Health & Lifestyles
Tampa Bay's Fab 5 offer tips for keeping New Year resolutions
Who couldn't use a little nudge, now that those New Year's resolutions to eat right and exercise are almost a week old and it's really – really – time to get started? That's why we decided to profile our favorite Fab 5 fitness buffs in this first 4you of the new year. They're different ages, they have different jobs, and they have different ways of working out; but they have at least one thing in common: They don't let their busy lives or tired bodies get in the way of staying healthy. And they lead by example, motivating friends, family, co-workers and, sometimes, strangers to get out there and have fun getting in shape. David Osterweil, Fit Life Foods owner, TampaDavid Osterweil isn't satisfied with a little success. His priorities -- a new business, a young family and a quality road racing time -- all demand his best … and a little perspective. "It's all about balance. It's the absolute number one thing," says the founder of Fit Life Foods, a Tampa-based grab-a-ready-made-nutritious-meal store staffed by personal trainers and nutrition coaches. The 35-year-old Tampa native thrives on mixing up professional, personal and physical challenges. That's why he didn't flinch when he opted to launch Fit Life Foods at the same time his wife, Laura, was expecting their second child. He relishes the opportunity to get in weekday workouts with Laura at 5:30 a.m., and Saturday morning half-marathon training runs. Those workouts, or a dash for bagels with the kids in a double stroller, keep Osterweil, who seems to have a perpetual smile, healthy and happy."It takes hard work and it takes being sensible," says the former marketing executive for OSI Restaurants. "It takes balance and it takes exercise that's as much for your mental state as anything." Sensibility is the strategy behind Fit Life Foods, which next month will open its fourth storefront, this one in St. Petersburg. He says the team eschews tofu and sprouts for flavor and familiarity; think BBQ Beef with Mac n' Cheese and Halftime Nachos. People will embrace better nutrition if you make it inviting, comforting and entertaining, he says. The same goes for diets, and exercise, and life. "Everything is a game. You've got to make it fun." Patty Kim, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center media coordinator, Tampa Blame it on the Frisbee. Patty Kim was a bookish microbiology undergrad at the University of Florida when she signed up to play Ultimate – a co-ed soccer/football hybrid game featuring an unassuming flying disc. The intramural sport unleashed the inner fitness fiend in this intensely competitive academic. It sparked a love for nearly every sport under the sun, and revealed other talents (including qualifying for the elusive Boston Marathon and a top five finish at the inaugural Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K). But friends and co-workers say while Kim's ardor for all sorts of sports is inspiring, there's something she loves more: Recruiting and cheering on others to live healthier, fitter and more active lives is her real obsession. "I will encourage and encourage until I am blue in the face," she admits. Her work at Moffitt Cancer Center the past five years – and several years before that as the health and fitness writer here at the Tribune's 4you – allowed her to see how exercise and good nutrition can improve and even save lives. It's impossible to not want to "walk the talk" when you know the difference you can make, she says. There's no overly annoying pep to Kim's fitness nudges. If anything, she shares her own injuries and comebacks, photos and all on her Facebook pages. Bloody shins and swollen ankles are right there with Dragon Boat and Ultimate team photos. "I don't want people to think I'm Wonder Woman. … I want to portray the truth -- the good, the bad the ugly," says Kim, 36. It's impossible for her to imagine a time when she won't be encouraging others – or pushing herself to get out and play. Fitness is part of her personality, and it's showing no sign of letting up. "I will go out and play sports until I'm in a walker," she says. "That's just me." H. Jack Pyhel, cardiologist, St. Petersburg Last week, Jack Pyhel hung up his stethoscope after more than 40 years as a cardiologist. Don't expect him to toss the swim goggles and running shoes too. He retired from the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida in great health, something he says his patients deserved. A doctor in great shape "is more believable" than one who is 50 or 60 pounds overweight, he says. He boasts that he weighs the same at 68 as he did at 40. His office was home to trophies from countless triathlons, including numerous age-group wins in the St. Anthony's Triathlon. His regular lunchtime workouts have been scaled down to a swim or trip to the gym at least five times a week. This dedication enabled Pyhel to shoot straight with patients who thought medications and treatments were the solution. If you're not willing to eat better and get off the couch and exercise, you might as well find a new doc, he would say. The approach mostly worked, he says and smiles. Maybe twice a decade patients would fire back, telling the Type-A physician he was being too preachy. He would remind them, and thousands of other patients, that he's not asking them to compete like an elite athlete. Just do something that keeps your heart going. "You have to find something in the day to do. Even if it's walking or going up and down the stairs," he says. "Don't sit all the time." Suzan Meckler, community health fitness trainer and educator, Tampa Bump into Suzan Meckler in the supermarket aisle and be prepared for a little judgment. The self-proclaimed "Mayor of Fit Town" knows what bad food choices can mean, especially for friends, clients and family with chronic disease. Friends pushing a junk-food-filled cart know she'll blaze over and nudge you to do better, sort of like a drill sergeant with a smile. Keeping the community healthy isn't just a job for Meckler, 57, a community educator at Tampa General Hospital. She watched her mother lose a quarter-century-long battle with Type 2 diabetes. She's on a mission to convince people, especially older folks, that getting fit is worth it. You can't change your genetics, but you can improve your attitude, she says. "I can give you exercise programs until the cows come home. That doesn't mean you're going to do it. I have to work first on motivating you up here," she says, pointing at her head. "We have to motivate that brain." The relentless cheerleader jumps, bends, and pops creaky joints right along with her exercise students. Humor is critical: She often tells senior classes to tighten their tushes if they want it to be worthy of a squeeze. Meckler knows not every exercise is lovable. Even she hates one: the treadmill. "Please, let's put on the snooze button," she says, rolling her eyes. So find one that's fun (or at least tolerable) and make it a priority, she says. "If I can help one person realize the value of trying to take care of yourself and be healthy … I feel like, man, that's aces," she says. Charlene Penick, Shriners Hospital for Children nurse, Tampa Charlene Penick isn't being annoying when she invites you to a workout. She just knows it's more fun when you have company on a run, a spin class or any other activity. "It's much more rewarding and stimulating to have someone to talk to," she says. "You're much more motivated." Lately, she's on the lookout for partners to join her running, a pastime the lifelong athlete picked up just a few years ago. She's regularly signing up folks for races such as Miles for Moffitt, or recruiting coworkers at Shriners Hospital for Children to take a lunchtime core fitness class. "Exercise is not a punishment," says the runner who confesses her favorite running buddy is her 5-year-old granddaughter, Sophia. "It's a positive means to an end." There are a few big reasons why Penick, 57, urges others to keep moving. First, "being a nurse, I have to walk the talk," she says of her passion that includes a commitment to good nutrition. But as importantly, how can you not be at your best physically, mentally, professionally, she asks, when working with young patients who face unimaginable challenges and bounce back again and again and again? She's inspired on a daily basis. "Children have such a resilient spirit," she says.