Two years ago, Charles J. Hester’s wife had a health scare that made the pair realize how fragile life is — and it inspired them both to start making fundamental changes to the way they were living theirs.
“I had to take my wife to the clinic. She feared she had something wrong with her heart. They almost medivaced her to Val d’Or,” said Charles, referring to the closest hospital from their community of Waskaganish, located some 1,200 kilometres north of Montreal.
“The scare really hit me,” he said, adding the doctor instructed his wife, Pauline Hester, to start losing weight and start eating better.
Charles is the director of culture, sports and leisure for the Cree Nation of Waskaganish and Pauline works as a bookkeeper and corporate secretary with the Waskaganish Wellness Society. Both are very active in their community, but neither were particularly physically active.
Charles also said it was hard to eat right earlier this year during the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring.
My children and grandchildren are very important to me, and I need to do this for them.– Charles J. Hester, Waskaganish
“I found myself eating more than usual, I would be on my laptop and I would head to the fridge,” said Charles, who also had his own health struggles. In the early 2000s, he was diagnosed in the with high blood pressure, and a few years later came the diabetes diagnosis.
All of this helped motivate the couple to make some fundamental changes and embark on a health and fitness journey that has been beneficial for both of them.
Since April, they’ve lost a combined total of 97 pounds, with Charles losing 50 pounds and Pauline losing 47 pounds.
The secret for them has been the buddy system and working at being active each day by walking, biking, hiking and other activities, according to Charles.
“She gets me up to start doing my fitness routine, and I do the same with her when she has her down days,” said Charles.
Being active easier on the land
He said they both found it easier to stay active when they are out on the land at their traditional bush camp.
“There is a lot of activity going on at the camp,” said Charles. “I believe when the elders say when they are at the camp, that’s when they feel their best.”
He said that it also motivates them when they see other people out in town being active.
“We are not alone out there, and I am happy that each day we walk, we also see others doing the same,” said Charles.
He said their lifestyle changes have made a big difference in how they feel and in how he manages his diabetes.
Charles remembered his late grandmother living into her 90s with diabetes by taking care of her diet, he said.
“The doctor told me I can live to be an old man with this condition if I work to control it, so I am doing something about it now,” said Charles.
“My children and grandchildren are very important to me, and I need to do this for them.”