Joe Mendolia

An unflattering photo spurred Joe Mendolia to commit to losing weight and getting fit. With the help of his health coverage and some lifestyle changes, he’s lost nearly 20 pounds and improved his overall health.

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As a Clinician and Substance Abuse Counselor at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in East Harlem, Joe Mendolia has seen more than his share of suffering. Of course, he has also seen many success stories, too. “The greatest reward from my job is seeing members overcome the scourge of addiction,” Joe said. “It’s both humbling and rewarding to be a part of that treatment, and to see a life saved rather than lost.”

An 1199SEIU member for three years, Joe works on the frontlines of the battle against opioid addiction—now a nationwide health epidemic—and in the course of his work, it became easy for him to find his own comfort in food, he said. “I used to eat donuts, hamburgers, pastas loaded with sauce and large quantities of ice cream,” Joe explained. “In the end, I was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 201 pounds.”

That was last April. But when he saw a picture of himself with a pint of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other, he realized he needed to make some changes. Joe knew he had a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and when he visited his doctor, he learned that his own levels were elevated. So he changed his diet—eating smaller portions of healthier foods, mainly lots of salad, chicken, fish, fruit and low-fat yogurt—and began working out at a gym near his home in Queens three to four times a week. And his healthy new lifestyle is paying off. He has lost 18 pounds, now wears size 34 pants and has lowered both his blood pressure and cholesterol levels. “Without my healthcare benefits, I wouldn’t be able to afford that trip to the doctor’s office,” Joe said, “and I would have probably been satisfied with where I’m at. He reminded me there’s still work to do.”

At 58, Joe said he feels better than he ever has—and he wants to hold onto that feeling—so he sticks to
his diet and exercise regimen and walks more than he has in years. He’s even worked up to slow jogging on the treadmill for as long as an hour at a time. “The changes I’ve made have become my normal habits now,” he said, “giving me a boost and a better outlook every day.”

While it hasn’t been easy, his progress keeps him going. “This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Joe said, “but it’s been worth every ounce of sweat and more. I want people to know that change is possible and that their Benefit Fund, their Union and their employer are all here to help.”

What Do Your Benefits Mean to You?

You count on your health benefits to support you in your efforts to stay healthy, whether it’s by getting regular checkups, keeping a chronic condition under control or just improving your lifestyle in general. But has there ever been a time when your health coverage literally saved your life or the life of a loved one? If so, we’d like to hear from you. To share your story with your fellow members in an upcoming issue of For Your Benefit, please contact the Funds at [email protected].

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