Originally published November 2005
Going to the doctor the other day reminded me of the last time I went in, 4 months ago, for a physical and cholesterol check. I knew my cholesterol was high from the first time I had it checked, about 4 years ago, but I hadn't expected it to come out as high as it did. The first time it was just "high." This time, however, it was "dangerously high" (dum-da-dum-dum)!
People always say the same thing to me - "you're not fat, how could you have high cholesterol?" The fact is - it doesn't matter how thin you are. As long as you have blood, you can have high cholesterol. Of course if you weigh a gazillion pounds because all you eat is deep fried Polish sausages all day long, your odds are probably a bit higher than average that your numbers might be just a little elevated - much the same way gas prices are just a little elevated (note: it's my hope that this reference won't be funny for very much longer). But in my case, it's simply of matter of sucky genes. Thanks Dad, I owe you one.
So - I go to the doctor, have my blood tested, and he calls me back in for this discussion:
Dr: "Your cholesterol is too high. Here, (scribble, scribble) take this."
Me: "What's that?"
Dr: "It's a prescription for Lipitor."
Me: "That's it? That's my only option? What about the possibility of controlling my cholesterol through, oh I don't know, DIET perhaps?!!"
Dr: "Well, you're in good shape and I know you exercise, so I'm not really sure changing your diet is going to help that much. After all, high cholesterol is hereditary too you know. You may just have sucky genes."
Me: "Oh, you think?"
The truth is my previous diet was not that low in fat. A few years earlier my wife embarked on a journey to trim up with Dr. Atkins, and I joined her at the same time. We both did great and lost our weight but for me it backfired a bit in the cholesterol department. So now here I was, 2 years later, sitting there having a debate with my doctor over whether or not I could lower my numbers through a low fat diet. In the end, he gave me a reprieve and granted me 3 months...
"Either lower your cholesterol - or you're ON THE PILLS!"
Hmmm, "on the pills." I have to admit, for a minute that didn't sound half bad. Maybe, I reasoned, all I had to do was take a pill. And then... I could eat as many potato chips as I wanted - which is especially fortunate for me because I LOVE potato chips! But then I remembered the one reason why that would never happen...
... my wife.
Yes, my wife, who once upon a time used to practice dietetics*, had decided to make it her mission to keep me alive and healthy until I'm very old, or at least until I am no longer useful to her, whichever comes first. And once my wife has made up her mind about something - well, I learned a long time ago that that's that and there's no point in trying to talk her out of it. So I was reasonably sure that my argument of taking Lipitor so I could eat endless amounts of potato chips was going to fail.
What I hadn't counted on, however, was that not only was she going to help monitor my diet, but that she would become what I have affectionately come to know as - the Food Nazi. In fact, over the next 3 months, the most common thing I heard her say was, "You can't eat that!"
And so for these 3 months I ate one of two different kinds of food - either low fat or no fat. Mmmm. And during this time I also lost even more weight, which was a problem because I really didn't want to have to go out and buy yet another round of pants.
And then the big day came, and I went back to the lab for my latest numbers.
How did I do?
Well, for one thing I lost 15 pounds - but I also dropped my cholesterol significantly. In fact, not only do I NOT have to (or get to) take "the pills," but now instead of my cholesterol being "dangerously high," it is now only a few points above the normal range.
So, to what do I owe my success? Well, I could say it was my sheer will-power to eat better, or I could say that it was my stellar commitment to consistent exercise - but I should say it was my caring and thoughtful wife.
Because if I don't, the Food Nazi might get angry!
*Dietetics - the practice of proper nutrition, not to be confused with Dianetics, Scientology, John Travolta or Tom Cruise