My Diet and Health The Day Before Quitting Sugar
The day before I actually quit eating sugar (quitting on October 24th, 2011) and adopt a new and healthier lifestyle, I want to review my current health. Later, I’ll be able to contrast what I’m eating and how I’m feeling against this data. I included a short video so you could also see me before I change my diet and compare it with me after I’ve been eating without sugar for a while.
One thing I’ll reluctantly point out is how my shirt fits in the video. I’m about 10 or 15 pounds overweight, which isn’t bad, but I still have a gut. Typically, I can hide my gut pretty well. If I wear a loose-fitting shirt, especially dark ones, and maybe suck it in a little, you never see the extra fat hiding over my abdominal muscles. But in the video, you’re seeing me as I am today…no sucking my gut in or baggy shirt to hide my fat. And the journal entry that follows is also going to be candid as well. I’m putting it all out there, right from the start. With that said, here is my overview:
A Typical Man
At the time of this writing, I’m a typical 43 year-old man. I’m 5′ 5″ and weight about 159 pounds. I’m a relatively healthy guy who regularly exercises a little, sometimes a lot…sometimes not at all. My overall cholesterol is high at 260 and until recently, I was taking a statin to fix this. I recently come off my cholesterol medicine (with doctor’s approval, reluctantly, I suppose) so that I could manage my cholesterol with my diet and lifestyle.
Over the years, I’ve shifted my eating habits slowly, to include more fruits and vegetables and I’ve always tried not to be too big a glutton with the really unhealthy cakes, candies, and over-the-top, sweet stuff. But don’t get me wrong, I still love them and have been eating them on a regular basis, but probably a lot less than the average person. I guess having healthy meals makes me feel like I’m balancing things out when I occasionally gorge on sweets.
A typical lunch for me (while at work) often consists of a Lean Pocket, a few Wheat Thins, apple slices with peanut butter, and a piece of chocolate (in one form or another). I enjoy coffee regularly and up until about August, 2011, I used to drink diet soft drinks regularly. However, I stopped drinking those and switched to water, tea and coffee, primarily.
So far, this doesn’t really look too bad. Right? But this is just an overview. It doesn’t paint a picture of the details, like how I’ll bake some cookies and my wife and I will eat them all in one evening. Or how we have dessert with every meal that we eat together (some lunches and every dinner). Most of the time, these are Weight-Watchers desserts because we like them and don’t feel too guilty eating them. But we routinely each have a half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…sometimes eating the whole pint in one sitting. As for chips and snacky-type foods, we always have some on hand. We don’t usually eat the whole bag in one sitting, but it’s far too easy to mindlessly eat three servings. As for portion control, in general, there isn’t any, though we don’t often go back for seconds.
Over the years of riding the diet roller-coaster, we founds some wonderful “healthy” recipes that include plenty of vegetables and lean meats. So our dinner menus have plenty of low-fat, Mediterranean-style recipes in regular rotation because they’re great-tasting meals, and they’re made fresh. My wife and I try to prepare meals together as often as we can. Although, sometimes it only takes one person to run up to Hardee’s or to open up a microwave dinner-in-a-box when we’re tired or in a rush.
Over the past several years, I’ve begun noticing the middle-age aches and pains showing up. This really bothers me because, aside from having high cholesterol and needing to lose about 10 to 15 pounds, I’ve always been pretty fit.
Throughout my life, I’ve had better-than-average athleticism and typically look about 8 to 12 years younger than my age. Lately, my shoulders seem to be giving out and my knees often hurt when I squat. Both of these health issues seemed to develop almost overnight. So it’s a bit of a blow to my ego, that my body has seemed to succumb to middle-age wear. But in many other aspects, I feel very capable and sharp.
I’m pretty optimistic, overall, though I’ve noticed that sometimes there’s a fog over my mood, not that it’s bad or that I’m seriously depressed, just a bit more a feeling or sense that my happiness is being truncated at times. This really doesn’t make sense to me because I’m in a fabulously happy marriage, have very little stress weighing on me, and I don’t have any financial issues weighing on my mind.
My energy has tanked over the past couple of years. I’m young enough to still be very active but some days, it’s a struggle to find the energy to work in the yard or lift something heavier than a gallon of milk. This has been perplexing to me because clearly, this is not the norm for people of my age. However, checkups with my doctor are usually great (except for my cholesterol levels). How can I be getting great checkup but feel so lousy?
I don’t sleep as deeply as I used to. That could be related to not giving myself enough hours to sleep on the average night, although, after a recent experiment I was surprised that even giving myself 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night didn’t magically yield a wonderfully deep night of sleep, nor did it seem to have a marked effect on my overall energy levels throughout the day.
I just want to pause here for a second to say that some of this is actually uncomfortable to admit. I feel like I’m too young to be having some of these experiences. I have a good life and I’m a happy guy, shouldn’t that be enough? But it isn’t…at least that’s what I’ve come to realize. But I’ll come back to this shortly.
Getting enough sleep hasn’t had the effect on my energy levels as I expected (and hoped). Under normal conditions, I think that it should, however, for quite some time, I’ve suspected that there are other causes at work here that may be interfering with my energy levels and sleep patterns. For example, I’m a coffee drinker, no, a coffee snob, as my wife calls me. For me, grinding up some fresh, oily coffee beans and having a hot cup of aromatic gourmet coffee is an experience I savor, every day…as often as possible. Okay, so maybe this is effecting my sleep, as well as my mood as a recent experiment revealed: see An Accidental Experiment In Elevating Happiness.
My stamina has taken a hit over the past couple of years as well. At my day job, I often feel like a zombie for the first 3 or 4 hours of most days. I find myself getting easily fatigued by my work. I often take advantages of break times by drifting into a light sleep for about 5 minutes (a little more during my lunch period). A few years ago, I always read during my breaks, now I can’t because I’m too tired. I can be wide awake but if I sit down for a break I usually get sleepy in seconds.
I’ve recently learned that many of my aches and pains can be attributed to inflammation in the body, which seems to become an issue as we age. Also, my knee pains might be partly attributed to the cholesterol medicine I had been taking for years.
By The Numbers*
- Gender: Male
- Age: 43
- Height: 5′ 5″
- Weight: 160ish
- BMI: 26
- Total Cholesterol: 260
- LDL-C Direct: 164
- HDL-C: 46
- Triglycerides: 160
- Non-HDL-C: 214
- LDL Particle Size: small and dense (I have this data but still learning how to interpret. For now, I am only able to infer that my LDL particle size is small and dense.)
- Blood Pressure: Normal (historically not an issue for me)
*I have a comprehensive lab report and will discuss this in greater detail in a future entry.
I appreciate my life. And that should be a constant source of happiness for me, which it is, to a point. I love being married to my wife, and I enjoy helping people. I’m relatively healthy and have no serious health issues or issues of any other kind, really. But is this enough for me to be happy for the rest of my life? Yes and no. Yes, because I have a good life. No, because I suspect that there are things going on that are affecting my health and my ability to be even happier. I have many reasons to be happy, but the truth is, sometimes I’m just so-so, which really doesn’t make sense to me. And as long as I suspect this to be true, I won’t stop trying to understand what’s going on. I’ll never stop experimenting and trying to get to the truth of it all.
If you read Why I’m Quitting Sugar, you know about the recent earth-shaking paradigm shift that I experienced. There is a strong likelihood that many of my physical health issues are caused or influenced by the over consumption of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of sugar and things made from flour, both white and whole-grain.
What I’ve come to learn is that many people who have already learned what I’m now beginning to understand have regained their health to unexpected levels–many of them healthier and fitter than ever before–and it sounds as though they’ve become super-human.
What you have here is my baseline description of my current state of health. I may have left some things out, but it’s a pretty good picture, overall. I am so curious and intrigued by the reports of regained health and vitality from so many people who have given up sugar and simple, highly-refined carbs that I have to experience this for myself to see if I can feel better than ever, like them. I suspect that I’ll be pleased with the results, but only time will tell.
Actually getting started! On October 24th, we’ll be adopting a low-carb lifestyle…not a low-carb diet, but a lifestyle change.
As we continue eating low-carb, I’ll post updates on my state of health and track the changes. As much as I’m looking forward to dropping a little weight, I’m even more excited about how I’ll feel. I’m looking forward to becoming “super-human”.