It’s safe to say that one employee can make all the difference in the behavior of the office, and that’s exactly what’s
been happening for the past few months in the city’s Recreation Department.
Last January, 48-year-old Michael Hinojosa, head of the department, suffered a heart attack while he was playing basketball in the Thursday night men’s league. Since then he’s dropped 50 pounds and his co-workers have also lost weight.
Prior to the heart attack, caused by a 100 percent blocked artery, it was common for everyone in the office to have submarine sandwiches and pizza, washed down with Mountain Dew or other favorite soda. Today it’s salads and bottled water.
“In my case probably family history contributed to the plaque buildup I had. I also chased 15 pounds for about 20 years,” Hinojosa said. “The doctors told me to lose 15 pounds. The heart attack was a life altering experience that would try to make you change some things.”
John Leone, sports coordinator at the Recreation Center, used to weigh 268 pounds and he felt awful, always exhausted and tired. But he is now playing basketball two days a week.
“I’ve always had a hard time with my weight,” Leone said. “When your own kids are telling you it’s time to lose weight, it’s time.”
Leone had been dropping pounds but when Hinojosa had his heart attack he became even more serious in his efforts. To date he has lost 40 pounds and is focusing on being in better shape.
“We all play in a basketball league, softball league. I also do a lot of skills and drills with the kids. Instead sitting back and watching, I actually do it with them,” Leone said. “I’m also 47 years old, the body hurts.”
His admits his favorite food by far is pizza.
“If I cheat it’s with pizza,” Leone said, adding that now his diet is more protein based.
Part of the process of cardiac rehab was talking about a typical day and the foods that you eat,” Hinojosa said. “I drank a lot of soda and there was a lot of bread. Those were the two unhealthiest things to put in my body, and I put them in large amounts.”
As Hinojosa started shedding some weight his co-workers did too because no one wanted him to have pizza for lunch.
“When I came back to work it was all about eating right, getting back into an exercise routine. “Everyone was trying to be good,” he said. “Now we’ve ordered a lot of salads together. They eat with me to help me through. Now it’s almost turned into a competition. We’ve turned ourselves into a little support group.”
Charlie Giuffrida, 30, and the assistant to the director, has been following the Medi-Fast diet.
“We eat a lot better in the house, no doubt,” he said, adding that his wife has dropped a few pounds and their approach to food has changed.
“We do a lot more meal prep. We order less take out,” Giufridda said. “We still go out but finding stuff on a menu and not overeating is not an easy task. I always leave something on the plate.”
Now Giuffrida has lost 18 pounds. He’s had to purchase some new clothes and found some shorts and pants he can now fit into.