Midlife Crisis

keep-calm-it-s-only-a-mid-life-crisisAfter reading this article in the Daily Mail, I guess I am struggling with a midlife crisis that I never knew I was in the midst of. The “poll of 2,000 adults found that taking part in extreme sports and investing in high-tech gadgets were also indicators of reaching middle-age.” I agree with the quarter that called the term clichĂ©, but at age 42 I did decide to change my lifestyle and improve my health, but not because of a midlife crisis.

With the exception of my family, my health is the most important thing to take care of. At age 42 I realized I was being fed more and more medication for my ailments and after two knee surgeries I could no longer stay active playing soccer. I was feeling lethargic, sick and my weight had started to balloon to 216 pounds, tipping the scale at over 220 pounds at my heaviest. Something had to change, as I struggled with migraine headaches, joint and side pains with no relevant cause, Plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Age had started to take its toll and I was feeling terrible every time I threw back a handful of medication that wasn’t the answer.

More than a crisis, this was a period of enlightenment and I feel very fortunate that something inside me clicked and told me, “this is the right thing to do.” My doctor called my decision “extreme” and my wife thought it would just be temporary. Believe me, I would have killed to have this change happen in my mid-20s rather than my 40s, but I am thrilled it happened and I have embraced it for all it’s worth.

Now, two and a half years later after changing my diet, adopting a whole foods, plant based lifestyle I no longer rely on medication or my family doctor. My health is through the roof, so to speak and the blood work results support positive change in my life. It took just 10 months to shed 44 unwanted pounds, losing nearly 4 inches in my waist! More importantly my total cholesterol( TC), which was peaking at 264 in July, 2011 decreased to 130 just a year later. That’s a drop of 134 points, something my doctor had no answer for, especially when I told him it was accomplished without his medication.

Now, nearly two and a half years later I am more active than I have ever been because I have more energy and want to experience more things. I took up running last year and accomplished a half marathon under 2 hours in August, 2013. That race was a personal challenge to confirm everything I was doing. Yet that didn’t satisfy me. One month later I participated in my first Tough Mudder event. Talk about a great time and challenging yourself, while supporting an entire team. To date, nothing like it has compared!

After the half marathon my training was derailed due to shoulder surgery and I was not able to run the California International Marathon, which would have been my first. I decided to “think big” and go ultra. Just 2 months ago I participated in my first ultra event, running 31.7 miles across Mt Diablo in Northern California. What am amazing high, one that has me yearning to run longer and achieve greater.

Who needs a new sports car? I’d rather buy that for me wife, I am truly experiencing the best life has to offer now that I control my health and continue to push my body to new limits. I am living life as never before, setting new goals to achieve. At no time did midlife crisis ever enter my mind. If this is what one feels like it, then I am loving life.

Perspective

perspectivePeople are passionate about a variety of things, from sports teams to politics and religion to the food they consume, this should come as no surprise. Social media seems to draw the best and the worst out of people, as I’m sure many have read via the many outlets, from discussion boards and Twitter to Facebook. For as many comments supporting a topic, there will be just as many opposing it and providing alternatives. I guess that’s what makes the Internet a great place, when individuals can share ideas and comment on topics they have in common or debate issues at hand.

Scrolling through new posts on a plant-based Facebook group I ran across a topic that asked, “Where can I find the number of people who have benefited (so far) from McDougalling?” McDougalling, for those readers new to T6F, is the term associated with an individual who follows the teachings of Dr. John McDougall, who promotes a starch (plant) based way of eating while excluding meat, dairy and added oils in your diet. I still consider myself a McDougaller for just over 2 years now, which has seen a dramatic improvement in my health. Over the course of this journey I have learned about nutrition and the role it plays for building a healthy body.

The thread seemed to get derailed rather quickly as a debate flared up about a plant-based way of eating being a “sacrifice” regardless of the positive results many have experienced. The comments and ensuing discussion had nothing to do with the numbers the original poster was looking for. However it started me thinking about the change in my lifestyle; was it a sacrifice or a choice?

Prior to changing my diet in October, 2012 I knew the food I was eating contributed to my increasing weight and myriad of health related issues. While I wasn’t as sickly as some who turned to Dr. McDougall for answers, I struggled with a growing list of pains that I had no relief for; migraine headaches, foot problems, an increasing cholesterol, side pains and joint issues. The documentary Forks Over Knives was the revelation I needed to approach nutrition and take control of what I eat.

While I feel I made a choice to exclude foods that promoted disease and obesity, in the thread, Vikki makes a great point. “In the beginning it does feel like a sacrifice. But once you start seeing results, once the weight starts coming off and the test results improve and you can get off the drugs and you can quit worrying about heart disease and diabetes and, and, and, it no longer feels like a sacrifice. Now it feels like a reward.” That was exactly how I felt.

Sure there were yearnings at times for cheese or the smell of BBQ had me salivating for a nice steak, but the longer I went without being tempted to these foods, the better the results. Weight continued to fall off, the problems I had, started to disappear and I saw an amazing decrease in my total cholesterol (total of 134 points). My doctor couldn’t explain it other than to say my decision was “extreme” and that I could “not have long term success.” Instead of saying a plant-based way of eating is a sacrifice it’s the perspective from which you view it.

For many of my friends I communicate with using social media, friends, those I see regularly and co-workers, many tell me they could not do what I have done. Many could not sacrifice their vices; meat, cheese, cooking with oil, fast food or alcohol in the name of health. From my perspective I have done what I felt was required to in order to take control of my health and improve how I feel. While around me I see many more feeding on a handful of medication, increasing in weight and not doing anything to better themselves. Why not? Why sacrifice your health?

Many of these people must be happy in some aspect of life, maybe being healthy doesn’t mean fueling your body with good food, instead letting the industrial medical complex and big pharma protect you from disease and heal you when sick. All the time continuing to eat a Western pattern diet “characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat” (source). This usually leads to pleasure gained from the fats, sugars and salts this diet is guilty of.

The thread continues, “since you’re apparently ignoring the obvious “pluses” to unhealthy food, I’ll point out the obvious: The added effort of shopping and preparation is a sacrifice in and of itself. The act of eating healthy food healthfully (taking time to thoroughly chew food that has substance) is another sacrifice. The lack of fats, sugars, and salts has an an undeniable effect on flavor.” Yet the madness doesn’t stop there. “One does not have to be “intensely” suffering from withdraw to:

  • realize the implications of never being able to eat out
  • never eating food prepared at a friend’s house,
  • awkward dinner parties with friends who eat differently
  • always having to plan meals ahead,

having everyone you know look at you silly when they’re having pizza, and you’re having a baked potato and squash. It’s not ALL about personal satisfaction from eating bad food.”

Shopping, it’s not for everyone and based on my most recent trips to the market many don’t care what they eat as baskets are piled high with CRAP: carbonated junk, refined sugars, artificial sh*t and processed foods. That must be a hell of a decision standing in the frozen section debating which frozen meal to get.

Food preparation can be challenging, especially if you have no talent in the kitchen. I will consider myself fortunate that I had some basic skills that have only improved, spending more time cooking healthy food. The first book I purchased to support my lifestyle change was filled with simple recipes. It’s not as simple as popping in a frozen dinner into the oven or opening a bag from Taco bell. How difficult is it to bake a potato or yam? Heat some frozen veggies? Boil water or vegetable broth for a soup base? Sorry, some effort must be made on your part to cook.

Eating foods free of fats (or low in fat), sugars and salt doesn’t have be like chewing flavorless cardboard. Many seem to have that misconception. I can understand many foods I cook would taste bland, due to the fact your taste buds still have a penchant for fatty, sugary and salty foods. My wife reminds me this time and time again when I share a new dish with her. This fact alone could deter individuals early on and see them regress back to a Western pattern diet, sacrificing their health solely in the name of flavor. Yet from my perspective, I don’t feel I am sacrificing flavor in the name of health.

The implications of not being able to eat out, go to parties or feel awkward at parties should not be a reason to avoid healthy eating. I don’t see this as a sacrifice at all. There are very few restaurants that serve healthy food. Take the time to learn about nutrition and see just how unhealthy many restaurant menus are. In the rare times I have eaten out, I can order a baked potato and steamed vegetables and be satisfied. If this makes you feel awkward, sorry that’s on you. Don’t worry about what I am eating. Usually my way of eating becomes a topic of conversation and I share nutrition information I have learned. I expect no special treatment when we RSVP to a party or visit friends for dinner. Why should I?

Healthy eating is not a sacrifice depending on your perspective. When I made the decision to change my lifestyle and eating a plant-base diet I chose not to fuel my body with meat, dairy and added oil. I did not want to keep these foods that feed illness and disease in my diet. Why sacrifice my health? The decision to change my way of eating was one of the best decisions I have made. I have no regrets, regardless of perspective.

 

2013 Resolutions

2013Where does December go? Why does it seem this month above any other flies by, before you know it it’s Christmas Day and we are suddenly staring at New Years Eve and the upcoming year. This December has been no different that the past years. Since 2006 I have posted my resolutions to share with all. I feel this makes me a bit more accountable when it comes to exceeding my goals or questioning why I failed any previous resolution I have made.

This coming year I feel I have a leg up, so to speak, as the new year approaches. Before I get too far ahead, let me review what I set out to accomplish in 2012. The biggest challenge of my life has been achieved over the course of last year. In 2011 I set out to take control of my health, no longer relying on the Big Pharma or the medical establishment. Base on my October blood results, I have completely reversed atherosclerosis and any heat disease that might have existed. No longer am I dependent on ANY medication. My family physician declared me “perfectly healthy” during my October physical.

Not only did I meet my weight goal of 175 pounds, I exceeded it dropping to a low of 172 pounds. I had hoped to get my total cholesterol (TC) to 140-150, but the October results showed my level at 130 mg/dL! I am very excited with how healthy I have gotten the last 12 months. The second part of my “quest for health” comes as I look towards 2013.

The other two goals I had, while not as important as improving my health I failed at. I am not really upset I did not succeed at either of them. The first was to get the 1968 Mercury Cougar running. Well, that never happened, nor did it come close. I was able to put in quite a few hours in during the summer, but nothing at equated to getting the Cougar running. Oh well, there is always next year.

The other goal was to to on vacation, while it was scheduled for nearly the entire year, I canceled it about a week out (in November) in order to take it about 30 days later to coincide with my wife’s back surgery. Even taking a vacation, I did not get to San Diego or any other exotic destination. Again, there is always next year.

As for 2013, the list it’s all that challenging. First, I want to complete the 12-week Stronglifts.com program and continue building strength and muscle. After just 8 weeks in the program I have seen a real transformation, I can only imagine want a full year will bring. Looking forward to those prospects. With any luck I might even get to meet Mehdi at the end of January as he comes to San Francisco.

With the move being completed, it’s time to clean up and get organized. I guess along with the other positives that come with a move, now is the time to go through boxes that were packed and throw away (or donate) stuff I no longer need. I was horrified at the amount of crap I have tucked away in a 10×20 storage unit. I am even more shocked at the amount of sports collectibles I have obtained over the years. Seeing it all in one places makes me wonder how much longer I want to lug this shit around.

On the organizing front I start the year with NO DEBT! Gone are the 4 balances I had on credit cards. For the first time it feels great not to owe money to anyone (minus 2 car payments and a house payment). I would like to move all my billing statements I do have over to electronic and reduce the amount of mail I get. I want to start saving more money per month, which should be possible since I am not shelling out monthly payments.

I am sure there are a list of other things I want to accomplish, but right now these are the big ones. I look forward to another GREAT year, after a wonderful 2012 (minus my wife’s surgery). It’s been a challenge the last few days of the year, but it’s great to start the year off with a clean slate and work towards some goals.

Plant-Strong: Year 1

Hard to believe it has been 1 year since I decided to change my diet and take control of my health. Today marks my first anniversary since giving up meat, dairy and oil and eating plant-strong. It has been an amazing start on the road to health and believe it of not it does seem to get easier. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would I could do this. Ask me a few years ago and I would say I could “never go vegan.” Not only have I done so, I have gone an extra step and I have been rewarded with excellent health based on my doctor’s opinion, more importantly based on the numbers.

I don’t focus on what I chose NOT to eat, rather all the choices I do get to eat. It wasn’t easy at times and I struggled, but I never strayed too far from what Dr. John McDougall teaches. I learned of him in the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was also introduced to T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn. These three gentlemen are my found on which I have built a strong pillar of health. Without their research, studies and teaching I would continue to eat poorly and rely on big pharma and the medication establishment to care for me as I age.

Now at age 42 I am in the best shape of my life and it will only improve. While re-learning nutrition is continuing, it was interesting to see just how jaded the government and big business were in regards to our health. Special interests and profits are the main goals of industries like meat and dairy. They don’t care about YOUR health. They will feed you lies, as long you continue to buy and support their product. Many fallacies surrounding milk as well, does it really do a body good? Research it for yourself.

Now, 12 month later I don’t miss that slice of cheese or that steak on a special occasion. I have found a heart healthy way to enjoy food and thrive on a plant-based, whole foods diet. But I am not here to push this lifestyle on anyone. I would much rather push good nutrition so well intended individuals can make their own decisions. I like being in the 1%, the small minority that make up the group who base their diets around plants. I have gotten comfortable with people looking at me with a queer stare and saying, “You don’t eat meat? Or dairy? Or oil? But olive oil is healthy for you…”

You can read just how far I have come in my latest addition under McDougall titled, 1 Year Review. It provides a run down of the last 6 months and the steps I took to achieve goals I had set, including the last 10 pounds I wanted to shed, along with lowering my cholesterol under 150. I also layout some of my future goals to accomplish in the next year. That actually started today with a new weight lifting program called Stronglifts 5×5. More on that tomorrow.

Drink the Water

LaCroix Sparkling Water

Drink the water!

It’s been tough the past few days, as I have been working 12 hour days starting at 2am, but it was my decision. Coming off days off last Wednesday I had to call in sick with a stomach virus I picked up from my son who spent the better past of 3 days in a lethargic state with diarrhea and vomiting. I called into work sick Thursday morning at 4am when my alarm went off and remained in bed until 1am Friday morning. Much like my son I had to drink the water and had no solid food for about 36 hours.

During that time I started looked forward to my upcoming physical. It will have been about 12 months since I last went and just short of 11 months that my doctor put me on Simvastin, a medication I took myself off of about 4 weeks later due to side effects. It wasn’t long after that I made the necessary changes in my diet to clean up my health. Between July (really October when I changed my diet) and December last year I saw a 64 point drop in total cholesterol. That number further improved a few months later. Now, as I approach my physical I am taking further steps to improve my health, but am I degrading my lifestyle?

In March I had resolved to decrease the amount of beer I drank. I can’t say I have followed through very well. While we don’t go out and socialize often, when we do it usually includes BBQ and beer. What does get me are my days off when I work around the house. While I do keep busy I consistently find myself cracking open a tall, cold one all to frequently. It’s not a drinking problem, but it’s no problem to 12 fall by the wayside in a day and a half. This continues to pack on the empty calories, carbohydrates that end up turning to sugar and being processed by the liver. This in turn (I believe) has kept my triglyceride level elevated.

I still have 16 days before I go in for my next lipid panel, but have not popped the cap on a beer since last Monday (6 days). Hopefully I can continue this trend through the 30th and onwards. There is nothing wrong with a drink on occasion but I do believe it’s having an adverse effect on my health. To supplement this habit, I have started drinking more La Croix Sparkling Water, which comes flavored. It’s all natural, no sugar or sodium. It seems to hit the spot when I am working around the house and I find myself frequenting the fridge just as often to quench that thirst.