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Eduardo Xol on Life, Balance, and His Sister’s Lupus

The Extreme Makeover designer brings balance to people’s homes and helps his sister handle lupus.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

Landscaper/designer Eduardo Xol of the popular TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is all about balance: finding it for his own life and bringing it to the people he designs for.

His second book, Extreme Entertaining Made Simple, in bookstores Nov. 4, communicates this reassuring philosophy. “I design for all the five senses,” Xol says, “to create a home that helps provide relaxation and balance in your life.”

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On Extreme Makeover, Xol often designs for families with health challenges. Five years ago, he and his family faced a crisis of their own when his sister, Monica, then 28, was diagnosed with lupus.

What is lupus?

Some 1.5 million people in the United States -- the vast majority of them young women between 18 and 45 -- have this often-puzzling autoimmune disease with a constellation of symptoms ranging from joint swelling and muscle pain to hair loss, chest pain, and rashes. Xol admits his sister is lucky. “Even though she’s been through some rough patches, she has a very manageable form of the disease.”

To feel as well as she could, however, she needed to make some health adjustments. “She used to drink a lot of caffeine and not enough water, didn’t get enough exercise, and got stressed out,” he says. “For a while she was on a medication to deal with the symptoms of lupus, but it was really hard on her body."

Living with lupus

“We sat down and I said, ‘hey, are the side effects from this medication outweighing the benefits? What if you made other healthy choices first?’” Even for people whose lupus cannot be managed without medication, making some changes -- such as eating more balanced meals and getting regular exercise -- can help prevent flare-ups. “She’s doing really well now,” Xol says.

Xol admits he struggles with finding that balance himself. Extreme Makeover usually has two builds going at once to finish some 25 houses every year, and “I’ve become a bit of a workaholic,” he says. “I’m learning to say no to things. And I’ll go home to the house I grew up in and immediately relax.”

Reviewed on October 20, 2008

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