I try to maintain a relatively active lifestyle and keep my health in check. I always get an annual physical, during which my P.A. (physician’s assistant) and I recite a recurring script.
PA – How many times a week do you exercise?
Jor – At least three.
PA – That’s good. How would you describe your diet?
Jor – Pretty good. I don’t eat much in the way of processed foods.
PA – That’s good. Your blood pressure is 100/60. That’s excellent (said in a slightly incredulous way). Is it usually this low?
Me – Yes.
PA – OK. Well, your weight is 145 pounds today. A female your height should be between 118 and 141 pounds. Things that you can do to lose some weight include exercising several times a week and eating healthfully.
Uh huh. Thanks for the info.
I know my P.A. is utilizing the highly complicated CYA system taught in her medical training (no offense intended; I’d do the same if I were her), but I want to respond, “You should see the other women in my family. We’re sturdy folk. And we do like food. And I’m not going to lose four pounds just to get into the prescribed healthy range.”
I got my annual physical about a month ago, and – like ya do – I got my cholesterol checked. It has always been high. When I was a kid, surviving on a diet of Mickey D’s kiddie meals and Domino’s Big Foot pizza (one symptom of Working Mom Syndrome in the 1980s; another was shoulder pads), my older sister Lauren and I had our cholesterol checked. When the results came back that Lauren’s was 227 and mine was 212, I felt pretty smug. Yeah, that’s right: sisters can make anything competitive. Unfortunately, my mother got a call about a week later that the levels had been reversed. I’ll never live that down.
In response to the high scores, we were sent to a nutritionist. When the nutritionist tried to reason with Lauren, she threw a fit, at which point the nutritionist retrieved a sizeable tub of lard and placed it on the table. “This is your body on fat. Any questions?” But Lauren’s an aggressive negotiator, and she managed to haggle her way into a concession of – at a minimum – once-a-week fast food stops theretofore.
A year ago when I got my cholesterol taken, it came back as 189, which is well within the “healthy” limit of 200. Clearly, getting rid of the fast food habit has contributed. At about the same time, I stopped throwing out my egg yolks. I used to eat egg whites for breakfast every morning, and I decided to run an experiment for the year to see if eating a whole egg seven days a week would have a significant effect.
Well, after my most recent physical, my total cholesterol came back as 234, and I had a moment of utter despair. I don’t want to give up the yolk! No!
My friend Chris is a nurse practitioner midwife, and I spoke to her about the results. I don’t know about you, but I never knew what all the cholesterol numbers meant. She explained:
The LDL number indicates the density in one’s blood of the “bad” cholesterol that leaves the liver and gets stuck to the sidewalls of one’s blood vessels. The HDL number indicates the density in one’s blood of the “good” cholesterol that, while also produced in the liver, travels back to the liver to be expelled, snagging LDL cholesterol from the sidewalls of blood vessels on the way. So the higher the HDL number, the more molecules available to pull LDL from the sidewalls, preventing plaque buildup and, potentially, cardiovascular disease.
For a woman about my age (29), any HDL number over 40 is considered good. Mine was 76, which is pretty friggin’ awesome, if I do say so myself. What can I say? I’ve always been an overachiever. And the best part is that I can continue eating the whole egg. (Listen, I ate egg whites for years, and if you say egg whites actually taste better than whole eggs, you’ve pulled the wool over your own eyes, for which I commend you.)
I know that a good portion of my cholesterol destiny is attributable to genetics, but I do think that some of it is dictated by diet and by the fact that I’ve given up most processed foods. While that goes a long way toward keeping my weight and health in check, I do have a serious sweet tooth. And once I let myself indulge a little, sugar and other simple carbs create an addiction that tends to snowball.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been working my way toward a full blown snowman, and it’s not even officially winter yet! I’ve been rationalizing it by saying that I’ll lose plenty of weight come March, but when it comes down to it, my body can only take so much in the way of sweets binging before I no longer feel at my physical peak, nonetheless at physical sea level.
So yesterday I started what I like to think of as a sugar purge. I’m not cutting healthy carbs or calories severely. I’m just avoiding refined sugar. Goodbye, leftover Halloween candy at the office, you evil temptress. Goodbye, Wholefoods fresh baked goods department (they have gluten free stuff too. le sigh). From now on it’s just you and me, fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains (at least until Thanksgiving, as a short term goal).
Instead of looking forward to the A.T. and saying I’ll lose a lot of weight, I’m now looking forward to the A.T. and thinking I don’t want to be addicted to refined sugars going into it. The peaks and valleys associated with sugar boosts and crashes would be like adding a ten pound weight to my pack. I’d rather go in with stable energy levels in mind and save the peaks and valleys for the landscape.
The next few weeks in which I’ll be “withdrawing” from the junk food habit I know will be hard. They always are. I’ll hit my energy lulls and won’t have anything to pick myself back up. Then again, I have recently revived the art of napping. Sigh of relief. My treasured naps should be able to pull me through.