A Benefit Fund Wellness workshop helped Liliana Calle make changes that lowered her stress level and eased her migraine headaches. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Liliana Calle was just three blocks away from the World Trade Center when the buildings fell, leaving her shaken and stressed. The single mother, a Clinical Evaluator and Substance Abuse Specialist at Montefiore Medical Center, has been coping with stress ever since. A few years ago, she began experiencing migraine headaches, sometimes several a week. The migraines led Liliana to see her doctor, who explained that eating a healthy diet and exercising might help reduce her stress—and relieve her headaches. “The migraines were finally telling me to stop and make time for myself,” she said.
Over the years, Liliana had also started to gain weight, and because she has a family history of heart disease, she began to worry about the effects of stress and the extra pounds on her heart. Then, reading an article in the Spring 2015 issue of For Your Benefit, she learned how heart disease could be prevented with a nutritious diet, exercise and stress management. She also saw an announcement for a Benefit Fund “Heart Healthy” workshop, and decided to attend. “I always made a conscious decision to eat healthy, but I wasn’t paying attention to the little details—the amount of fat, calories and sugar in my food,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t drink, I don’t smoke,’ so I figured I was okay.” At the workshop, Liliana was shocked to learn that there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of soda, and 145 mg of sodium (salt) and 3 grams of fat in just one strip of bacon. She started making changes to her diet the next day. “I made small improvements that I learned would have a big impact on my health,” she said. To reduce her sugar intake, she replaced her after-work ice cream “treat” with fruit and has cut the amount of red meat in her diet. Although her 19-year-old son, Emanuel, loves red meat, Liliana began to replace it with chicken, ground turkey and lean pork, and she cooks fish three times a week. Liliana also began walking 30 minutes a day. To fit exercise into her busy schedule, she now gets off the subway two or three stops away from her home in Queens and walks the rest of the way. She takes the stairs instead of the elevator and sometimes walks around Astoria Park after work. In just a few months, her migraines are almost completely gone. In fact, she’s had only one in the past two months. Liliana also lost three pounds and said she doesn’t feel as tired as she did before. “I have more energy and I feel less stressed. I was grumpy and easily irritated, and now I don’t feel that way,” she said. “But I have to remind myself to be inspired to be healthy each day. I had the tools in front of me but I didn’t know how to use them and stay committed to them. Now I do.”