Sometimes if you have been snoozing instead of paying attention, things can sneak up on you. We all know a lot of “sneaking up” occurred in the last year and I was no exception. Even though I was fortunate to retire in May, and have a lot of time and ability to avoid contact with others, that also brought less activity and changes in eating. Normally at work, I was taking 3 flights of stairs at least 4 times a day and sometimes more. I walked significant steps to and from class, across campus to other offices, from the parking lot to the building. I generally ate healthy options.
So while my weight did not go up, my cholesterol did. By a lot. Last year, I was not a risk factor. This year, I was. I think my doctor is amazing: skilled, competent, knowledgable, well-read on recent research and practice, engaging, respectful, and a partner in my health care. I am also knowledgeable and well-read on health care aspects that relate to my needs and my desire to live my best physical and mental life. I take him seriously, and I take my role in my health seriously. I came home from that visit Wednesday and began to make changes.
If I had my way, every doctor’s office would have a licensed master’s level social worker (LMSW or LCSW) and a Registered Dietician (RD) on staff. That has increasingly become the norm in many medical practices, for screening, assessment, and referral. It is well-known that there is a connection between mind, body, environment, and health. I think we have all heard “diet and exercise” as a mantra for what ails us, and yes, it is true. I have read and heard plenty about controlling many health issues with diet and exercise. The trouble is, if I do not know “what is in the diet” I need, it will not help.
I am not going to discuss my health needs here–it is not relevant. What is relevant, is knowing where to find the information we need to take better care of ourselves. Typically, when I need reliable information, I use webMD, Mayo Clinic, or National Institutes of Health data. When I searched for “diet to lower cholesterol”, the one I chose was the National Institutes of Health Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC: Therapeutic Lifestyles.
While I am knowledgeable about many aspects of health (having been a medical social worker as well as taught medical social work and Human Behavior and the Social Environment which includes risks and resilience across the lifespan), it was clear to me that after only beginning to read this 85 page booklet that when we hear “diet and exercise” without some more specific information, it does not tell us what we need to know. For the past 2 days, my “tracking” of diet has significantly changed. In order to be successful at this, I have to track not just calories, but total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, soluble fiber, dietary cholesterol, and protein. Sugar would be important to track normally, but since I am monitoring the TLC diet, it already factors in low or no sugar foods, but I still look at the sugar content and am mindful.
Why does this matter? Because on a diet to lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol and triglycerides) and raise HDL (“good” cholesterol–and fortunately my HDL is good, though it can be improved and that is my goal), if you do not track these (as in keep a list of this content every day for the foods you eat), you do not know what you are putting into your body. (Note: the TLC also includes sample meal plans for a variety of cuisines including American food, Southern food, Asian food, Mexican food, as well as daily calorie intake for 2500, 1800, 1600, and 1200 calories for each cuisine with those contents already tracked. That would be a great option for the person who did not have the time or inclination to track them on your own–I find doing the tracking helps to motivate me as I see progress toward goals, and gain knowledge and appreciation for the process.)
We all know that when there is immediate and rapid change, we are all as happy as a duck in water. What is hard is to sustain it. Reminds me of a saying I learned when I worked in addictions, about the AA 12-step program: “it works when you work it.” While I have recognized changes (weight, energy, sleep, and “feel good”) since last Sunday, those have increased since I began this process Wednesday. That is important, because the more positive reinforcement we give ourselves, the more likely we are to stick with it long enough for it to become a lifestyle.
For those of you who walk and bike, thank you for posting about it. For the uplifting nature pictures that soothe our souls and remind us of our oneness with the universe and each other, I love these reminders and reinforcers about the pay-offs, and how they add not only to our health and well-being, but to the opportunity to experience more joy, gratitude, and compassion in our lives–for others and for ourselves.
I miss you Peggy, and I thank you for all I learned from you and the experience of you in my life for the past year. I am grateful for Jean at Social Bridges, Beth at Small Simple Things of Life, Linda Re at Between the Gateposts, Betty at Chambers on the Road, Anne at Mehrling Muse, John S at Taps and Ratamacues, Sheryl at A Hundred Years Ago, Wichita Geneaologist at Ups and Downs of Family History, Katie at A Virginia Writer’s Diary, and Anna Blake at Anna Blake for the particular learning and understanding that each of you have gifted me.