Time to Quit Screwing Around

There are times when you know something to be true, but heaviness of that truth doesn't really make an impact until someone points it out to you in plain language. Then you stop and think about it and wonder how the hell you've let it get to this point.

For me, I knew I was overweight, but it wasn't a priority to deal with it. Later, always later. Two jobs, working on a book, and all that goes with that, it just didn't seem like the most important thing. Just recently a few different things happened that changed my mind.

I suppose I first have to give some credit to my day job. This year as part of our health insurance we were given an incentive of $480 savings on our 2013 insurance contributions if we took a Personal Health Survey and took a biometric screening test (cholesterol, triglycerides, all that). I did the survey, which was kind of silly because you get the incentive just for taking it, regardless of the results and with no need to create some kind of plan that is tracked based on those results; basically it's free money. 

Then I went in for the blood draw for the biometric test. This just happened to be the day after I clocked 207.4 on the scale, which for someone a dash over 5-8 is, well, too much. Again, I knew this, but it didn't seem to really register (I guess). I've been higher over the past 10 years or so, but been able to get it down to the 200 or so mark (still - too high) with focus on exercise and diet for relative short periods. Of course, at the screening facility they don't weigh you naked and I was actually recorded at 212. I guess it was a good thing I was wearing just running shoes and not my hiking boots, since this is the number they used to calculate my BMI (thanks for that inaccurate number, by the way). 

Next up came checking the blood pressure. Over the past few years it's been checked at various times and it's always been a tad high. It was one of those things that wasn't quite a worrying number, just at the point where I could tell myself, "Hey, this will come down when I lose a few pounds." And then it was forgotten.

When I came home that day, my wife asked me what my numbers were. Um, 159 over 89. "Holy shit!" she said. And that's when it hit me. I knew the numbers were bad, knew I should do something about it, but until I heard the intensity of her concern at the number, it wasn't real enough. Regardless of the outcome of the biometric testing I needed to start making changes. (The biometric results came back with slightly high normal bad cholesterol, very low good cholesterol, and slightly high triglycerides. Nothing horrible, but not great either.)

The first change I made had to do with sleep. I routinely would stay up until midnight during the week, sometimes later, despite the fact the alarm goes off at 5:30 am. We pledged to each other we'd be in bed by 11. On the morning side I pushed the alarm back to 6. I was leaving the house at 7am every day, but much of the time was spent reading during my breakfast. Since that usually amounted to 30-45 minutes, I decided the sleeping time was more important and so far have managed to cut half an hour out of the morning routine with the only fallout being reduced progress reading whatever novel I'm in the middle of. Simply because of that I've noticed I am more awake in the morning, which means I need less coffee to get going. 

Next I decided to reduce my number of commitments. I have a day job that pays all the bills, but I was also the editor of a sports news website. Being a news editor, no matter the assigned hours, is an always-on type of job simply because of what it is. News does not sleep, so articles continuously have to be reviewed, edited and placed in the correct location on the site. I decided the extra check wasn't worth the stress on my day, so I gave up the title and went back to being just a writer. Giving up that responsibility went a long ways towards lessening my workload in the evenings and feeds into my ability to get to bed earlier.

The last major thing I did was start tracking my calories. At the endorsement of local chef Ken Gordon (of Kenny and Zuke's fame) I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app from iTunes to track everything I put in my mouth on my iPhone (there is a corresponding website which I have never used, but makes it available not just to iPhone owners). Every dietitian will tell you a major component of changing your eating patterns is keeping a food journal and this app, with me everywhere, makes it easy. Another byproduct? At least for me, the simple act of keeping the journal changes what I eat because I want to be eating healthier if I'm tracking it. I decided I wanted a goal of eating 1800 calories in a day, getting that down to 1400 or so after workouts, and have been tracking my food for two weeks. I'm eating healthier, feeling better, and really feel like these changes are ones I can live with. Heck, I can even have a beer if I like, as long as I work it into the day's calories. (For those of you who care, here is a nice guide to calc the number of calories in a 12 ounce beer - it's based on the alcohol percentage. Hat tip to @obeyshiba for the link.)

I only made a slight change to my exercise schedule, adding in more walks to one that included the treadmill. Since Misaki is on a restricted diet herself to cut off a couple pounds this works nicely - we both get the extra burn we need.

I'm working less eggs and more seafood into the diet to work on the cholesterol imbalances, more fruits and vegetables and less grains in general, more chicken breast and minimal pork and red meat, and trying to manage my dairy intake a little closer. The hardest part of this is the less eggs and milk. I've loved dairy my entire life, but now I have to be more careful about how I consume it to balance the fats and calories. And eggs? Well, instead of two eggs for my daily breakfast I'm now down to just one a couple times a week. We're adding new things to our diets too, like quinoa (actually pretty tasty) and, just recently, cauliflower.

Another very difficult thing for me is recognizing when to eat what. The idea of having your big meal for breakfast, average meal at lunch, and a small meal at dinner - with a couple snacks mixed in - is a total mind shift. We've taken to having soup for dinner, which we get fresh at New Seasons or Whole Foods, because it's low in calories and usually very good for you (the fresh soup don't have the sodium issues the canned ones do - and taste a ton better). I'm still trying to get my head around having what I think of traditional dinner food for breakfast, such as a rice/chicken/vegetable combination instead of eggs, toast and cereal. The concept just feels wrong, but the results are so damn right.

So far I'm down nine pounds in two weeks, which is a phenomenal (and unexpected) start. I'm not going to expect this pace to continue - that would be crazy - but I have a few things I can do when I do start to level off. Lifting weights is one, longer and more frequent walks is another. Or more time on the elliptical. And every day I see how my foods add up in the calorie counting app and I find something I could do better (holy shit peanut butter makes an impact!).

This time I believe the changes will stick. I really don't have any other choice.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you! A number of years ago I had a responsibility added, to edit our companys nutritionists blog-I was working for a large regional food retailer. I am not really an editor, I was just the new person that she had not worn down. Parents would write in and say how can I get my kids to like veggies and she would write 3000 words. Not good for a blog. BUT< i started reading the blog, and it really changed my thinking on food. I dont eat anything with sugar now, no cookies and yes organic peanut butter and even limited fruit. I do not miss these foods at all! I am still amazed. I FEEL better. I for sure will live longer. If you want I can send you a short list of books that are interesting on the topic. So, kudos to you!! Hoping you will enjoy this and not feel it is a task (as I m sensing). Here is the link to one of my favorite blogs. Search to the main blog for the 4 healthy recommendations. This person is a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, their 360 degree health program. And my former doctor. -http://drsukol.teachmed.com/PS I found your blog from Mikasi :)