| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:07

Franklin — This is the story of a scare, a wake up call and couple’s dedication to a new way of living. Angela and Chris Patterson, who are both teachers, lead a healthy lifestyle. But just a few years ago, they each weighed 250 pounds. Angela teaches math at West Milford High School. Chris teaches computers at Sussex Tech. The couple met after corresponding on the Internet, had their first date in 1998 and married in 2004. At the time, both weighed about 220 pounds. “Our diet back then was basically anything we wanted or craved, we would eat. We honestly didn’t watch any fat or carbohydrate in-take,” said Chris Patterson. This included lots of carbs and weekends of fast food and desserts, and in the next few years, both their weights topped out at 250 pounds. Angela Patterson had been seeing a dermatologist for severe acne since high school, but nothing seemed to work. By 2007, she was fed up and asked to be put on Accutane. Before she could go on the medication, she had to go for routine blood work. On Valentine’s Day, her husband prepared a big, carb-heavy Valentine’s meal. The next day, Angela took advantage of a snow day to get her blood work done. “I figured that since I had to fast for the blood work, I didn’t eat anything after midnight and went around 7:30 a.m. the next day to the lab. Unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently high fat, starchy meals can stay in your bloodstream for days and, can raise certain levels” When she went to the dermatologist to get the Accutane prescription, she was told that her triglyceride levels were double what they should be. The dermatologist immediately called her primary care doctor and she was put a drug called Lopid. “I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I was only 27 years old and had to go on meds to lower my triglyceride levels.” After crying the whole car ride home, Angela vowed not to eat any more “junk food” and threw out all of the cookies and cakes and stuck to the basics for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “I felt like I had no other options. I was starving and didn’t know what else I could eat. That’s when I turned to help with a nutritionist.” Getting professional help She found Erin Palinski through her health insurance’s Web site. And since Chris is the household chef, Angela took him along for her first appointment. “She took us through what I call a ‘lifestyle change’ plan and even worked with my taste in food such as my dislike of fish,” Angela said. “I left the office that day feeling much better about how I was going to change my life and fix my triglyceride problem.” When she returned to the dermatologist the next month, her blood work was normal. The dermatologist made a comment about how there might have been an error in the previous lab because it usually doesn’t take a mere month to get the levels to return to normal with meds. But the Pattersons had done their homework, and most likely, the culprit was the heavy Valentine‘s meal still sitting in Angela Patterson’s system when blood had been drawn. But change was in the air. Angela was on a health crusade. She weeded the unnecessary carbs out of her diet, added fiber and weaned herself of old habits. Soon, Chris was making the same changes. “I had to cook the food and we got rid of all of the junk food in the household. Without even trying, I began to lose weight just by changing the food not even exercising.” He found, though, that he was still hungry after meals. They consulted with their nutritionist and learned that men typically need more calories than women per day. “So we upped my serving sizes.” Adding exercise Just before they first saw the nutritionist, the Pattersons had begun working out. Upon her suggestion they continued to increase their miles and times per week on the treadmill. When summer came, the couple started taking a nightly walk and purchased “Biggest Loser” workout DVDs then a Bowflex and several months ago, they hired a personal trainer. Looking back at their wedding photos, Angela Patterson said, “I can’t believe that I am the same person in those pictures. I knew I was heavy, but never beat myself up over it. I accepted myself for who I was. I don’t look back at the pictures and feel sad. That was part of my life and it was one of the happiest days of my life.” The couple agree that once they’ve met their weight loss goals, they’d like to have new professional photos taken. They don’t see themselves as crusaders, but say they’d be happy to be ambassadors of change for friends and family who want to know how to break free from old habits and start healthy lifestyles. Chris Patterson’s healthy ham and cheese calzone Ingredients: 1 low-carb wrap (flat out) 1 Tablespoon of fat free ricotta cheese 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce Fat free mozzarella cheese 2 slices of low fat/low salt thin-sliced ham* Directions: 1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Spread fat free ricotta on wrap. 3. Spread 1 teaspoon of sauce over ricotta cheese. 4. Roll/fold ham and place it on wrap. 5. Sprinkle desired amount of mozzarella cheese. 6. Drizzle remaining tomato sauce on the contents in the wrap. Season to taste. 7. Roll/fold wrap closed. 8. Lightly coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the wrap on a baking sheet in the oven until wrap is crispy. *Vegetables can be substituted for ham.