Making the Choice to Be Healthier
At times you have to stop and think about where you are, where you have been and probably most importantly what direction you think is the best direction moving forward.
Since my physical exam at Togus and meeting my new doctor over a week ago, I have had a chance to digest some test results; his comments, thoughts and suggestions regarding my health. Also I have had a chance to do something I am pretty good at, researching the questions that I have and finding solutions that align with how I choose to live my life.
After all, I am an experiment of one and the mistakes I make and yes, the successes that I have are a result of my choices.
Before I go any further – I want to remind readers of the following:
Disclaimer: All opinions and experiences expressed on this website are based on my own personal research and experiences. Please consult your doctor with any medical issues, trainer, nutritionist or other licensed professional before beginning a training program or attempting to do anything that I write about here.
The information provided herein should not be construed as a health-care diagnosis, treatment regimen or any other prescribed health-care advice or instruction. The information is provided with the understanding that I am not engaged in the practice of medicine or any other health-care profession and do not enter into any health-care practitioner/patient relationship with its readers.
The rest of this post are simply my thoughts and experiences on my personal medical care, issues and the direction that seems to be the correct one for me.
I know things on this blog seem to revolve around running, but I tend to think that my running is a great metaphor for my life and if you read between the lines on many of the daily posts there are more things written about myself, than the literal writing might suggest.
Read on McDuff.
My concerns going into the physical were the irregular heartbeat that happens every so often, how high my cholesterol levels would be compared to where they were a few years ago and whether the medical staff at Togus would give me grief about getting vaccinations.
I am not an anti-vaxxer, but do not believe in getting ones with questionable results or necessity, especially after my negative experience with the Tentanus shot last year – one that I did feel was necessary. If I don’t have to have a vaccination, I prefer to pass.
Actually my health is pretty good, other than my right shoulder I do pretty much everything that I want physically. After all I run 30-40 miles most weeks, my times are decent for my age and my weight while it is at the higher end of the charts for someone 5’7″ and 163 with a 32″ waist…I also knew that things were not as good as they could be.
The other thing is that I never smoked or did/do any of the other illicit “drugs” or recently legalized stuff, other than a glass of wine with supper or a beer with pizza on Friday nights.
What were the results?
Unfortunately, some of the blood test/lab results were much higher than I expected, nothing that the doctor was really concerned about or wanted to put me inpatient right away because I was in any kind of immediate danger. However, he still strongly suggested that I needed to bring the blood tests back to more healthy ranges.
No issues regarding my not wanting to be vaccinated – that was a relief.
The heartbeat thing is something that I will deal with for the rest of my life. It is not serious (when I wacked a crowbar off my chest while pulling stumps back in 2007, it did change some things in there). My new doc thought that I might be overdoing some of the intensity on my runs and not resting enough.
He suggested getting a watch with a heart rate monitor and to set some alarms for when I go over or under certain heart rates to let me know what was going on. You know to use a common medical term – when things get a bit wonky.
I have done that.
After talking with him, it seems that what I eat is probably my biggest issue, which didn’t surprise me all that much when I stopped and looked at how I was actually eating over this last week.
Let’s face it, the past 18 months since I re-retired from work again, have been difficult: worrying about my Father’s decline in his health, loosing a Brother-In-Law that I was close to in June 2017, the subsequent work on his estate that dominated our time for the next six months (going back and forth to NH) and the normal grieving process – it was stressful. When you add in SD2 building her home next door this summer, well it all was a great recipe for my blood work results.
During June to December 2017, I ate more fast-food (heart attack in a sack food than I have in since before 2000), too many sodas, milk shakes, fries, sort of hamburgers, sweets, etc., and all that showed up in my blood work last year. However, with everything else going on in 2017, both the doc (a different one) and I, wanted to give the test results another year to see where I was after a more “normal” year.
While I did have more time to devote to exercise and have run well in 2018, I do not really pay close attention to the comfort foods I scoff down when I am stressed or bored.
Therein lies the problem
Between the new doctor’s (who I like) recommendations and my own research, it came down to two roads that I could go down.
1. Pharmaceutically based allopathic medicine
2. Holistic and more diet based.
The new doc wasn’t big on the take a pill route either, based on my mindset, current physical condition and exercise regimen. I probably am not the typical overweight patient, with a host of other medical issues that he tends to see.
Also I have been down the pharmaceutical road before – that take a pill to solve my medical issues and everything will be just fine. It did not work all that well for me. Due to the side effects of the “low-dose” statins and other pharmaceutical drugs on my body – honestly I would refuse most pharmaceutical drugs, unless it was a result of a surgery, injury or a life/death choice.
Which means that I have to make food my medicine.
Which means that I have to change a few things.
First and foremost – get back to where I was before July 2015. No, I will never be that young again (damn), but I can get back to where I was health-wise by making some changes to my eating habits.
The bottom-line is that I cannot eat whatever I want.
I had deluded myself this last year that I was eating 80/20 and when I looked at things objectively this week, I figured out that my sugar intake (boxed cereals, ice cream, candy, cakes, yogurts, peanut butter and many other Standard American Diet foods that have sugar added unnecessarily) and refined carbs (chips and all that other stuff from a bag or a box) was WAY out of wack to where it had been in comparison to what I should be eating.
Looking at it realistically with what I have learned this past week, I was probably closer to 50/50.
In the course of my research, I came across the Low Carb diet and did a lot of reading over the past week about it. It is a lot closer to how I was eating from June 2011 to June 2015 than what I am doing now and more philosophically aligned with how I believe things should work.
There are still a lot of questions that I have about the Low Carb diet and will be doing more research about it over the next few months. It seems promising, but at the same time rather limiting, which would make it more difficult for me to keep doing over the long haul.
So I have been sort of following a lower carb diet for the last week, but not what would be called a low carb one the past week or so and surprisingly my weight has dropped from the fairly steady 162-163 to under the 160 mark, even with the Holiday season in full swing.
The strange thing is that once I stopped eating a lot of stuff, especially high sugar and chips, after a couple of days, I felt like crap. I had a bad headache and last weekend I was sick with a cold, that has stuck around for the past few days. Coincidence probably, but it is damned strange that the first time I feel sick this year is when I cut back significantly on my sugar intake – almost like I had withdrawal symptoms. It can’t be – after all sugar is a just a harmless ingredient that makes things taste better – right?
The reality is that
While Low Carb eating is nice in theory, but for my practical purposes, how my family prepares food, in all honesty I don’t see me completely moving away from higher than they recommend carbs on a daily basis. I like my Friday homemade Pizza and Beer night with my wife and enjoy the occasional sweet too much.
Probably I will end up with something that looks a little more like a so-called paleo eating plan with a few twists. More veggies, fruits, meats, with occasional sweets and treats, while avoiding the typical industrially processed foods. In other words getting back to how I was eating a few years ago makes perfect sense to me and if I can get to the actual 80/20 or even 90/10 kind of eating, I believe that will be good enough for me.
So what are my action items.
1. Eat more real food (meats with fat, some organ meat, greens, vegetables and fruits)
2. Cut down on the processed food versions from a bag or a box and look at more at the ingredients list – if I can’t pronounce it or if it has added sugar, I probably do not need to eat it.
3. If I am going to eat sugary items – do it consciously.
4. Continue to research eating better – not necessarily a particularly named diet, but one that I can maintain with some changes to my current lifestyle and by me making smarter choices. I can’t keep doing it the way I am currently.
5. Keep running and lifting enough weights to stay fit.
6. Use a heart rate monitor to tailor my workouts and let me know if things get wonky.
7. Get my weight back under 150 pounds. This one is not hard or fast, it would be nice to get there, but it more important that I feel good physically and mentally than beating myself up to meet a certain weight.
Let’s be brutally honest…
No one else can take charge of my medical issues or conditions other than myself. Doctors can make recommendations or even give “orders”, but I am the one that has to do the work, make choices and follow through to make progress or make decisions that I need to make, in order to live the life that I want going forward.
Yeah I have a feeling that eating better will go a long way towards improving some of those high/low blood test results.
Now to do it.