima made a comeback this year? We have cases. Is that an ice-cream bowl in the dishwasher? Are you putting sugar in your coffee?

My new favorite nag was, “You don’t need that.” And each time I said it, I was shot “the look.”

I was willing to receive eye-daggers in exchange for persistence in letting my husband know that I would take a stand for his health. But how in the heck was I going to get him to do it for himself?

If I would have known that all it was going to take was $15 a month, I would have offered that to him long ago. But the thing is, it wouldn’t have been able to come from me to make a difference.

It had to come from our life insurance company.

Yep, Brad’s bloodwork hadn’t improved over the 12 months from when I requested that he do it to the second request for our policy renewal. His slowly-creeping-up-on-him-weight combined with an elevated LDL number meant more premium per month and he was not going to have that!

The day that I had been waiting for arrived. He wanted to sit down and talk about what to do to change his health (and save some money). I consulted with Dr. Paulson to see if there were any supplements that he could benefit from taking. She decided to start him on Wellness Essentials for Men™ – a daily packet of vitamins that support overall health while supplying specific nutrition for male health and Lipotain™ – to support healthy blood lipids that are less impacted by a healthy diet.

The most important action step was for me to work with Brad on implementing our FirstLine Therapy™ Program.

When it comes to the treatment and prevention of chronic illness and disease, dietary and lifestyle changes are the most effective tool we have. As we say, there isn’t a supplement that can undo a poor diet.

In lieu of my office, we sat at the kitchen table and went through the approved list of foods together. Luckily for both of us, Brad is a good eater and likes a variety of foods. There isn’t a vegetable he won’t eat (except for beets) and he likes all fruits too (except for ripe bananas). Based on his current weight and goal of weight loss, we calculated how many calories he should be intaking every day and distributed those amongst different groups of food with ratios to support blood sugar balancing.

The FirstLine Therapy™ Program has roots in the Mediterranean way of eating. Citations on PubMed, a catalog of clinical papers, total over 1600 documents studying the Mediterranean diet. We focus on eating “lean and clean” proteins that are lower in their inflammatory factors, an abundance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and oils and fats. The end result is a blood-sugar balanced diet that can help you to lower inflammation, lose weight, and feel better.

One thing that Brad has going for him is that he is a great implementer. You tell him what to do, and he’ll do it. After going through the list of foods, we came up a game plan that refined some of his meals into healthier options while adding in some good-for-you snacks. He’s taking full responsibility for his own health and while he gets the occasional tease of, “his wife making him do it,” he is quick to respond that he is doing it for himself.

It’s been 3 months since Brad started the FLT Program and while he has chosen to not step on a scale, he is visibly thinner, has more energy, doesn’t snore anymore, has smoother skin on the back of his arms, digests his food better, and overall feels good. When he hits the six month mark in June, he is up for having his labs retested to see how things are progressing.

Now that he is over 40 and I am getting close, we are committed to investing the time and energy into our health now. What we do now really does matter. We don’t have to accept the “normal” signs of aging because they’re not normal. And they’re not signs of aging; they’re signs and symptoms of illness and disease. Food matters. Activity matters. Sleep matters. It all matters. So make the most of what you’ve got and know that it’s never too late.

If you’re interested in learning more about the FirstLine Therapy™ Program, let’s talk. If it’s not for you, we’ve got other lifestyle education and health coaching opportunities that may be just what you’re looking for.