Meet a Health Hero: April Schetler
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Name: April Schetler
Occupation: Registered dietician at Virtua and Facebook group coordinator for Virtua Wellness & Nutrition
Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
As much as I’d like to say I motivate myself to be healthy, that was only in the beginning. Toward the end of my weight loss, my very close friend who suffered from a genetic disease took a turn for the worse. I watched her suffer through her last weeks, days and minutes. Her body was failing her by no fault of her own, but rather a disease that she had no control over.
Saying goodbye to her was a major life lesson to me. I realized that she would have done absolutely anything to be free of her disease and enjoy a long fulfilling life. Losing her taught me that I had a choice: I could choose to do everything in my control to live the healthiest life possible—to live the long and fulfilling life that she wasn’t granted—or not. Thirteen years later, I still find myself midway through a long distance race or at the end of a hard run where I think of her and her desire just to live healthy. I always feel a little kick in my step and realize I’m fortunate to just be living at that moment.
Describe a health or fitness turning point in your life.
Although it’s been over 10 years at this point, I owe everything I am today to a flashing red bar on my laptop that read “obese.” Back then, I ate whatever I wanted, drank more than I should, stopped for extra meals for entertainment, and never moved more than necessary. I found myself feeling tired all of the time and generally unhappy with myself.
The day I decided to plug my stats into a BMI calculator online, and that flashing red “obese” came up, was the day I decided to do something about how I felt. I immediately started my version of running, one block at a time, one day at a time. I signed up for a 5K, a distance that felt like a marathon. I started eating for energy rather than for pure enjoyment. A year and a half later I was 70 pounds lighter and armed with a new passion for life and my health. I am grateful for once being 200 pounds and for being obese. Without that part of my past, I would not have the passion to help others that I have today!
What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
If given the chance to institute a health policy in the greater Philadelphia region, I would create a life-skills series consisting of interactive cooking classes for kids, sponsored by local farmers and markets. Children are never too young to get involved with food in some way. My goal would be to spark an interest in colorful, nutritious foods and provide a forum for kids to experiment with preparing them.
As a nutrition professional, I see adults that do not have the skills to make the most basic meal for their family, and instead resort to processed or convenience foods. If we could inspire children to take an interest in food, particularly healthy choices, and teach them the basics of preparing them, the return on investment could be amazing! Communities do a fantastic job at offering walking paths, basketball courts and sports leagues open to the public, but activity is only half of the health puzzle. Teach kids the life skills of preparing and cooking basic, healthy foods, and we complete that puzzle!
What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
The most important part of my health regimen is to always be registered for a running or cycling event, so I have motivation to keep up with my fitness routine. Having a goal to work toward helps me stay the course and gives me a reason to continue to work hard. When I take the time to prepare my body for an event, I take extra care in choosing the best foods that will give me energy and help me recover faster. The harder I’m working toward an event, the more inspired I am to fuel up with quality foods!
What is your number on piece of health-related encouragement?
Take care of your body—it’s the only one you have to live in! Take care of your body now so it can take care of you later. How would you take care of a luxury car so you could enjoy it, problem free, for years? I would imagine with scheduled preventative maintenance, high quality fuel, and mindful handling. The same care should go into maintaining your body; eat high quality foods, energizing activity, and mindful living. The moment you decide your body is worth the same luxury treatment, you’re on your way!
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