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Duke Diet and Fitness Center helps retired NFL player reach healthy goals

June 19, 2015
Jimmie Giles working out

Jimmie Giles and his daughter, Candace, make working out a family affair

Former All-Pro football player Jimmie Giles first came to the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in 1984 when he gained weight after a knee injury. He returned 30 years later to lose the 100+ pounds he gained since retiring from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his 13-year NFL career. “It’s more about adapting new behavior patterns than it is a place where you come to diet and exercise,” said Giles.

More to weight loss than eating less and exercise more

Jimmie Giles started his NFL career with the Houston Oilers, weighing in at 242 pounds on draft day. When he showed up 22 pounds heavier on his first day of training, the only way he knew to get the excess weight off was to exercise more and eat less.  “It took me three weeks of running, riding bicycles and eating one triple hamburger” as his only meal of the day. “I had to do what I had to do, in order to do what I wanted to do.”

Weight loss was still his number one goal when he visited the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in 1984. Fast forward 30 years, however, and 60-year-old Giles was back at the Center recently with multiple goals that reach beyond losing the 100+ pounds he gained since retiring in 1990. He wanted to learn how to eat right, move more, and manage his high blood pressure and painful arthritis without medication.

Setting healthy lifestyle goals

Giles turned to the Diet and Fitness Center when he realized he needed a change. He hated being unable to get up in the morning without spending 45 minutes stretching, just to get out of bed.

“Because of the injuries I sustained over the years in football, I was unable to do any strenuous exercise on a daily basis because it hurt too much,” Giles said. “You go through life without knowing what to do. If you don’t stop to find out why things are happening to you, it’s going to continue.”

From the medical professionals on site at the Diet and Fitness Center, Giles leaned there’s a lot more to weight loss than just eating less and exercising more. He brought his 30-year-old daughter, Candace, to go through the program with him. She encouraged him to take classes, and meet one-on-one with the nutritionist, behavioral counselor and physical therapist on staff.

“One thing I learned I was doing wrong was over seasoning my food with salt,” Giles said. He learned how to order healthy meals in restaurants, and the importance of picking the right shoes so he could be comfortable and not in pain when exercising.

Candace says she thinks the classes are the most important aspects of the program. “You can come here and eat the food and exercise, but if you don’t learn what triggers you to overeat, or to eat the foods that cause the bad patterns, you’ll fall right back. The goal is to adapt a long-term lifestyle.”

Giles said his daughter’s daily support, and that of his wife, Vivian, who came along to encourage both of them, were instrumental to his success.  “Support is important in anything you do. You tend to stick with things when you have support.” And, he stressed, it’s important that everyone be on the journey. “If you go back home and everybody resorts to what they were doing before, it doesn’t work.”

Old goals reached, new goals to achieve

After five weeks at the Center, Giles said he has made great strides toward his goal weight, he’s off his high blood pressure medication, and has cut back significantly on his pain medication.

Now he has a new goal: to work with the NFL to help other players in situations similar to his. “The NFL is willing to help players now, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “I hope to get the NFL to embrace this program as a tool to help retired players achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so they too can come here and learn about food and nutrition and what this place can do to change their life. It’s helped me tremendously. I feel so much better in the morning.”

Learn more about weight loss at Duke

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