The “C” Word

I thought to blog about this yesterday, but the power of denial and stalling successfully interposed a day’s shilly-shallying: my LDL cholesterol is too high, and I need to make some changes. It’s not extraordinarily high, probably just moderate by late-middle-aged American male standards, but it’s too high, and I ought to do something about it.
 
During the past few stressful years, I’ve succumbed to two bad habits: one, I’ve allowed myself to become increasingly sedentary; and two, I have increased my consumption of fats (especially cheese). So steps one and two for lowering my nasty LDL cholesterol are cutting back on cheese and other high-cholesterol fats (unfortunately, I’m already a vegetarian so I have no meats to eliminate), and developing a more exercise-friendly daily life.
 
Over at Facebook, friends have suggested oatmeal (ugh, but I’ll try it), olive oil (check), garlic (check plus), red wine (check plus plus plus), bacon (see “vegetarian” above), beer (that’s a new one on me), and aspirin (OK by me, jujst haven’t bought any yet). Pippa devoted herself to scouring Kroger for no-cholesterol groceries for me. But now, having said it in public, I kinda have to do something about it.

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I am not a doctor, and the usual disclaimers apply, but here are some things that seemed to work for me:

    Fish oil (I take about 4g a day in capsule form, 2 in the morning, 2 before bed – it’s an anti-inflammatory, and also an anti-coagulent so if you’re on blood thinners for any reason it’s something to be aware of.) It’s the Omega-3 thing.

    Resistance training – do push-ups. They’re cheap and they work, and you don’t have to do many. Do one good one, but do it s-l-o-w-l-y. Ten seconds down, ten back up. Can’t get back up? Just do down for ten seconds till you can push back up. Couple times a day. Morning and night worked for me. Now I do them at lunch too. By the time you can do ten good slow push-ups, I’ll bet your LDL is down and your HDL is up. Plus, you’ll totally dig your upper body, as will your spouse. Really dude, do push-ups. I know how you hate to exercise, but you can do them in the privacy of your home and once you’re good at it, it’s three minutes out of your life twice a day.

    Nuts – “good fats” plus protein and fiber. Just don’t go overboard. Watch the salt, though I’m not sure sodium is the bad guy everyone says it is.

    Oatmeal is totally cool. Add stuff! (Nuts!)

    I don’t think dietary cholesterol is as big a problem as it was once thought to be. So, enjoy your cheese. I’d worry more about total calories than cholesterol on that score.

    Walk everywhere. Then walk everywhere else.

    I went from 225 lbs to 185 lbs walking a dog, doing push-ups and consuming mass quanitities of Heinekin and Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Heath Crunch, and all my numbers went down except HDL which went way up. Doc said, “Whatever it is, it seems to be working for you.”

    Check out Mark’s Daily Apple weblog. He’s into this “primal blueprint” thing, but it’s usually got some pretty good information: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

    Enjoy life. Use your body. It feels great.

    Best of luck and share your success story!

  2. Oh yeah, did I mention that in addition to the beer and ice cream, I eat a three-egg ham and cheese omelet 3 or 4 mornings each week?

    Cholesterol went DOWN dude!

    Dietary cholesterol isn’t the problem. You’re making the stuff. Gotta move your body, plus eat good fuel.

  3. Thanks, Dave — that’s very reassuring, though the “push-up” part sounds daunting. Three minutes is good, though. I really miss having a swimming pool (as our apartment in FL did); I could swim for a half hour without interrupting my daily life much at all.

    But beginning this very day, I will work on the push-up part.

    By the way, you omitted mention of your martial arts work, or the length of those walks with Bodhi — not to split hairs.

  4. Hello,

    Before you jump off of the dietary deep end you should read “Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health” by Gary Taubes.

    The book is a tough read but well worth the effort. It will change what you think about what you eat. You affection for cheese is not your problem. Read the book and find out why.

    Regards,
    Ed Morrow

  5. You make a good point about the martial arts work, but it’s perhaps not the one you might expect.

    Before 2007, I had been training in taekwondo for about five years. My weight remained nearly constant during all that time, roughly 220-225 lbs, once hitting, sigh, 230.

    No question, TKD burns calories. But two things mitigate against weight loss in the face of intensive physical exercise. First was poor diet. I ate a lot more carbohydrates, and a lot of the “bad” kind (refined flour) – high glycemic index. Constant state of oxidative stress and something to do with insulin, I won’t pretend to understand how that impaired my weight loss. Plus, I just ate A LOT more calories than I was burning in 45 minutes to an hour of TKD training a day. Also, although we often did push-ups in TKD, it wasn’t until my last instructor that I got a lot of guidance about how to do them properly and the tremendous value of doing slow, controlled pushups. (“Tighten up your core! Squeeze those abs!”) So strength training wasn’t really part of the program per se.

    Also, if you repeat an activity enough, your body adapts to it, becomes more efficient at it. So the metabolic benefit is somewhat less. (Including pushups. Once you get good at doing 10 slow ones, use different arm positions. Lots of good references on the web.)

    In 2007, I started walking Bodhi about 7 to 10 times per day, about .7 miles per walk, or roughly five to seven miles of walking a day. That’s good for roughly 500 to 700 calories burned above my normal resting metabolic rate, which at 225 lbs was roughly 1800-1900 calories per day.

    I changed my eating habits, eating more fats and less carbs. Fats were more satiating (satisfying?) in terms of appetite than carbs, so I’d tend to eat less. Plus, I wouldn’t spike my blood sugar then deal with the inevitable crash. Basically, this was me eating eggs for breakfast most mornings, instead of Cocoa Puffs or even Quaker Oat Squares. I didn’t count calories, but I did make an effort to be aware of the calorie content of most of the foods I was ingesting and tried to guesstimate when I’d approach 2000 calories each day. So, on a fairly typical day I’d probably burn 300 calories than I’d consumed. There are 3500 calories in a pound. At that rate you lose a pound every twelve days.

    Well, at the beginning there were weeks when I was losing 2 lbs per week. It tends to slow down or plateau from time to time. At first, your body resists losing weight, trying to maintain its unhealthy “set point.” Once it understands you’re ingesting fewer calories consistently and maintaining a higher activity level consistently, it stops trying to hoard fat and starts burning it. I do recall some of that period, where I’d have days of very low energy level and I’d have to force myself to walk the dog the full loop or as often, or do the pushups. I often referred to Bodhi as my “personal trainer” And there were days where I’d just have this compelling urge to eat, but I’d stay away from the snack foods and try to stick to fruit or healthier alternatives to cookies (“My favorite!” Love those white chocolate chip macademia nut cookies at Subway!) and candy.

    I don’t get the impression you’re trying to lose weight, but that kind of just comes along with the lower numbers you’re looking for.

    I haven’t read Gary Taubes’ book, but I’ve heard a great deal about it, all of it favorable. I agree with Ed though, your affection for cheese is not the problem.

    Anyway, there’s a lot to be said for the positive benefits beyond better numbers. I basically trained for that half-marathon I just ran by walking 4 miles at lunch time 3 to 4 times per week, walking the dog about another 3.5 – 5 miles per day (we now do about 5 walks per day, 7 on weekends) and running long distances on Sundays. I don’t think you can say enough about how good walking is for you. I intend to speak to my partner about incorporating some interval training in our workouts. Some sprints, maybe jumping rope, things of that nature, to keep the body adapting. And let me also add that you can, and should, focus on your core while walking as much as possible. You can do this by trying to follow your breath, breathe from the diaphragm, press up through the crown of your head, and tighten your abs. Maybe sometimes try to feel or control the ones at the sides, other times in the center. You don’t need to do situps to develop your abs – just use them! (You can also do that seated at the computer, I might add.)

    Go for it! Listen to you body. Do some homework. And get started! You only have moments to live!

    (Listen to me, I sound like some motivational speaker or something… sheesh. Nothing like the zealotry of the newly-converted I guess.)

  6. How to Enjoy Oatmeal

    I eat oatmeal every day for breakfast. I never harbored a particular dislike for oatmeal, so perhaps I am not the best person to teach you how to enjoy it, but I will tell you my favorite way of preparing it at the moment. First of all, you need the old-fashioned kind, not instant. It must take at least 3 minutes in the microwave to cook. I use a ratio of 1/2 c. oatmeal to just over 1/2 c. water, probably about 2/3 c. water, but of course you can adjust this to your personal preference. Before microwaving, I put in a few slices of banana, several frozen raspberries, a few sprinkles of cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Then microwave it for 3 minutes and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I add a milk substitute (oat milk, hazelnut milk, etc.), but milk is just as good. This is much healthier than the standard brown sugar and raisins, and I like it even better.

    Enjoy!

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