At the end of last month's column (Tuning up an appliance for optimum efficiency), I promised to reveal the facts about my efforts to become healthier. But first, here is a bit of background. I quit my three-and-a-half-pack-a-day habit 19 years ago and gained 30 lbs. almost overnight — pounds I'd never shed. Tis better to have gained weight and quit smoking than to die from cigarettes — even my doc told me so back then, so I never gave it a thought. That 30 led to more gained weight as the years crept by, and the gain was so gradual that it escaped much notice.
Getting winded going up stairs is normal as you age, or so I had convinced myself. Staring at my ideal weight range for my height and age was like looking at some distant out-of-reach spot on the horizon where I needed to go without having any means to get there. It was all uphill from where I sat in front of my computer screen, which seemed to be glowing mockingly back at me. It turns out being fat leads to type II diabetes too.
Having never before so much as even given a can's or bag's processed food label a passing glance, Lois and I spent a very long Saturday at the grocery store reading labels. That's it? Our lives are to be spent analyzing fine print I can't read without reading glasses? Here's the raw deal. As salt is reduced, sugar and/or the fat content is increased and vise-versa. It's a catch-22 with very few exceptions. More determined than ever, we scanned the labels until we'd cut the salt, sugars and bad fats in the foods we purchased. What a pain in the wazoo. The good news is that fresh foods (like those you can get at a farmers market) are best for any diet, even if you are not dieting.
Just 4 ounces of meat per serving is the size of a deck of cards - as if gambling with the house ever pays off. Reduce the red meats and forget the slathered-on BBQ sauces high in fats and salt and head for Blandsville. As we've discovered, Blandsville is not where you need to go if you're willing to alter your cooking habits a bit. It's a lifestyle change, sure enough, but one that's not too terribly difficult to adopt if you're willing to invest in your personal tune-up. I have a granddaughter I'd like to see grow up before I move to the other side of the lawn — priorities.
Counting calories? I'd never counted calories - not ever. But now seemed like a good time to at least try. A few books later, I'd come to the conclusion this was going to be a royal pain. Indexes to search, sheets to fill out and totals to tally were all activities my patience would not tolerate. Failure was assured. You and I have very little spare time to devote to such things. I had to find something that was fast and reliable that would track my progress, if any.
I searched the Internet and found several free sites where I could track my progress. Each one had something to offer, but none had exactly what I was looking for — a site that was fast and easy to use, tracked everything I needed and gave me the feedback I wanted — except for one — MyFoodDiary.com. I didn't want to shell out the monthly membership fee when other sites were free, so I avoided MyFoodDiary.com for a few weeks. Then I got to thinking about how we're always trying to convince our customers to invest in equipment that will more than meet their needs. I joined. The first few weeks were build-weeks as I added things I ate routinely to my personal “refrigerator.” Soon, I was knocking off a day's intake in minutes, and MFD was taking care of counting calories, tracking exercise and giving me smile- or frown-like faces beside my line-item daily reports.
Another “toy” joined my battle of the bulge — an Omron model HSF-500 Body Composition Monitor. By sending electrical pulses through your body, the digital read-out lets you track body fats, muscle content and updates your BMR.
By the time I revisited the doc — with an initial blood test revealing I had a cholesterol count of 299, with the LDL (bad cholesterol) count at 199 — I had lost 10 lbs. I also was armed with a number of readouts from MFD.com and my recorded BP readings, which had already dropped considerably. He sat in silence for a few moments, looked over the information I'd provided and told me he had been prepared to prescribe a host of medications — my entry into the daily pill-taking routine for the remainder of my days. “I'm going to put off the prescriptions I had planned and give you another 10-weeks time,” the doctor said. “I'll schedule a third blood test, and if your cholesterol and BP are in a downward trend, we'll review your progress and decide if any pills are needed.”
On the next visit, my blood tests clearly showed a downward movement in cholesterol, particularly the LDL, I'd lost more weight and my BP was almost normal. It wasn't fast enough to completely avoid pills, but I was given pills at very low dosages over a short time period to help in the fight for longer life. The lack of salt did the opposite of what I'd expected. Instead of foods tasting bland, I'm tasting them for the first time in decades and it's a flavor explosion!
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected].
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