I have this problem.
I like Cheese on Cheese crackers.
Infact, for the past decade I've probably had one Austin brand Cheese on Cheese package 5 days a week. Crazy? Nah. Actually, I've made my own lunch since I was in about the 2nd grade when I was still in public school. My mom decided that she was done making our lunches because we would complain when she occasionally mixed up sandwiches in my brothers lunch boxes. How rude. Child labor anyone?
Make My Lunch Please
In the same fashion, I've been making my lunch since I moved into the workforce after graduating from college. I've taken a ham and cheese sandwich with no condiments (sometimes lettuce), an apple cut up into four pieces, chips, and cheese on cheese crackers everyday. And sometimes the very eclectic move to turkey instead of ham. Call me boring but I am all about maximizing my time and my income. By bringing food that I bought ahead of time at the grocery store I can do just that and it takes no processing time. I know every night before I go to bed like clockwork to make my boring lunch for the morning. I just like to get ready in the morning in peace. You might ask, ‘Scott, don't you want to mix it up?’ And I say, sure, if you want to make my lunch for me I'd gladly mix it up. But if I make my own I am happy to not have to think about what I'm going to eat or buy for lunch everyday. I'd rather think about stuff I care about. Low and behold, every…single…day…when it's lunch time I am hungry and excited to eat that same list of foods because it's what's in my lunch box. But let's back up and address how I have progressed in my health habits to the moment of defiance where I cut off the cheese cracker ritual.
New Job, New Healthcare
Low and behold in 2012, I landed a new full–time job after being in transitional jobs for about a year. Universal healthcare had started picking up steam and my company wisely started giving incentives for those that went for annual checkups and had their blood taken. We received points for good numbers and ultimately, a low BMI. I was not thrilled about this expectation at the time but I grudgingly followed the orders so I could save a little more on my healthcare.
The New Doc
I found a random doctor after not having a checkup since I left my hometown several years ago. I learned after my results came back that my cholesterol was a little higher than the doctor preferred. He sent me a note that I had low LDL cholesterol, or the ‘bad’ cholesterol. He mentioned prescription meds as an option and said instead that I should really do diet and exercise and then come in for another test in 4 to 5 months. In the note he jotted, ‘exercise 4–5 times a week, eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, eat fish 1–2 per week.’
This news was disturbing to me considering I was 29 years old and had been very active working out regularly, eating fairly healthy and 3 meals a day, and had run my first half–marathon just a year and a half earlier. I was still running off and on though not as rigorous as before. My food habit wasn't rigorous but I have always preferred fruit over ice–cream (I'm not joking) even though I still enjoy a bowl every now and then. I would call my food plan the ‘if it looks unhealthy don't eat it except for a treat’ plan.
No, I Will Not Take Meds
I knew something was wrong with this picture of having bad cholesterol in my prime and I sure wasn't going to start taking meds to fix bad cholesterol when there had to be some simple answer to this. But the medication comment still messed with my head. I decided to switch doctors for that and other reasons. I also researched what was considered an overweight BMI and found that I neared it.
Over the next few months I processed the news and just committed to show up in the weight room and running at least 3 to 4 times a week, as I had always done. But I now wanted to beat my numbers the next year with small incremental changes. I reasoned that understanding food's relationship with your body should not be as difficult as some articles I'd read. I could read two articles on any food item, like chocolate or milk, and one would says it's good for you and the other the opposite. So, I slowly started listening for someone, anyone who I thought was consistent in their message and spoke in simple terms, for someone who is is already active. And I would shut out everyone that said anything about quick results because I knew I did not need a one time ‘fix’.
No More Chips
I decided to cut out chips from my lunch and replace it with a cucumber and ranch dressing to dip it in. That was a good start. Around the same time my wife and I started eating eggs for breakfast instead of cereal. At the time of this reading, I have not had cereal since 2012, shortly after I was married. I found it was a much easier transition than I anticipated.
Learning How to Be Healthy
After a few months I connected with Michael Hyatt's ‘This is Your Life’ Intentional Leadership podcast and found his everyday advice helpful, his worldview also lining up with mine. He discussed basic health references occasionally. This is where I first heard about Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, a book about processed breads and foods that he highly recommends to this day. But, he also started and ended his day with a full glass of water to stoke his metabolism as well as some health benefits that I had not heard before. I started incorporating this into my day committing to a full glass when I wake up, at least once at work, and once in the evening. This system became a habit after a few months and I find it is a better equivalent to coffee and is very energizing. I do drink an occasional cup of straight black coffee in the morning but I find I am more jittery when I have more than a few sips, so it's not often, and more for leisure. Instead, I just drink from my wife's cup. Thanks babe!
2013 Checkup Results: Improving
I am happy to report at my 2013 checkup all my numbers improved in every category. My LDL/bad cholesterol went down, my HDL/good cholesterol went up, my blood glucose (sugar intake) went down and my BMI went down over a point. I was happy with the results. The interesting thing is that I had not really changed my workout regime at all, just the food a little and a steady commitment that I could maintain indefinitely if necessary. After this improvement in numbers I decided the yearly checkup will be a way to test different health adjustments that I make throughout the year.
Building Motivation, the Cheese Replacement, and 2014 Checkup’s KO
Then this past year I found Jeff Sanders ‘The 5 AM Miracle’ podcast. Though his food habits are a bit extreme for me I found his fitness results downright insanely intriguing such as his avid marathon running, a standing desk, and obsessive banana eating. Between those podcasts and my wife's desire to go on a wheat ‘fast’ a few weeks before my 2014 checkup, I decided it would be a good test. I have definitely not been perfect in this fast but I don't have any until the evening if at all. I took out ham and cheese sandwiches and my cherished Cheese on Cheese crackers…cue the sad music. I reasoned I could do it for a month and maybe I'll feel even better. I felt off for a few days at first. But it then wore off after a few more days. Then I went to my 2014 checkup and my numbers were even better than 2013. My BMI was a point lower, cholesterols were 5 points better, but what was most interesting was my blood glucose level was down over 25 points. What I realized is that I am slowly being won over by this new change in wheats. And to top it all off, I had realized a gradual loss of 15 lbs over the past 2 years of which I call my ‘marriage’ pounds. I have managed to keep it off.
So, after two years of gradual improvements I decided I needed to dive into ‘Wheat Belly’. I'm hoping for a simple, understandable read. I am excited at the progress I've made. My only conclusion so far is that I have been right in that understanding healthy lifestyle choices should not be reserved for PHD's in Nutrition. I'm hoping I will continue to find this to be true. Are there any simple habits you've committed to for overcoming health and fitness challenges?