Michael Raczak
School principal wants to lose belly fat

BY SUSAN STEVENS
Daily Herald Health Writer

Michael Raczak has 900 little pairs of eyes checking up on him.

That’s not enough. Raczak, principal of Thayer J. Middle School in Naperville, wants to lose weight, and he thinks he’ll do better if all 150,000 Daily Herald subscribers are following his story.

“I’m at a crossroads,” said Raczak, a 54-year-old married father of two from Naperville.

“When you look at the literature about the health of a 50-year-old man, the sad news is you lose muscle and you have to work twice as hard to maintain the same level of fitness. That’s somewhat scary to me.

“I’d like to kick it the other way.”

Raczak has a family history of high cholesterol and strokes, and he takes medication to control his blood pressure. He wishes his clothes fit better. At 5 feet 11 inches tall, he weighs 200 pounds. Raczak isn’t sure what his ideal weight should be, but thinks he’d like to lose about 20 pounds.

That’s tough in a school. “We’ve got a great parentteacher association here, and the way they show their appreciation is baking,” he said.

Raczak tends to skip breakfast. On the weekends, he loves to cook Sunday dinner, recipes like pork chops with bourbon sauce or steak with mushrooms. When he has to work late, he gets a hamburger on the way home. When he feels guilty about it, he skips the fries.

All this is the wrong way to lose weight, and Raczak knows it. But all the diet and fitness articles Raczak has read aren’t enough to motivate him to change.

“My head tells me what to do, but I get wound up in my job and responsibilities and late nights, and I tend to give into temptation.”

If there’s one thing Raczak does right, it’s exercise. He works out with a personal trainer twice a week, and goes to the gym at least one additional time every week.

“Having a personal trainer is a luxury, but I have to put myself on some kind of a schedule,” Raczak said. “This is a 50- or 60-hour-a-week job. I love my job, but it is a responsibility, and I need to find time for myself.”

As part of his resolution, Raczak wants to schedule a complete physical exam, something he hasn’t done for five years. Besides improving his diet, Raczak wants to increase his workouts to four or five a week.

Raczak completed the Chicago marathon in 2001, and he’s considering entering the 2007 race. To do that, he’d like to get the body he had six years ago.

“When I was doing the marathon, I wasn’t necessarily thin, but I felt good,” he said. “My clothes fit.”