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On Healthful Behaviors.

23 July 2012

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.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. LawnBoy permalink
    23 July 2012 14:10

    Rarely eat cheese?

    Let’s not get crazy.

    • 23 July 2012 14:33

      Well, my Peanut Butter Cup consumption remains undiminished.

      • LawnBoy permalink
        23 July 2012 15:07

        If it were nutritiously plausible for a man to live on only cheese and Peanut Butter Cups, that man would be me.

  2. 23 July 2012 18:18

    I also found running regularly (and yoga) very good to the mind. It is a daily reminder that what I have done (both achievements and screwed-ups) is not that important compared to what awaits ahead. Will I be happier if I can conquer the me yesterday? Absolutely! And also sometimes just letting go and enjoying jogging in whatever pace give me the peace of mind. Having one’s body, mind and nature work together is soothing.

  3. 23 July 2012 18:39

    My primary fitness goal is also not to develop diabetes – in addition to not developing cardiovascular disease. I’m genetically predisposed to both but hope the lifestyle changes I’ve made in the last couple of years have helped reduce the risk. However, looking good naked is a close second. Very close.

    It is sometimes shocking to me to think about how I used to eat and how inactive I was. Mac and cheese, ramen, creamy dreamy pasta, chocolate cake for breakfast, ice cream and/ or microwave popcorn for supper all while sitting on the couch reading a book. I still eat almost all of those things (not M&C, ramen, or MC popcorn though – lost my taste for those) but in moderation. It was very hard getting used to eating less when my metabolism changed around 30 yrs old but I think I finally have the knack of it.

  4. furtheron permalink
    24 July 2012 06:31

    A program of rigorous honesty. I don’t do at well as you my swimming has tapered off again as there doesn’t seem enough hours in a week. Poor excuse I know.

  5. Kelly permalink
    24 July 2012 17:59

    Just wanted to let you know that this really inspires me. I’m struggling to get healthy, in more ways than one, and hearing how you did it really helps me get a picture for what might help me.

  6. Angela permalink
    30 July 2012 05:30

    Usually I kill my exercise enthusiasm with trying to do it all at once and being overwhelmed with how far I have to go. There is a lot of wisdom in your method of small steps and doing a little bit to maintain or build on where you are at every day.

  7. 2 August 2012 11:23

    Good for you on getting the healthy habits. Since my wife’s heart attack, we have been eating healthy and over the past two weeks, I’ve been on a food cleanse diet which has been really good. I am on the thin side so don’t want to loose weight but just be healthy.

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