Those in my generation are aware of the dramatic shift in public health information over our lifetime. Much of what we believed 50 years ago is taboo today. We lived through fads of belief that tobacco was healthy, that processed food could substitute for raw foods, the three martini business lunch was sustainable, the crusade against fats, and more. Perhaps I was more sensitized to this evolution of beliefs. I was raised on an organic farm, studied nutrition, biology, biochemistry and public health policy in college and grad school, and spent much of my first 40 years in pursuit of elite athletic performance.
Early in the pandemic in 2020 I realized that I was in health crisis. It was the financial stress of closing my business and losing close friends to Covid that put me over the edge. I was actually in crisis earlier, it’s just that is when I noticed it and took action. My doctors were clear. My GP dictated a note to my medical chart said “Tony needs to lose weight”. The body that served me well as a Greco-Roman wrestling champion was working against me now. Of course, there are a lot of components to losing weight.
Since then, I’ve made these changes:
– Eliminated almost all sweets and added sugar
– Eliminated almost all flour products
– Eliminated almost all processed foods
– Cut down to less than one alcoholic drink per day
– Reduced meat
– Reduced restaurant meals to less than one per week
– Focus on preparing and eating 7 fruit and veggie dishes each day
– Added daily fiber supplement
– Adjusted medications for blood pressure and cholesterol
– Added doctor-recommended dietary supplements
– Set up specific actions to trigger increased water consumption
– Joined a community supported organic agriculture co-op.
– Took measures to improve sleep
– Take naps
– Limit desk time to 1/2 day
– Exercise daily, mostly walking 5 dogs
– Spend time working outdoors alone
– Use an Apple Watch and health apps to keep records
– Speak with various advisers, coaches, and therapists to fine tune my behaviors
– Limited eating to 7 hours per day with 17 hours fasting.
The changes were not sudden, they were not easy, and did involve quite a bit of experimentation, errors, and repeat learning, I read several books, took a few app-based courses, and kept a daily health notes section in my diary. In all, it was a lot of work!
The lack of dramatic immediate results from all these changes surprised me. Instead, what I am finding is slow, almost unnoticeable, tiny change over a long period of time. I sleep a little better. My belt is two notches tighter. My weight is down 15 pounds from its peak but I still have 15 more pounds to go. At my current pace, it could take another year. I’m OK with that. I notice a slow increase in my energy level and mental focus.
I am grateful for excellent preventative medical care. My cardiologist plainly says that I am not going to die from heath attack or stroke. I suspect that not too many patients make permanent life changes like I have attempted.
Lately I’ve taken advantage of the abundance of local organic fruits and vegetables to treat myself to a daily juice cocktail. (My Jack LaLanne juicer is pictured). My wife is concerned about possible adverse health effects. I am more analytical, read more, and know this is unfounded based on current public health information and our collective dietary knowledge.
My father turns 90 this coming month. He is healthy, sharp, active, athletic, and mostly living the life we all hope to live in retirement. Of course he has plenty of complaints about getting old. I don’t think that it is useful to sugar-coat it. Getting old sucks if your goal is to keep doing the active things you love to do. Yet I am grateful to have him as a close role model in my path toward better health.
I also have other friends and clients who are active and still working past age 75. I want to be like them. I think that just seeing them in my daily life is a blessing and an inspiration. I love my work and tend to dislike the alternative things people do in retirement.
Having written my experience, I realize that it is a dull story. Perhaps it might inspire someone else down a similar slow dull path toward better health.