Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

I've been gone awhile here, sorry 'bout that. It's a combination of busyness, server connection problems, and busyness.

I got a phone call last week from my health care provider (she's actually a midwife, but I thought mentioning that might confuse people and give the impression that somehow I was still planning babies, which I certainly am NOT) who I went to a while back for my first ever annual check up. Yes, I was being good. Thought it was about time. I expected to be rewarded for my responsible act by being patted on the head and told how healthy I am.


Instead she told me my cholesterol and triglyceride levels were TOO HIGH.

And then she started spouting off all sorts of numbers that meant absolutely nothing to me. And told me to march myself down to her office and sign up for medicine to treat it.

A lot of things went through my head, very quickly, and very surrealistically, including an image of me in ten years or so with one of those little pill boxes to help me with all my various and sundry medications. I SWORE I would never be one of those persons who requires a little pill box to help themselves keep track of the umpteen zillion pills they are prescribed to with the whole Better Living Through Chemistry banner flapping heartily over their head. AHHHHH! (with apologies here to those who need to take many little pills for their real and truly serious health issues. I totally understand how fortunate we are to live in a time when we have this option and I have convinced many a friend to take advantage of modern medicine when it's the last or best route)

And I was pissed. Because I have several family members who have mildly high levels of the same who eat like three year olds left to make their own choices and when they clean up their diet for a wee bit they are fine. And here I am, eating healthier than 90% of Americans, and I get to deal with this!? I feel completely betrayed.

So we discussed and argued back and forth, me and my midwife, and she agreed to give me six weeks to move those numbers enough to convince her I should continue au naturale.

I spent several days Googling my eyeballs off trying to learn this new language. It's very confusing. I've ignored it around me always, because I knew I was eating right. All this talk of carbs and sugars, cholesterol and grams. My head feels like exploding. Or sleeping. It's overwhelming. I'm starting to get the information to settle out into some general categories and I've also calmed down a bit. But not too much. It seems like there are three categories I can work on - diet, exercise, and weight.

Although my diet has always been good (in fact I can't use most of the dietary suggestions for lowering your cholesterol to actually lower my cholesterol because I'm already eating that way), I do cheat a lot because I've always assumed I could. Because of the aforementioned great eating habits. I already eat fish, use olive oil instead of butter, buy whole grains, eat fruits and vegetables, rarely eat eggs or meat, chose salad over french fries, etc.

Weight is another one where I've always been in good or at least better shape than most people of my age group, so I didn't worry about it too much. I don't diet. Have never dieted. I don't even own a scale. I know that I could lose some weight and I had already planned to do so, slowly and over a long stretch of time, simply for vanity purposes, and because in the last few years I've noticed even small ups and downs seem to affect my energy levels and feeling of health. So even though I don't have to lose a lot, maybe I'm one of those people who have a sensitively tuned hormonal system? I do know that the amount of weight that BMI list tells me to lose is an insane amount. If I lost as much as it told me to lose, I'd probably end up in the hospital. It's always been that way, even when I was a teenager wearing my skinny jeans and looking hot and comely. Those weight height lists would tell me I needed to lose ten to twenty pounds more. Uhm, no. I think the joke about being "big boned" really is true for me. Either that or I'm partially made out of rock.

Exercise. Ahhhh, now here's the rub. I used to be a very active person. And I still am, when I'm up and about and away from my house. On vacation I can hike, climb, or walk the rest of my family under my feet. I outlast all of them shopping or working. William is obviously stronger and gets there FASTER, but I have stamina. But that's only when I'm out and about. With no wild bunch of kids to corral each day, my daily at-home habits and activities have all become extremely sedentary. Like, for example, me sitting here (reclining actually, with laptop perched on my legs) typing away at the keyboard blogging. Or reading. Or sewing. Or watching television. Or sitting with tea over a table with friends. Even the type of travel we do these days requires mostly sitting in cars or planes or at people's homes or restaurants. Activity level may be the key here. Good thing I'd already decided I needed to fix my lifestyle in this way. I'd started walking about a month ago and felt a huge increase in my energy levels. Of course it bums me out that this didn't show up in the test results, but maybe it hasn't been for long enough or often enough.

I figure I can do anything for six weeks, so I have sworn to clean up my lifestyle to a shiny level of perfection for that long and see what happens.

So, more walking. Check. I enjoy it. Although it would be a lot easier if we weren't being pummeled by snow, ice, wind, rain, slush, and more snow. Gardening. As soon as the weather allows. I used to love to garden. I gardened every day. I don't even know why I stopped, except that I think I got tired of dealing with conflicts in travel and the small space I have to work in and the short, short, short growing season. Also, more general up and moving activities in my house. Which means less time on the computer. I'm trying to figure out how to spend fewer hours on the computer and still keep up with everything I want to do and everyone I want to visit online. I suspect the answer is, I can't. Sigh.

Lose weight - again - I can do anything for six weeks, right? Count those calories. I found a great website to help me do that - go here. Then click on Daily Plate.

Diet - the good thing here is I used to be an extreme health food nut in my twenties. Over the years kids, circumstances, spouses, my own drift towards moderation, has changed that. But I know how to do it and I even miss eating like that to a large degree. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much more I'm tasting the food I'm eating now that I'm not adding a teaspoon of sugar or a shake of salt. The difficult part isn't eating healthy, that's mostly pleasant, the difficult part is still being somewhat confused over what I'm supposed to be eating and what I'm supposed to be avoiding for the purpose of stomping on those lab results. Which is a different thing than just being good or bad nutritionally.

Although it's not like I'm a saint. I did dream last night that I was back in Sonoma eating an entire length of sourdough. White sourdough. The best sourdough in the world is in Sonoma. And I was eating it. It was toasted to perfection. And filled with melted butter. I dreamed I ate the entire thing. And it was delicious.



Blogger JulieZS said...

I wish you lots of luck in making these changes to get and stay healthy. We want you around for a long time yet Laume! I hope your family gets on board and is helpful and supportive in your effort.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I'm not a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV, but DH was able to lower his bad cholesterol and raise his good enough to avoid having to go on meds by having a large bowl of oatmeal (the "real" stuff, not instant or quick) for breakfast every day and taking prescription strength fish oil capsules. His doctor was hesitant to let him try, didn't expect any changes as he was already such a healthy eater and high cholesterol runs on both sides of his family. I don't know if you'll see great results in 6 weeks as Rick goes 6 mos. between blood tests. It's been a year now and his total cholesterol has stayed within normal range and his good cholesterol has continued to increase. Exercise should help too- I work part time in a health club and see women who say working out has lowered their cholesterol enough to avoid going on medications. Good luck!

6:19 PM  
Blogger Kirsty said...

You can do it Laume! Good for you for already eating well, and for being able to "tweek" a bit to eat better. I'm with Barbara, whole oatmeal is wonderful for lowering cholesterol...it just gives me wild tummy aches, even with my stomach med...go figure. And I LOVE it, too, sigh.
I stopped eating chips. Oh, how I love chips. And over the last--gosh, has it been over 4 months now? wowl!--my skin has improved so much. I'm post-menopausal, so dry skin was a big issue for me every winter...but not this winter, and I can only blame not eating chips...so one change can make a big difference!

Hugs and low cholesterol whammies!


9:29 AM  

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