This past Monday was the day of my annual checkup. What was supposed to happen was that I would have blood work done and then have to come back to be told what I already know: I weigh too much, don’t exercise enough and need to watch what I eat.
But I had a different idea.
I like my doctor a lot. He’s only four years older than I am, so we’re near the same place in life — though he’s in better shape than I am, of course. He’s laid back when it comes to everything except getting healthy, but even then he’s not overbearing: he’s more of an encourager than a dictator. I can work with that.
I told him that what I’d like to do is come back in six weeks for the blood work and full physical, but that in those six weeks, I needed a real, workable action plan.
The problem is that every time you turn around, someone tells you that instead of doing what the last person told you that you must do, you should do something else. And that instead of eating this, you should eat that, even though that was supposedly one of the worst things you could eat just a month ago.
Then there’s that whole exercise thing. I am not the type that responds well to your typical personal trainer. I don’t want a cheerleader and I don’t want a drill sergeant. I want someone who will work with me and understand that I am the type of person for whom waking up for two days after a workout in so much pain that it hurts to even stand does not make me want to set foot back in a gym. Do you love that “burn” associated with weightlifting? More power to you: I don’t. I never will. It’s not that I think I shouldn’t have a vigorous workout: I do. But I also know my body better than some over-eager trainer: if I say I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. That trainer may not care if I need to go throw up, but I do.
Even water was under attack: my Mom insisted she’d heard of someone who started drinking a gallon of water a day and who then suddenly developed diabetes. (It didn’t make sense to me, but that’s her story.)
I asked my doctor, then, what I need to do: how do I make a real difference to my health and get things back on track?
My doctor’s response, when I proposed this, was perfect: “I love that! Let’s do it.”
In terms of exercise, he said he wanted me to take two simple steps: first, come up with a time every day that I can walk. Not run, not jog, but walk. A good, brisk walk, he says, winds up being at the foundation of most successful weight loss plans. Take that, crazy elliptical from Hell! I can certainly walk. Step two, he says, is that every day at that time you come up with, go walk. Thirty minutes is ideal, but if you can only do 10 on a particular day, then make sure that you walk for that 10 minutes. There’s no “giving up” over not having enough time.
Last night, I walked 35 minutes. It’s essentially the length of about six or seven songs on your iPod. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not that difficult, yet at the end of 35 minutes, I definitely felt like I’d exercised. And the next morning, I wasn’t so sore that I thought I’d need a scooter just to get down the hall.
Therefore, I’m not dreading tonight’s walk. What a concept!
As for the diet, I’ve tried Weight Watchers’ PointsPlus program, which he said is fine: he’s heard some of his other patients say they’ve had success with it. So I’m back on that, and I’ve lost five pounds. He said that as much as people don’t like to do it, logging what you eat is important, because it lets you really see what you’re taking in and there’s something in the subconscious that makes you reconsider a bad choice if you know you have to write it down, even if you’re the only person who’ll read it.
In six weeks, he says, I should be able to lose anywhere between fifteen to twenty pounds. I know, if that happens, that my cholesterol will almost certainly be better than it would have been this past Monday. My blood sugar, likewise, would be improved, and my heart rate and blood pressure — which were already very good despite my midsection — might be better, too.
And I’ll be able to walk in to the doctor’s office feeling like I’ve accomplished something important.
Have you ever “taken charge” in terms of creating a health plan with your doctor’s help? How did it go?