Health: A Work in Progress

Health: A Work in Progress

It was about eight years ago. I was 33 years old, with a BMI considered clinically obese and a family history of diabetes and heart disease. I knew I was at risk. I was sedentary, I ate poorly and I was depressed with very low energy. I felt awful.

To add to the mix, my girlfriend (now my loving wife), diagnosed with brain cancer, was undergoing chemo and radiation. She had a life expectancy of three years. She really needed me to be strong for her. I knew it. And at some point the question arose in my mind…

How can I possibly take care of her if I’m not well.

I started with a simple piece of advice from a good and healthy friend: Start by doing things you like to do and modifying things you like to eat.

So, what were my passions? Well, I knew I Ioved trail running. And hiking. And mountain biking. I started with short walks and slower rides and worked up doing more each week. As I began to get stronger, I enjoyed these things even more. Eventually I added bodyweight workouts, doing push-ups, lunges and pull-ups for more strength.

Once I started exercising more, I realized I had to eat better or I couldn’t get through my workouts without feeling lightheaded and nauseated. I found that when I ate well, my workouts were better and I felt much better. This sparked a strong interest in nutrition. I discovered what different foods really cost in terms of calories – that I could take in half the calories I need in a day with just a few slices of pepperoni pizza, without even thinking about it. That enjoying a bowl of ice cream after the pizza was pushing me to almost 75 percent of my actual need for that day. Wow.

Something had to change.

I changed my diet and just started feeling better. More energized. Less lethargic, less likely to crash. As I read about what good nutrition really is, I ate less junk food, more proteins, vegetables and healthy snacks.

I drastically improved the macronutrient makeup of the foods I ate and it was easier than I thought it would be.

  • I began to pack my lunches for work, favoring fresh veggies, lean protein, and brown rice.
  • I reduced my white starch and fat intake. So, ice cream became light ice cream and eventually yogurt with fresh fruit and granola.
  • Side orders of chips and fries became baked chips or baked fries.
  • Pizzas got smaller and less calorie-dense and vegetables were added.
  • Popcorn servings had much less butter, and eventually I used misted olive oil instead.

Over time, the foods I once loved started to taste different. Rich foods started to taste too rich and sweet foods, too sweet. Whole grains took on a whole new level of flavor and I started craving clean, vitamin-rich foods. It still blows my mind that now I like vegetables more than the fatty starches I used to crave. 

I didn’t try to force this shift in taste, it just happened.

These days, at 41, progress of my health is more evident. I have a very healthy BMI, I’ve dropped many pant sizes and my cholesterol levels have improved dramatically. I run and ride further, with more energy. I embrace new challenges in my life with confidence.

Above all, I naturally climbed out of depression. I now feel useful in my relationships – and to my wife. And her cancer? It’s been eight years of “no change” MRIs. We’re both healthier than we have ever been. I have a lot to celebrate these days, and as I set new and higher goals for myself, I know I’ll always be a work in progress – and I look forward to every minute.

Take the first steps to growing younger and healthier with the RealAge Test.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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