ASU Graduate Student Justin Weltz Credits Thrive Program for Saving His Life
After hearing that his health was in jeopardy a few months ago, Justin Weltz will graduate this spring with a Thrive “degree” in improved fitness from the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center and a Master’s degree in English from Appalachian State University.
As early as second grade, the Florida native knew that he wanted to go into the teaching profession. He excelled in the classroom and always looked for opportunities to tutor his peers. Justin decided to become an English teacher when his college English professor said, “Whatever your ideas are, they have value. The key is learning how to express them.”
After college, he went on to teach high school at an alternative school for students with behavioral challenges and disabilities. This time in his life was challenging to say the least. Justin recalled a time when a student intentionally damaged his car, but even still, his passion for teaching grew. “I learned early on the importance of having a short memory,” he said. “As a teacher, I gain nothing from holding a grudge.”
The stress of the job did take a toll in other areas of his life. Weltz became depressed and overweight, often coping with fast food twice a day. In need of a change, he decided to go back to Appalachian State to pursue his Master’s degree in English. Although he enjoyed being back in the classroom, the pressure of graduate school did nothing to help improve his depression and poor diet.
“I can remember one occasion where I stayed up for three days straight while trying to teach an undergraduate class, work my part-time job and complete final exams,” he said. “During that time, the only thing I ate was fast food. It was bad, I knew it was bad, but it’s what I did.”
Last December the 29-year-old faced a moment of truth when at 320 pounds his medical provider informed him that he was diabetic. If changes were not made, he could lose his life.
At that point, Weltz’s mother recommended that her son join her in the Thrive program at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center. Thrive is a medically supervised six-month program that transitions participants from chronic disease management to wellness. The program includes supervised exercise, nutritional counseling, chronic disease education and self-management strategies.
Weltz joined the Thrive program in January 2017. Since that time, his A1C (average blood glucose) went from 7.4 (high) down to 5.2 (healthy level). Additionally, thanks to the help of the Thrive program staff, Weltz changed his diet, lost 75 pounds, went down four pant sizes, improved his overall confidence and formed a closer relationship with his mother.
“Justin has made extraordinary progress on improving his overall health and well-being thanks both to his personal hard work and determination, and to the supportive team from the Thrive program at the Wellness Center,” said Karen Williams, FNP, Weltz’s primary care provider. “He has had significant weight loss which has required stopping medication for diabetes as he no longer needs this. With the Thrive program’s support, Justin has made huge strides towards improving both his mental well-being and physical health.”
“The Thrive program has helped several patients in our practice [Greenway Medical Associates],” she said. “Its comprehensive approach meets each individual at their current level of fitness and proceeds forward with goals of improved health outcomes. The program’s staff also notifies the provider if there are problems that arise when starting a new exercise program. The Thrive program is a much needed and valuable resource for our community.”
“The Thrive program saved my life,” said Weltz with a smile. “I cannot wait to look and feel better as I walk across that [graduation] stage in May.”