On Healthful Behaviors.
I’m pretty healthy these days. To the best of my knowledge anyway. I was fortunate enough not to sustain any irreversible hepatic insult during my drinking days. I’m sure I will remain at increased risk for liver and pancreatic cancer compared with never-drinkers. And at elevated risk of lung cancer compared with never-smokers. But the level of elevation is likely to be small. I’m speculating, of course, but it seems like a reasonable speculation based on my conversations with physicians. It’s worth a quick review of my basic health from about five years ago.
I weighed about 235 pounds. That put me into the realm of the mildly obese; definitely above the ‘overweight’ threshold. My blood pressure was routinely measured at 140/100. I smoked a pack of cigarettes daily, sometimes more. I drank a bottle of vodka daily, sometimes more. If you’re not an alcoholic, not a smoker, go ahead and give that a try one day*. Let’s just say that 4 out of 5 physicians do not recommend that as part of your daily intake.
So, four and almost-a-half years ago, I quit drinking. Almost three years ago, I quit smoking. And about 20 months ago, I began working out; about 16 months ago, I began running. Slow, steady improvement. Steps taken as I could take them. No giant leaps. I didn’t try to do everything at once. When I began working out, I did 10 push-ups and 25 crunches a night. That grew to around 50 and 100, respectively, before dropping off again as I began running.
When I first began to run, it took me 45 minutes to run 3 miles. I say running, but most of it was walking. Intervals, they call it. I couldn’t go a quarter of a mile before slowing to walk. Gradually I forced myself to improve. Nearly each day, I would go either a little further or a little faster. Now, on a good day, I can do 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes. I even ran 10K in 65:22, which is averaging a ten minute and 30 second mile for more than six miles in a row.
I have a personal trainer now, whom I see once a week. She’s in AA too, I met her at my Sunday meeting when she spoke. She’s one of those incredibly fit, irritatingly happy people who is powerfully encouraging and makes me work far harder that I could do if I were doing it myself.
Now, I’ve lost about 50 lbs. I weigh 185 on my scale (naked), and about 190 on the doctor’s (clothed, but not 5 lbs worth). My blood pressure is routinely about 115/75. My cholesterol, formerly about 220, is down to about 185. HDL up, LDL down. I’ve changed my eating habits too. I rarely eat red meat, cheese, or processed foods. Mostly, I eat whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Lots of natural peanut butter. I still take in too many calories. But my last HbA1c was 5.8. My fasting blood glucose was 103. These are slightly elevated, but not diabetic. In addition to wanting to look good naked, not developing diabetes is my primary fitness goal. And I’ve succeeded so far.
Fundamentally, I find that fitness and healthful behaviors are a lot like sobriety. Every day I do something to maintain, or improve, my condition. I try to think about healthy choices. I learn to appreciate good things, instead of ruminating on missing bad ones which I enjoy. I feel good. Life is good.
*Do not go ahead and give that a try. You may very well die from acute alcohol/nicotine poisoning. Seriously. It could be fatal.