Shape Up America! The Alan T. Brown Story

Alan was only 20 years old, some would say "in the prime of his life", when he broke his neck while swimming in the ocean. Taken by surprise by a freak wave, he came out of this accident a C5-6 quadriplegic. That means his 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae were severely injured leaving him almost totally paralyzed and without the use of his hands, although he is able to lift his arms. It was 22 years later, at the age of 43, that he had a moment of truth. By that time he was married and the father of two young boys. Several of his friends in the special community of spinal cord injured people to which he belongs had already died and many others were unfit and overweight. He realized he wanted to be there for his boys as they grow up and he was fed up with the fact that he had a "quad belly." As he struggled into his size 40 pants, he admitted that he too was overweight and out of shape.

At 211 pounds (originally 5 foot 8 inches tall) his body mass index was 32, so he was clinically obese. He was determined to do something about it. In 2009 he began to "shape up" his diet and exercise regimen. Here is what he did:

He reformed his eating habits by eliminating snacks and unhealthy food. He chooses nuts and fruit for his snacks and at meals, his food choices include lots of veggies and fruit; his protein choices emphasize poultry and fish. He did not cut out his favorite pasta dishes or pizza, but he now chooses one slice of pizza instead of two and one bowl of pasta instead of two. He cut out all sodas and now uses only water (and plenty of it) to maintain his hydration. Maintaining his energy level is a priority so he is careful to eat at regular intervals throughout the day.

As a wheel chair bound person, he joined a health club costing $35 per month but here is where his ingenuity kicked in. Using hooks and ropes that he brought from home, he has devised ways in which he can remain in his chair but still use the machines designed for weight training (also known as resistance training). His health club has a pool with a hydraulic lift allowing him to get into the water, so he alternates 45 minutes of weight training with aerobic exercise (swimming) for a total of 3 days per week for each form of exercise.

Here is what he has accomplished:

He now weighs in at 158 pounds
He can swim up to 1.5 miles using a combination of the backstroke and a crawl.
He has reduced or eliminated his blood pressure and most of his other medications
He feels and looks younger
He fits comfortably into size 33 pants
His "quad belly" is a thing of the past
He is an inspiration to others who are working on lifestyle change
He feels great!

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