A full house welcomed a Food Network Star contestant who spoke at this year's HealthSmart Wellness Expo Breakfast, sharing his experience of beating cancer following his tenure on the show and the healthy eating habits he developed.
Hans Rueffert had just completed the first season of The Next Food Network Star when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and given a two percent chance at survival. Now known as "the chef without a stomach," the Jasper native focused on healthy eating while he underwent surgeries and treatments for cancer.
After describing the loss of his stomach, esophagus and gallbladder to cancer, he talked about his last meal before surgery - loaded nachos - a meal doctors told him may be his last ever. Afterwards, as he waited to hear how his surgery went, he said he realized what an awful meal it was for him and what he really wanted instead - some crusty bread, cheese and figs.
"My whole focus started shift from quantity to quality. Maybe instead of 80 percent meat and 20 percent veg to 80 percent veg and, if even, 20 percent meat. As my digestive system got lesser and lesser and lesser, that connection between what I eat and how I feel became more instant."
His suggestions to the crowd were to track what you eat with a food journal and see what works for you.
"Every day I wake up and I can't control traffic. I can't control the weather. I can't control genetics. I can't control my three year old, at all. But I can control how I'm going to feel, based on what I eat."
After speaking at the 11th annual HealthSmart Kick Off breakfast, Rueffert demonstrated his talents and showed attendees how to cook up healthy meal, gave out samples and offered some more healthy cooking tips.
Two other seminars that followed Rueffert included local cook and cookbook author Crevolyn Wiley and her take on creative, healthy, southern cooking and UGA Hall County Extension Service representative Carin Booth, who explained the expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which focuses on healthy, family-friendly meals that don't break the budget.
Until 1:30 p.m. free health screenings were offered to citizens, allowing them to learn to their BMI, check their blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol and glucose levels. The Longstreet Clinic provided healthcare professionals for the free screenings. There were also local vendors on hand to share what wellness services they could offer, with everything massages from the Spa on Green Street to the local McDonald's healthy menu options, complete with samples.
Three companies were also recognized for their efforts, as a business, to wellness among their staff. King's Hawaiian, Syfan Logistics and Turner Wood and Smith Insurance all took home the Most Fit Company Awards for 2017.
The HealthSmart Expo has run for 11 years. It was hosted by CIGNA and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. In February, the Chamber of Commerce will again talk wellness with the first annual Healthcare Awards Luncheon.