I was approaching my 32nd birthday and since I had skipped a full physical to celebrate turning 30, I figured it was time to get a tune up.
I have always been what people call “stocky” or “husky.” However, I am very active and have always been in decent shape. But with my age creeping up on me and married life and fatherhood making it more difficult to eat right and exercise, I knew it was time to have a professional assess my condition.
My trip to the doctor wasn’t fun. I’d be the first to admit that. First, I got scolded for weighing 287 pounds and measuring just 5′ 11″. Secondly, the poking and prodding I got in almost every orifice made me feel violated to say the least.
The doctor ordered a lot of blood work, not because she thought anything was wrong, but because it had been ages since my blood had been analyzed.
The Call to Action:
About a week later the doctor called me personally to let me know the results of said tests. She said she was concerned about me and that I had what she called metabolic syndrome and a cholesterol level of 260. While I probably should have been more concerned about having metabolic syndrome which is a precursor to Diabetes, it was my sky-high cholesterol that got me to pay attention to my doctor.
The Doc got stern with me and said that while she would give me resources to help me lower my cholesterol, it was up to me and only me to lower the number.
A few days later I got a packet in the mail from my doctor with information about my conditions and what I could do to change my situation. I also did some investigating of my own. With a wife and two young daughters, this news was both a wakeup call and a call to action for me to do all I could to ensure I would be around as long as I could.
It Takes Effort:
With the help of my doctor, I started on a meal plan and exercise regimen that my doctor preferred to hitting the medications. I said goodbye to the pancakes and pounds of bacon I ate each week and said hello to egg substitutes, egg whites, turkey bacon in lesser quantities and about one-third of the carbohydrate intake I was accustomed too.
I’ll admit it wasn’t easy at first to switch food habits cold turkey. I also eliminated soda from my diet, which gave me occasional withdrawal headaches. I began drinking nearly 80 ounces of water a day and with time I started to feel better.
I also added more exercise to my daily routine. I bought an elliptical machine at a garage sale, that wasn’t fancy, but served the purpose of getting my heart rate up and my sweat glands working. At first it was a struggle to do 10 minutes on my machine, but in a matter of weeks 30 minutes was commonplace for me. I found that if I exercised while watching sports or a game show on television the time on the machine went buy in a flash. Soon, exercise wasn’t work; it was as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth.
While my weight went down slightly- eight pounds in six weeks- the results I wanted would come from the blood tests I took at the doctor’s office.
A few days after the lab took what seemed like a gallon of blood from my arm, the doctor called me again. While my cholesterol was still on the high side, she was pleased to inform me that my number had dropped 30 points to 230.
That was all the motivation I needed to keep going. Yes, eating right and exercising regularly has been tough, but after nearly four years of working on it, I am proud to report my cholesterol is a comfortable 190. Plus, I lost 15 pounds which is an added bonus.
I have realized that lowering my cholesterol is not a short-term process. When I feel as though I have not done enough, I think of my kids and realize that I am doing this for them as much as I am doing it for myself.
I thank my doctor for the tools, but I thank myself for the hard work and determination. I won’t lie: This isn’t easy.
Today I maintain my decent number by continuing to limit my bad fats and carbs and also working out on a cardio machine for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Believe me: You can do this. But you have to realize that no doctor or pill can make you better. It all comes down to one person: You.
Blair Reynolds is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, MN.