In the past two years, I’ve said a final goodbye to over a dozen buddies and acquaintances of mine. All were around my age, and almost all of their deaths were preventable.

Had it not been for Ana, theirs would have been my fate a couple years ago.

In 2001, after spending five days in the hospital enduring a battery of tests, I was told I had a severely enlarged heart and that my ejection fraction was 35%. Ejection fraction is a measurement of how much blood leaves your heart during each heart beat. A normal ejection fraction is between 55% and 70%. At forty-two years old I was in the beginning stages of congestive heart failure and was told I would only survive between ten and fifteen more years.

In 2015 my congestive heart failure had predictably worsened. I had chronic edema throughout my body. I would get pneumonia 3 or 4 times a year, and you could hear fluid gurgling in my lungs with every breath every time I laid down. I had pitting edema all over my body. Breathing was difficult under normal circumstances; training took a supreme effort. My doctor said I had six months or less before I would suffer a major heart attack or stroke.

My cardiologist wanted to give me a number of different medications. Each with serious side effects, so there were other prescriptions to lessen the side effects. I was told that due to the medication, sex would be near to impossible, so that was the end of that. I refused to take any of the meds he prescribed. I figured I was dying soon anyway so I was going out happy sharing the love Ana and I have for each other. I had accepted my impending death.

Ana, on the other hand, hadn’t given up.

She prayed for answers, then quietly went about doing her research to find them which she did. Gut health and Chronic Inflammation kept coming up and they became the focus of her plan. I call her my hippie, and she calls me her redneck. I was raised a meat and potatoes kind of guy. She was raised to be more careful about what you put in your body, and as my grandparents believed, she felt that food can do a great deal of damage to your body or it can heal your body and strengthen it, depending on what that food is made of.

Without saying much beyond a beautiful smile and an “eat this for me,” she started changing the foods I ate. She gently and lovingly talked to me about my work hours and the other things that caused daily stress. As with all things Ana does; she went about changing the things that she could and sweetly convinced me to change the things she couldn’t. She was never pushy; that wouldn’t work with me. But she knew my soft spots so in heels and a tight dress, and with a tender touch and sweet kisses she had me eating out of her hand; literally. I call her the redneck whisperer.

After a month or so I slowly started feeling better and was able to do things I never could before.

A year ago in June, after I had completed a bunch of tests, I had an appointment to discuss the results with my cardiologist. He told me that my heart was normal sized and not enlarged any longer. He reported that my ejection fraction was now 65. I had been dealing with Atrial Fibrillation since I was in my early 30’s and that was gone too. He said there was no discernible plaque in my body and that I should expect to live at least another 50 years. He couldn’t explain the changes medically and didn’t ask how we did it. He was just as happy as I was that we wouldn’t see much of each other in the foreseeable future.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t go to a doctor or listen to what they tell you. Only a fool would do that. What I do understand though is that a medical doctor is limited to diagnosing a problem and treating it with medication or surgery. While I probably should have taken my medication, at least for a while, I knew it wasn’t going to make the cause of my issues go away.

My problem was the food I was eating. I learned about guy health and how food, medicine, lifestyle can affect it negatively. I learned about Inflammation and how deadly it is and the things that cause it. Ana put me on an organic, anti-inflammatory diet high in antioxidants and probiotics. As my gut health improved so did my overall health. I learned which foods didn’t give me problems and as my gut health improved, so did my overall health. I had more energy, felt and looked better and ultimately it was the core issue at the root of my heart problems.

I used to make fun of people, including Ana, for their “sticks and roots” approach to food. Throughout the process of saving my life, I learned some humility, and how to apologize profusely, as well as how to embrace “sticks and roots”. Eating to look good or perform well in a sport is not necessarily the same as eating healthy. This is something I didn’t understand despite all my years as a coach and nutritional coach in the fitness industry. It’s something I have since learned a great deal about, and it’s what saved my life, so I take it very seriously.

The whole experience and the loss of so many good men have inspired me to start this GoodladUnscripted.com website, my Youtube Channel, and our podcast. God will call us all home at some point, but in the mean time, we were put here to live the life we were given to the absolute fullest. I’ll be living mine in front of the world, the good, the bad, and the ugly days, so hopefully, what I put out there will help someone else.

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