1 Year Review

Today marks the one year anniversary since taking control of my health and improving myself by following a plant-based lifestyle. At 42 years old I feel better now than I have any any previous time in my life. Hard to believe I have accomplished so many positive changes in a year. Looking back at my 6 Month Review I had set some goals to achieve. The two most important goals were achieving my weight goal and decreasing my total cholesterol to 150 mg/dL. There were also other minor goals, some of which I will still consider a “work in progress” but others I successfully accomplished.

A year ago it was recommended to watch the documentary, Forks Over Knives, which introduced many concepts, ideas and statistics. After watching this I started my own research into the benefits of following a plant-based, whole foods diet. Thankfully I found Dr. John McDougall and it wasn’t long after this viewing I purchased a book that became a cornerstone to my new lifestyle, The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. I recently picked up Dr. McDougall’s book, The Starch Solution, which confirmed many of the finds I learned in the first book I read.

Since reading this book and adopting a new lifestyle I have seen unbelievable changes in all aspects of my life. While not necessary I have continued to monitor my progress by recording my daily caloric intake, weight and exercise on a daily basis. None of this is required or necessary, but I believe it has helped me achieve my goals and maintain where I am today. Since my 6 month review I have started taking monthly pictures (front, side, back) to show progression since joining the local sports club in June. All these “tools” have helped me achieve the goals I set months ago.

Since April 26 I have continued to work towards improving my health and expanding my knowledge as it relates to nutrition. Understanding nutrition, more than eating a plant-based diet has been key to my success. No longer do I buy into what argibusiness has been pushing on consumers for years. No longer do I need to rely on “Big Pharma” or the medical establishment to push their deadly drugs or their doctors in order for my health to flourish.

Just after my 6 month review in April my weight had plateaued and I found myself about 10 pounds short of my goal of 175 pounds. I would make the decision to join Diamond Hills Sports Club, the local gym in town and start exercising with a co-worker who would become my workout partner. Not being experienced around free weights and machine, my partner was able to introduce me to his way of working out. Instead of working out 2 body parts every day, we focused on working individual groups each day; chest, arms, shoulders and back, followed by 30-45 minutes of cardio. While I started out on an exercise bike for the first few weeks, I graduated to a Precor Elliptical Crosstrainer.

I started to see further changes as I broke through that weight plateau and started to see my weight drop. I attribute this to the cardio and being able to burn more fat (calories) every day I exercised. One area that still is a concern is the amount of calories I eat on the days I work out, more on this later. Weeks passed and we would change exercises regularly. From the pictures in May to where I am now, I can see improvements in my physique. Still I am not where I want to be and still have work to do.

Unfortunately in September my exercise partner passed away. He had ongoing heart issues and was admitted to the hospital on a Friday and passed away the following Monday from a heart attack. It was a very unfortunately incident, which left me wondering if I would be able to continue working out on my own, without any sort of direction or coaching. So far I have made some progress, but will be making some big changes to my work out routine starting soon that will provide me a more realistic goal to achieve in 12 weeks.

Now weighing in at 173 to 175 pounds on a daily basis, clothes I couldn’t fit into now hang lose. My wife still feels I am “too skinny” but continued exercise and weight training should help me fill out. I have not had any problems sticking to a plant-based, whole foods diet without cheating. There have been very few occurrences where I have treated myself. The most notable was a 3 day trip to Las Vegas where I was a compliant as I could be. I didn’t see this a regression, but had an enjoyable time, tried to eat as best I could and moved forward. As it stands now, being at my goal weight I do took with more foods that should be avoided if you are trying to lose weight, such as nuts, olives and avocados.

In June I had the opportunity to get my body fat tested through hydrostatic testing. This is a process where you are weighed (dry) and then submerged in a tank, while you expel all your air to get a more realistic value of bone, muscle, internal organs, water and adipose tissue (fat). Based on a BMI calculator, at a height of 72 inches and 175 pounds my BMI is 23.7%.

On June 21 I weighed in at 179 pounds and “got tanked.” The test results came back with a lean muscle weight of 151.1 pounds or 84.4%. My body fat was 27.9 pounds or 15.6%, which falls on the high side of “healthy.” Quite a contrast from the BMI calculator. I was very pleased with the results that supported the other test results and weight loss I had experienced since changing my lifestyle. I set another goal to reduce my body fat to 13% in the next 4 months, which would require losing 5 pounds of fat.

On October 18 I weighed in at 174 pounds dry and then got in the tank.The results were good, not quite to my goal, but still I was able to improve from my initial test. I was able to lsoe 3.9 pounds of fat, down to 24 pounds or 13.8%. I also saw a 1.1 pound decrease in lean muscle weight, down to 150 pounds or 86.2%. Still I saw this as a good step forward  and less than a percentage point away from the goal I set. With a change in my work out routine I am targeting 11% body fat over the next 4 months, this would require another 5 pounds of fat to be lost.

At the end of March I had a blood test to provide my physician with results to the Vitamin D supplement he had prescribed during my physical in July, 2011. The results of this blood test continued to show improvement from my December, 2011 results.

March 26, 2012
Weight 183 pounds
Chol: 175 mg/dL
Trig: 208 mg/dL
HDLC: 34 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 5.1 H
LDL: 99 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 141 mg/dL

Unfortunately my triglycerides only saw a 2 point decrease and I started to research why this number continued to stay high. It didn’t take long to find a few possibilities in order to improve that number. Actually I could pinpoint the main factor quickly, but figured I would investigate the others. My high triglycerides level were due to the consumption of alcohol, more specifically my love for beer. Changes had to be made. Cheese was difficult to cut out, beer was a bigger challenge.

After my Las Vegas trip I made a point to stop drinking all beer and give myself about 6 weeks prior to my yearly physical to see if my consumption of alcohol was the contributing factor. Thankfully giving up the 12-pack of beer a week was not as difficult as I expected, as I started drinking La Croix flavored sparkling water. It must be the carbonation, but I did not miss drinking beer. The results were rather astounding.

At the end of July I had another blood test and waited in anticipation for my results. I had a physical schedule the second week of August and wanted to get a step up on my doctor and be prepared for what he was suggest to me during my visit. Unfortunately none of his “helpful” information ever made it out of his mouth. My overall results after 10 months were nothing less than outstanding.

July 31, 2012
Weight 173 pounds
Chol: 130 mg/dL
Trig: 162 mg/dL
HDLC: 35 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 3.7 H
LDL: 63 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 95 mg/dL

By my visit I had dropped that last 10 pounds (44 pounds overall) and was just below my goal weight (175 lbs) at 173 pounds. My total cholesterol (TC) went below that magical number of 150 mg/dL, now at 130 mg/dL (total drop of 134 mg/dL). Only a year prior my doctor told me that I could NEVER reduce my TC by diet alone to a healthy number. More importantly my triglycerides dropped to 162 mg/dL (46 points since March). This told me that reducing my alcohol intake was the reason my triglycerides remained high. There was a little fluctuation in my HDL (good cholesterol), up a single point, while the LDL (bad cholesterol) saw a 33 point drop to 63 md/dL.

The blood work results combined with the weight loss had me on cloud nine as I walked confidently in for my yearly physical. After the initial weigh in, I had my hearing and eye sight checked, as well as an EKG administered. As I waited for the doctor to come in, I kept playing back in my mind my answers for his upcoming questions since I knew he was not pleased with my “extreme” decision last year to cut out meat, dairy and oil.

After some routine tests and checking my body, we started discussing my blood work. He was speechless, he had nothing to say about the results he was looking at. He was amazed at what I had accomplish in about 10 months. The topic of diet and nutrition was never brought up, but he told me to “keep doing what you are doing.” Guess that was his way of saying, “I guess I won’t see you often in my office.”

The first year has been amazing! I never thought I would achieve such success in such a short period of time. While I did miss out on a few goals, such as being able to take the online nutrition course offered through eCornell and I missed out on the Tough Mudder event, I still celebrate the last 6 months of achievements. The bigger goals were met, including a reduction in body fat, my weight goal as well as lowering my TC under 150 mg/dL. There will be plenty of time to work on what I missed out on and continue to eat healthy to live healthy.

As for my exercise regime, I mentioned I will be changing it up. After further reading I am going to move away from working individual muscle groups and start doing barbell moves that work the entire body. There are two workout routines that will have me doing squat, bench press and barbell rows one day, following by squat, overhead press and deadlift the other. These 5 exercises will make up my strength routine for the next 12 weeks. This is time frame, much like the change in diet is only the beginning, hopefully after 12 weeks I see more improvement in the time spent in the gym.

In conclusion, it’s been an amazing year. I have accomplished quite a bit in the last 6 months and feel the best I have ever felt! I am now in full control of my health and have a much better understanding of nutrition. It is my hope that I can help my wife take control of her health as well. While I don’t expect her to ever be 100% compliant, with any luck she will be open to some of the suggestions that have enlightened me over the last year. With a year under my belt I will continue to keep an eye on T. Colin Campbell’s online nutrition class through eCornell. Hopefully I can accomplish and learn more about the importance of nutrition.

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