Back in April I had to have a biometric screening in order to be added to my wife's insurance. It included the standard fare: blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol levels and whether or not I had enough midichlorians to be considered a true Jedi. Most of the numbers were just fine or below average (I guess using The Force just isn't part of my destiny), however my cholesterol numbers came back pretty bad. My good cholesterol number was low, my bad cholesterol number wasn't great and overall I was at a high risk for cardiac disease.
I was definitely surprised upon learning this, but in reality I shouldn't have been. Generally speaking I've always had a good metabolism and been slender most of my life, yet I've not been the best when it comes to my food choices and portion control. I ate what I wanted, didn't practice much moderation and had a tendency to snack late into the night while washing that down with some delicious craft beer. This was my wake-up call. It was time to look at the man in the mirror, ask him to make that change and repeatedly yell, "Sha-mall! Sha-mall!," until he got off his butt and did something.
As luck would have it, the universe was listening and presented me with a challenge to get active that very same week. Some of my co-workers were putting together a team to participate in a 5K run that was happening in June and they wanted me to join. I took this as a sign, put my name down on the roster and planned out what I was going to do. I downloaded an app to track my caloric intake, another to help me train for the run and one more to provide next-of-kin info to anyone who found my phone next to my body after I keeled over from thinking I could ever actually finish a 5K.
For the next two months I put the work in. I reduced my calories, trained 3 times a week and did my best to not return the phone calls and texts I was receiving from craft beer. Yes, it was awkward looking out my bedroom window and seeing a bottle of some good stuff sitting next to a boom box blaring 'In Your Eyes,' but I stood strong and told it to wait until AFTER the 5K. Every week my run time increased while my waistline decreased. By the time of the race I had lost 12 pounds and was fairly confident I could complete it while running the entire time. I was ready! I could do this!
Ok, so, maybe I wasn't as ready as I thought. Yes, I made it through the entire course, but it wasn't 100% running. I had to walk a few times to catch my breath. I made the mistake of trying to keep up with other runners and completely threw my normal pace out the window. And there may have been a point where I tried hailing a pedicab, preferably one with alcohol (like this), to get me up the ginormous hill that was part of the course. But, in the end, I had completed my first 5K.
I was proud of the fact that I had done something I never thought I could do. I was also proud of the good habits I had created and all the work I had put in to get to this point. It felt good to be active and more in tune with my body and the fuel I put into it. The thing is, I wasn't just doing it for myself. I was also doing it so that I could be in the lives of my wife and child for as long as possible. I was reminded of this one day while entering my calories into the tracking app after a meal with my daughter:
O: "Why are you doing that, Daddy?"
Me: "I use this to keep track of the food I eat. I'm trying to cut down on the bad stuff, eat more of the good stuff and be healthier. I'm also running a few times a week to help with that. I'm doing it because I want to be around for you and your Mom for as long as possible."
O: "So you're doing this so you won't die?"
Me: "Oh, honey, I wish. I'm doing it so hopefully I'll be healthier and live longer. But, eventually a day will come where I will die."
O (with glistening eyes on the verge of tears): "But why do we have to die?"
Me (taking O's hand): "It's just the way things are, sweets. All living things eventually die. But I'm going to do my best to be here for you and Mommy for a long, long time. Long enough that you'll eventually get annoyed with my jokes and find me unfunny. Long enough to realize I'm just an insecure guy who's winging it most of the time but doing what he thinks is best for his family. And long enough to fully understand that no matter what happens, I will always love and support you. Yes, even when you do that. But, no, not that. Don't push it."
I went back to the doctor for follow up blood work nearly 3 months to the day of my initial screening. A lot had changed since then, and I was confident that the numbers came down and all that hard work paid off. I even brought Olivia with me so she could be there for this part of the process and also see that her parents need to go to the doctor from time to time as well. Her conditions for tagging along were: 1) She needed to see my blood to verify that it was truly red, and; 2) Under no circumstances was she to see the needle that would draw said blood.
Ok, so, maybe my body wasn't as ready as I thought. My overall number dropped (which is good), but the bad numbers stayed roughly the same (not so good). My doctor recommended I continue exercising, work harder on eating a low-fat diet and to come back in 2 months for a follow-up. I was definitely disappointed that the numbers didn't go down more, but it was a start.
Even though things didn't turn out exactly how I wanted them to, I'm doing my best to remain focused and continue on this path. I'm enjoying being active and how it makes me feel, plus it hasn't hurt that I've lost around 25 pounds since I started. I'm really hoping that I can knock those cholesterol numbers down more by adjusting my diet further, because I honestly don't want to take a pill to do it for me if I don't have to.
The follow-up appointment is in two weeks and I have to admit I'm a little concerned that the numbers may not have changed much. If that's the case, I'll continue to put in the work because of what's at stake. I have to admit, the easiest part of all this has been running. I'm out the door around 5:30 a.m., every other day, to hit the road and complete my circuit. It's even gotten to the point where I'm doing the equivalent of a 10K once a week, which I never thought could happen. The hardest part, however, has been changing my eating habits because, let's face it, there's a lot of amazing food out there that isn't so good for you. And yes, craft beer and I are seeing each other again, but it's on my terms now. No longer am I answering late night texts from the refrigerator asking, "You still up?," "Netflix and chill?," or, "All I wanna do is be where you're at. Why must I feel like that?" Everything in moderation, of course. It's something I'm working on everyday and will continue to do so. My life is worth it, and so is the precious time I have left with my girls. Yup yup.