31 December 2020

A personal goal, (somewhat) achieved

Early this year, it slowly dawned on me that I had a serious problem.  For quite some time I'd been suffering occasional flare-ups of what felt like inflammation -- long-term readers may recall a few times when I quit blogging for a while due to pain in the hands.  I weighed 225 pounds, which for my height (5'11") put me well across the line into obesity.  And that, especially on the verge of turning 60, meant I was in the express lane to a heart attack or a stroke.  To say nothing of feeling disgusted every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror without clothes on.

The joint pain wasn't the only sign that things were going wrong.  I had back pain almost constantly.  One of the warning signs of a heart attack is supposed to be pain in the upper chest and down the left arm, but I'd been having pain like that several times a day for as long as I could remember.  And I'd had a few episodes of high blood pressure, though those were rare.

I'd long been aware of the impact of food on health, but it hadn't really registered as a major issue.  I stopped eating meat about a decade ago, but that was always more due to the issue of animal cruelty (and simple revulsion at the thought of eating corpses) than for health reasons.  I was still eating things like cheese, eggs, and huge amounts of junk food.

My current interest in food and nutrition was sparked by the role of the ghastly Wuhan "wet market" in starting the covid-19 pandemic, and of animal farming in general in facilitating the spread of new infectious diseases from animals to humans.  As I looked more into the issue, I realized how broad the problem was.  One milestone was discovering Mic the Vegan, who stood out from the YouTube pack in always having a barrage of proper scientific studies to back up everything he said.  Eventually the reality was inescapable.  Humans show every sign, anatomically and physiologically, of being a herbivorous species (as our fellow great apes mostly are), not an omnivorous one.  Eggs, dairy, and the like are at least as toxic as meat itself.  Most of the chronic health problems that plague Americans are probably linked to what we eat.  Within the developed world, the healthiest populations historically have been those with mainly plant-based diets -- and as prosperity enabled them to eat more meat, processed food, and suchlike, they too developed higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and clogged arteries.

I'd already lost some weight since the start of the year, just by watching calories.  But in the early months of the pandemic, I realized I needed to do more.  Weight wasn't the only issue.  I cut out everything that comes from animals -- no more eggs, cheese, or even milk chocolate.  I cut out chips and, eventually, almost all refined sugar.  I started paying attention to things like fiber and cholesterol.  And I actively sought out a wider range of things like vegetables, legumes, nuts, and rice, lest a sense of monotony undermine my efforts.

It proved easier to stick to than I expected.  I soon stopped missing the things I had quit.  On impulse a couple of weeks ago I picked up a bag of chips.  They seemed greasy and dry, strangely tasteless and over-salted at the same time.  I don't feel tempted to ever go back to eating the way I used to.  This isn't "a diet" adopted as a temporary problem-solving measure.  I've merely reverted, at least a lot closer, to what our species evolved to eat.

My weight now is consistently a little under 195, so I've lost about 30 pounds this year.  That's not as much as I'd hoped for -- my goal was to get to 180, which is the maximum healthy weight for a person of my height.  But the chest-and-arm pains are gone.  The back pain is much improved.  The inflammation episodes are far less frequent and less severe.  I even get fewer headaches.  I'm not constantly taking aspirin and ibuprofen the way I used to.

I haven't won yet.  I want those pains gone, not just diminished.  And 195 is still overweight, seriously so.  But I know I'll get there.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Ole Phat Stu said...

Most heart attacks are due to a clot in the kitchen ;-)

31 December, 2020 05:14  
Blogger Donna said...

Congrats!

I'm a work in progress too.

31 December, 2020 06:23  
Blogger One Fly said...

Good on you Infidel. Feel real good about what you have accomplished. It can be sooo hard to do.

31 December, 2020 06:26  
Blogger Leanna said...

Just so you know you aren't the only one in this fight for good health. I'm 67 and fighting too. Keep up the good work and you will be just fine as frog hair split four ways. :)

31 December, 2020 07:17  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Way to go, Infidel! A 30 lb weight loss in one year is amazing! You've taken charge of your health! Happy New Year too!

31 December, 2020 07:34  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Whoa!
Thirty pounds! Infidel, that's a LOT. Totally awesome.
So glad you're feeling better, too!
Happy 2021!!

XOXO

31 December, 2020 08:34  
Blogger Lady M said...

Wow - you are an inspiration.

31 December, 2020 09:49  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Keep up the healthy eating habits! Also, walking is good exercise for the heart and for back issues. We need to keep you around!

31 December, 2020 11:10  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Congrats! That's really awesome. Happy New Year.

31 December, 2020 11:22  
Blogger Bill H aka run75441 said...

Infidel:

Let me assure you of something, even lowering your cholesterol, running, hiking, eating the right foods mostly will not keep you from having a heart attack. It will help you survive one though. With a cholesterol count of 104, doing everything I said, and at a weight of 205# at 6'1" tall; my heart was fluttering. Open heart surgery in Mansfield, Ohio by a Cleveland Clinic surgeon saved my ass.

I walked into the ER thinking I was getting pneumonia again. Drawing blood and imaging showed my my heart enzymes were high and my heart was fluttering. Thirty minutes later I had a catheter in my heart helping it pump. Triple bypass by the end of the week.

I am doing everything right and I still had it. Eat oats, ground flax seed. oat bran, leafy green veggies, fruits, salt water fish, lean meats, skim milk, etc. There are food components such as sterols and stenols which will help you reduce cholesterol. Get Metamucil to help with other things too.

Got a recipe to make heart healthy muffins if you want it. U of M heart people give iy to patients.

Regards,

Bill

31 December, 2020 13:39  
Blogger JACKIESUE said...

that is just wonderful..so proud of you. I had lost 50 pounds but during this fecking lockdown I have gained 15 pounds back and I am really pissed at myself. So while I don't make new years resolutions I did make myself a promise to start eating better and cut out on crap foods..

31 December, 2020 15:11  
Blogger Mike said...

I lost 30 pounds in 2019. 2020 saw 10 of it come back. I'd like to get down to 225. That's just a little above my football playing weight 50 years ago. I haven't seen 180 since I was a freshman in high school. I don't think anyone would recognize me at that weight.

31 December, 2020 20:51  
Anonymous Nick King said...

Wait. Wait. Wait. You are telling me that my dependence on your blog depends on your tender personal health?! That's slightly terrifying. Watching political blogs since Project for Old American Century. Glad you are here. Stay healthy. Thank you much.

01 January, 2021 00:45  
Blogger Kay said...

I'm so happy for you. We used to have desserts each night, but we cut them out when my blood sugar started rising. And now I don't even miss it anymore. I've read that sugar can be addictive. I believe it.

01 January, 2021 01:17  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone! I appreciate it. It has occurred to me that if I had to pick up a 30-pound weight, that would be pretty heavy, so it's less mass to be carrying around (and generating hormonal effects I'd rather not deal with).

Bill H: Nothing absolutely eliminates the risk of a heart attack, but losing weight and cutting out meat and other unhealthy foods makes the odds a hell of a lot better. And the older you get, the less margin for error you have. (Genetics pays a role too, but you can't change your genes, and whatever your risk level, a better diet will make it better than it otherwise would be.) I've occasionally had tests for cholesterol and triglycerides and so forth and they come out OK, but I want to keep it that way.

Jackie, Mike: Gaining back lost weight is a perennial problem, and of course the stress of the pandemic and lockdowns hasn't helped. The key is to think of it as a permanent lifestyle change rather than just a short-term program to cure a problem. The fact is, most of us have been making ourselves sick for most of our lives. We're just not evolved to eat meat, and nothing that ever lived was evolved to eat Doritos or french fries or Froot Loops. And drinking the milk of a different species is just gross and weird. I mean, think about it.

01 January, 2021 03:35  
Blogger Bill H aka run75441 said...

Infidel:

Happy New Year!

At 72 years, I am at 123 (recent) in cholesterol, blood pressure is low, ands my weight is up. I have to reinvent myself again and get back to what is typical for me. Too many other issues impeded me along the way. Fighting to get back in remission again (and I will). My big failing and I did not mention it, is stress.

You are up by us. I pirated one of your posts (fully attributed and linked) and there are some good comments.

Regards,

Bill

01 January, 2021 10:52  
Anonymous NickM said...

I gave up on meat a while back... I guess for much the same sort of reasons as you - moral, more than dietary but it is very true that one can do well by doing good. Not always, obviously, but y'know a small change multiplied by a million or a billion is a big change.

Do I miss it? Not really. OK, I live in the UK (which is very vegi/vegan friendly compared to a lot of other gaffs). That helps a lot. In Georgia (outside of Atlanta, natch) you ask for the vegi option and it's lock and load time. It also helps that my wife is vegan so it makes dinner much easier. But those ain't the things. Hell's Teeth! They are handy but they aren't the actual fundamental reason which is moral and also a bit SF. I mean they don't have chickens on the Enterprise do they? This is 2021 and I want to be served synthahol by a green-skinned lady on a base orbitting Barnard's Star.

My mother is almost vegi. My Dad ain't (they're divorced - not over that BTW) but he just can't cook. A steak that looked like it had spent half an hour in reactor 4 at Chernobyl is his idea of fine dining.

I think I'm gonna push the boat out here. Turning vegi changed my thinking about food by which I mean it got me thinking much more about it. I dunno if that made me healthier (it probably did) but it certainly made me a much more thoughtful and therefore better cook. By knocking a major item off the menu I wound up cooking enormously more diversely. Back of the net!

01 January, 2021 18:09  
Anonymous Annie said...

Glad to hear you’ve taken control of your diet and are working on your weight. Are you exercising, though? Both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise are so important. And not sitting at your computer for hours without getting up and moving around a bit every hour. And nearing 60, it’s probably good to have an exam and blood work done yearly.

Aren’t you glad you told us all this? I haven’t even mentioned hydration. But I’ll stop now.

01 January, 2021 18:35  
Blogger Victor said...

Congratulations!!!
Losing weight is tough.
Keeping it off is, sadly, tougher.

I need to lose quite a bit, and then keep it off.
I did it once before.
I watched simple carbs, and only ate lean proteins and healthy carbs.
But now I'm in an assisted dyin...
Living...
An assisted living facility, and if you want to cut carbs, you basically cut food.
But I gotta do it.
Wish me luck!

c u n d gulag

01 January, 2021 20:41  
Blogger Russell LaHart said...

Taking the opportunity to thank you for your blog, I come here often.

My path to 180 was similar to yours. I'm 68 yo, 5'10". In 2010 I weighed 242 and starting in 2011 I got down to 220 and leveled off there for awhile but did not get the feeling I had done enough so in 2015 I lost another 20#'s and still didn't feel successful so last year I got to 180 and I can tell you it's worth it. Not only physically, but also mentally. My self esteem is stronger and the doubts of my physical condition have gone away. I never found losing weight tedious or difficult because I approached it like I did with quitting smoking 30 years ago, just something I had to do to save my life.

Anyways I've gone onto long....thank for all you do.

Russ, rjlahart@yahoo.com

02 January, 2021 05:05  
Blogger Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

You embarked a fabulous start to getting to your goal, Infidel. Congrats. And now that we're into a new and much, much better year undoubtedly - fingers crossed, breath held - you'll reach your finish line. YOU GOT THIS.
Cheers and pride to you.

02 January, 2021 10:43  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Bill: Thanks -- I took a look at the post.

Nick: I don't know why people in the wingnut parts of the country are so hostile to veganism. They prattle a lot about "liberty" but quickly turn threatening when somebody makes choices different from theirs.

Annie: I'm walking more, but it's hard when the pandemic keeps me inside all the time (I don't like being outdoors, anyway). I never said I had fixed every bad habit -- just the dietary one.

Victor: If you want to keep the weight off, you might want to focus on minimizing fat intake and getting most of your calories from complex carbohydrates (not refined sugar, obviously). Low-carb "diets" are basically a scam -- they "work" by putting the body into a state of sickness (ketosis) which causes weight loss, as many sicknesses do. But it's not sustainable, and it's doing terrible things to your cardiovascular system while you stick with it. Humans evolved for a herbivorous, high-starch diet -- the first two videos here may be enlightening.

Russell: Thanks you for the kind words, and for the encouragement to keep going.

Robyn: Oh, yes, I intend to press on with this!

02 January, 2021 11:16  
Anonymous Leonard Borchardt said...

I hope you know what you're doing. We ran into problems when my Uncle Herman created his own diet plan after reading a biography of Martin Luther.

02 January, 2021 11:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

None of this is original with me. It's just basic biology.

02 January, 2021 14:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Leonard - Let me guess. It was a Diet of Worms .

02 January, 2021 14:20  
Blogger Martha said...

Sounds like wonderful progress to me! Wishing you continued success. Happy New Year!

04 January, 2021 04:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Probably less harmful than most meat, but still yecch (yes, I know what the actual Diet of Worms was).

Martha: Thanks! Happy new year.

05 January, 2021 01:14  
Anonymous Carol said...

Nice job. Not everyone can change their habits at the age of 60. (FYI: I don't know exactly when your birthday is but I turned 60 last year as well.) Moderation seems to be a key factor in most success stories of this nature so the fact that you lost 30 lbs rather than 45 is positive in my opinion. You've changed a lifestyle rather than focusing on what the scale says at the end of each day. Wishing you continued success and reduced pain in 2021.

05 January, 2021 10:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Carol: Thanks! It had occurred to me that losing weight too fast can be harmful in its own way. I hope you're watching your health as well -- I want you and your blog to stay around.

05 January, 2021 15:47  

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