Beyond the Card: My Health Journey

Jeremy Cantu

| 5 min read

Despite losing 100 pounds in nine months, the most important part of my path to wellness is not about what I’ve lost: it’s about what I’ve gained. By changing my relationship with food, moving more and understanding all of the little steps add up to big results I’ve made huge strides in becoming a healthier me – and I couldn’t have done it alone. My motivation came from inside, but I was only able to stay the course for more than five years thanks to an amazing support network. My family, friends and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan wellness coach boosted my determination and kept me on track with my goals. Today, the opportunity to help others – my colleagues, my family and, most importantly, my daughter – is what continues to drive me forward and live my healthiest and best life.

From health to humiliation

As an active teen, weight was never an issue, but in my early 20s I started gaining weight – and it snuck up on me, fast. I was eating whatever I wanted and not taking note of my declining health despite the fact I weighed nearly 350 pounds. After college I started working as a meter reader at an energy company—a job that required walking 10 miles a day. That first day was a real wake-up call.
At my heaviest, I weighed almost 350 pounds. The miles I was walking for work was a jump start to my weight loss, but my overall health was not improving. I learned the hard way that weight lifting doesn’t erase daily fast food runs. You can’t outrun a bad diet. I hit rock bottom when I failed a physical fitness test that would have allowed me to move into a new position within my company. It was at that moment that I realized it was time for a change – a big one – and I could not do it alone.

How I got started

It took me a little while to get over such a blow, but I ultimately decided that instead of feeling defeated, I would get motivated. I started counting calories, replaced my usual fast food breakfasts with healthier options and even became a runner. My family often shows love and celebrates with food, so I had to start making choices based on my health. Even if it was tough to say no, I was caring for myself.

Losing more than 100 pounds does not mean you’re healthy

After nine months, I had lost more than 100 pounds. During a visit to my primary care physician, I received accolades on my weight loss but concern over other health tests. Despite my weight loss, my numbers were still too high, putting me at greater risk for serious health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even cancer. It was clear, I still had work to do.

Healthier with a personal coach

Fortunately, I had the help of an expert to guide me on a healthier path. My physician submitted my health information to Blue Cross, my health plan provider, which determined I was eligible to receive individualized assistance from a wellness coach. I was assigned to Sarah Micallef, a Blue Cross health coach and registered dietician, who really helped me set and achieve my health and fitness goals. She was there to guide me, discuss what was working and what was getting in the way. I looked forward to my phone calls with Sarah. She encouraged me and helped me stay accountable for my actions and focused on my goals. Most importantly she taught me valuable, lifelong lessons that will help me improve and manage my health, such as setting goals that are realistic and attainable. Paying it forward Looking back, I’m really proud at how much weight I lost and how much I’ve changed inside and out. If I hadn’t failed the fitness test for my job, I probably would’ve been overweight and unhealthy the rest of my life.
Today, I look forward to hitting the gym, rather than dreading it. I’m proud to use my experience to encourage others in my family and community, as well as my workplace, make healthier choices. I’m a part of the wellness committee at work and am helping my nephew and daughter learn to make positive choices now so that they won’t ever have to experience what I went through. The biggest reward, aside from improving my own health, is seeing the positive changes my journey has instilled in my daughter, Asela. Seeing her motivated, making healthier food choices and getting more active makes me incredibly proud. Developing these healthy habits now will set her up for a much healthier future, while avoiding the experiences I had. I want her to live her happiest, healthiest life. Start the New Year off right. You don’t have to do it alone. If you’re a Blue Cross member inspired by Jeremy’s story, we invite you to explore the benefits and tools your health plan provides by logging in to today. This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state. We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association