By Libby Martucci The Herald Business Journal
TULALIP — Samuel Askew planned to run in the Yankee Doodle Dash in Everett on the Fourth of July with his 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, or “Biz” as he calls her.
The run is a celebration for Askew, who has lost 112 pounds.
The Tulalip Resort Casino general manager has dropped the weight since last March through healthier eating and exercise.
And he wants to lose another 30 pounds.
Askew and his wife, Salli, joke that it’s a mid-life crisis.
“I didn’t go out and buy a sports car, or anything crazy like that, I just wanted to get healthy,” Askew said.
Salli Askew could see how his lifestyle was affecting him.
“Maybe seeing the photos of himself on the fridge prompted him, seeing really how much weight he gained and realizing that he had not been able to participate in life with the kids,” she said.
Askew has been at the Tulalip Resort Casino for the past three years and has managed casino properties around Washington for years.
In 2010, Askew was named Washington State General Manager of the Year by the Washington Lodging Association and was named Innkeeper of the Year by the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Those awards came with a price. Askew was always the first one in the office, and the last one to leave at night. That, combined with poor eating habits, affected his health greatly.
“I’m a workaholic and a stress eater. I would get up early in the morning, be in the office between 6:30 and 7 a.m. No breakfast. No lunch.
“Just snacking with sodas and whatever else was there. Then I would get home late at night and I would be starving, so I would gorge myself. I would go to bed and do it all over again next day,” Askew said.
With his health deteriorating, he knew if he didn’t do things differently now, he might not live long enough to make the changes at all.
“I had topped out at 337 pounds, I had to use a C-PAP machine to sleep, and I was on copious amounts of blood pressure medicine,” he said.
With hypertension, diabetes, and cancer on both sides of his family, Askew felt as if the cards were stacked against him. Askew, who has struggled with his weight since about age 9, wanted something better for his children, Elizabeth, and Tommy, 11.
“It was really my kids. I wanted to be around for them. I wanted to see them grow up, fall in love, get married and have kids.
“But I knew I needed to make a change in myself in order to be there for them,” said Askew.
Askew started with little changes like eating breakfast and lunch, curbing his appetite at night.
He ate apple chips instead of potato chips, and drank water instead of diet soda.
After losing 20 pounds, Askew thought maybe he could start exercising. He began to attend the YMCA of Marysville where he would at least swim every day.
The first three or four months were the hardest for Askew in terms of cravings, but the weight continued to melt off.
Knowing he had made a long-term lifestyle change, Askew got rid of his “fat pants” as he would call them.
“I knew how easy it would be to slip back. The wardrobe left the house because I was too tempted. If I had a pair of pants that I could fit when I was a 54-inch waist, it would be too easy to slip back,” said Askew.
Working out every single day became a compulsion for Askew, to the point where he said he might have been overdoing it.
He eventually found his balance, even having the ability to incorporate some of what he was learning about healthy habits into Tulalip’s spa program.
“What it is, basically, is a spa club. You can become a member of the Healthy Living Alliance, which gives you access to fitness facilities at the resort and the opportunity for regular treatments,” said Askew.
Tulalip also has fitness and health opportunities for people working for the casino and resort.
“Tulalip has always been very good about taking care of their team members in that respect. We have a gym here at the resort that is specific for team members, free of charge every day all day,” said Askew.
Even so, it’s difficult to go to work in an environment with buffets and tempting food around every corner.
“I go to events, host events, and the food here is so delicious. But that’s the thing, too. We have amazing food here that is healthy, so it became part of that healthy living.”
He enjoys most of all the positive changes he is seeing in his children.
“In the past, the evenings were spent vegetating in front of the TV, where as now we go to the YMCA as a family. I have more quality time with my children and wife, even my son has lost 10 to 15 pounds himself,” said Askew.
Salli Askew also started making some simple changes. “I’ve lost about 27 pounds just from changing the way I eat.”
The couple are high school sweethearts. And Askew has a simple plan for the two of them in the future.
“As corny as this sounds, it took 18 years for my wife and I to get married and know for certain we wanted to grow old together,” Askew said. “I really wanted to sit on the porch some place as an old man with my wife.
“If I continued on the path I was I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”