From Funnel Cakes to the Ornish Lifestyle
Picture Rehoboth Beach a couple of decades ago. The small shops being run by mom and pop. A warm beach breeze blows and carries the wafting smell of fried dough and sugar.
The smell could have been from The Wurst House, run by Gabriele Fisher and her family. They purchased the original funnel cake shop in downtown Rehoboth and kept the recipe because they were so popular.
“It was a great time to be a business owner and we had a lot of fun in our shop for many summers,” Gabriele said. “But, it was back-breaking work and eating bratwurst and funnel cakes does take its toll on you.”
Many years later, in 2014, Gabriele, who still lives in Rehoboth Beach, had open heart surgery. “At that time, they were just starting to talk about the Ornish program. When I first heard about it, they said Ornish could reverse heart disease. That word reverse caught my ear and I thought, you mean I can reverse all those bad things I have eaten!”
Gabriele, who grew up in Germany and southern France, enjoyed food, however after her husband passed away, she found herself cooking less – “how do you cook for just one person?”
When Ornish was established at Beebe Healthcare, it became the only program of its kind in Delaware and one of only 20 programs in the nation.
“I was so excited to see the sign when I was in the Medical Arts Building for another appointment, so I popped my head in and got all the information,” Gabriele recalls. “My cardiologist, Dr. Dimitrios Barmpouletos, agreed that I would be a good fit for the program and soon I started as part of Cohort 14.”
Learning the Ornish Lifestyle
Ornish Lifestyle Medicine’s program is a result of research done over the course of nearly 40 years by Dr. Dean Ornish. The program focuses on four pillars – nutrition, exercise, stress management, and group support. These four pillars, working together, have been shown to be able to prevent and even reverse heart disease for many patients.
Gabriele, who finished her program in October 2017, said prior to entering the program she was most interested in losing weight as a result.
“I was surprised how my priorities shifted because of the program. I have struggled with my weight for several years, so losing weight was my top goal. However, as I continued learning through the program, my goal became different and I was more focused on my exercises and meditation,” she said. “As you realize more about yourself and how you live, you make changes. I became interested in trying new recipes, learning yoga, getting back in the pool, and meditating. And, because of those changes, my vital numbers have come down and I am down several pants sizes, too.”
Gabriele has always had a love of the water and knew she wanted to live near the ocean for the rest of her life. However, as she put on weight, she found herself stopping activities she enjoyed. Now, through the Ornish program, she has started exercising and has a renewed passion for water aerobics.
“Because of my knee, I cannot run on a treadmill or do exercises like that, but I can be in the water and it has been so rewarding for me,” she says. “I am now happier than I have been in years because I am in the pool nearly every day. I love my water aerobics class and I was recently asked to become a part-time instructor, so I am training for that.”
For years, Gabriele entertained her dinner guests the French way, with soft cheeses, cream sauces, and wine. Now, her guests enjoy healthy meals cooked a la Ornish. “They tell me they didn’t think healthy could taste that good,” she says with a laugh.
“It is amazing to me how one program can teach you so much about yourself and can really help you find yourself again,” Gabriele said. “I feel I am coming back to my good self – a place I haven’t been for many years. I have much more energy and I don’t need to relax in the recliner in the middle of the day like I used to. It has been very rewarding to be part of the Ornish program.”