Mr Salty Gets A Physical

Posted: January 20, 2014 in The Roper Files

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Went in for my yearly physical this week; did an EKG, the nurse drew blood from one arm and took my blood pressure. Then I was instructed to step onto the scales.The nurse slid the bar across in front of me.130 pounds, 140 pounds….up to 150 pounds finally. What? 150 pounds? This can’t be….

I’ve weighed more or less the same thing for thirty years despite eating anything I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. I’ve virtually worn the same size clothes for decades. In recent months however I’ve split three pairs of jeans at the crotch and have noticed some of my older t-shirts didn’t quite cover my belly; I assumed they were all merely shrinking from too many washings. It seems that wasn’t the case at all; I had simply put on an additional twenty pounds in the course of a year. My clothes weren’t shrinking; I was getting larger.

The changes in my diet haven’t gone unnoticed by my body it seems. When I was in my teens and twenties I lived on fast foods; Big Macs and super-sized orders of fries from McDonalds, tacos, tostadas and burritos from Taco Bell, fried chicken by the bucket from KFC and Popeyes. It’s no small miracle I didn’t weigh 300 pounds by the time I was thirty. Then somewhere between the time I turned thirty and forty I noticed something; these same foods would shoot through me like an RPG. Maybe it was the years of grease adding up inside my body. Maybe it was these companies that owned the restaurants started using cheaper grease, grease substitutes or just didn’t bother changing the grease at all but after eating their products I would be on the toilet within minutes offering blanket apologies to Allah, God, Mohammed, whoever was Up There listening for whatever it was that I said, whatever it was that I did and promising never to do it again if only The Purging would just stop…

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Then I swore off fast foods, or at least the ones offered up by mainstream chains. Burgers by independent grills seemed to taste better and their fries or onion rings didn’t have me bolting to the restroom within minutes. I began ordering dinner salads on hot summer days or getting subs from Subway or Quiznos. Steaks grilled on my own grill seemed to taste better than the ones from the local “steak houses” A room-mate I had in the 80’s had an enormous steel grill and taught me the joys of cooking my own barbecue, not to mention it was more economical to go to the store and buy meat than to pay the exorbitant prices most barbecue joints demanded. Cooking burgers myself was also more economical too.

As the 80’s turned into the 90’s I began to switch to an alternating diet of red meats one night, white meats the next in an attempt to find some sort of balance that seemed to be lacking in my appetite. But I still ate an ungodly amount of unhealthy foods or at least foods I knew deep down inside weren’t healthy choices. It was much akin to an addiction to drugs or alcohol; I just couldn’t help or control myself. Fried fish tasted GOOD. Mexican food tasted good. Pizza tasted good. I knew deep down inside I needed to somehow include more vegetables and fruits in my diet and yet I felt helpless about it; it was so much easier to grill hot dogs than to take the time and trouble to fix a salad. As a life-long bachelor I felt it was not only my calling but my duty to exist on a diet that subsisted of meats wrapped in bread.

Then after many decades of this, my girlfriend came into my life and like the Marines landing on the beach at Normandy liberated me from my bachelor diet. But the changes didn’t happen over-night. First she had to evict me from the kitchen. The computer desk I had strategically placed in front of the refrigerator and coffee pot in previous years had to go. Despite my screams of protest a USB wireless device found its way into the back of my desktop computer and was now suddenly liberated from the ball-and-chain of the modem wire and my entire computer desk was unceremoniously wheeled into the living room so my girlfriend could prepare meals with me out of the way and its former space was replaced by an actual dining table.

Slowly home-cooked meals began to work their way into my diet. The transition from processed meals to real food was actually pretty painless initially. Strange phrases like “sugar-free” and “low-fat” began appearing on the labels of items in my kitchen but the differences were subtle enough although old habits die hard. When we would visit my parents house for meals she noticed my father would put salt and pepper on his food then hand me the shakers and I would sprinkle both on my food just as we had both done for years when I was still living at my parent’s house.

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But despite the healthier food, I was apparently eating  too much of it; I have still gained the lot of twenty pounds over the course of the last year. Exercising is foreign to me and something I just never seemed to have the extra time to bother with. My doctor told me besides exercising I needed to eliminate the copious amounts of salt from my diet. That evening I started examining the labels of almost everything in my kitchen and this was a real eye-opener. I wasn’t surprised to see the high sodium percentages in some items like the sliced ham I made my lunch sandwiches with, or Fritos or tortilla chips but almost all of my favorite foods had high percentage rates of salt or sodium in them, even things as seemingly benign as the bagels I had daily for breakfast. I somehow felt a sense of betrayal within; how could bagels be unhealthy?

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I’ve had two of my closest friends die in the last year, as well as losing my father. I found out two of my high school classmates died recently from diabetes-related illnesses complicated by just plain not taking care of themselves. I’ve had friends die from cancer who refused to stop smoking, friends who refused to stop drinking or doing drugs that died from complications related to that; I even had one friend who was as strong as a horse keel over off an exercise bike at the gym from a heart-attack. Each and every one of these incidents was just a grim reminder that none of us were getting any younger and the entire stupid Peter Pan-level of denial (“I’M going to live forever!”) was just so much BS. None of us are eternal; I’m not so naive as to think otherwise.

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So now besides putting on more weight, my doctor tells me my blood pressure is up and I have to cut down on salt. This is going to involve much more than merely retiring the salt shaker; I now have to actively monitor the foods I am reaching for and putting in my mouth. I’ve stopped dumping salt on my sandwiches, I’ve started buying low-salt chips for my lunches and also putting things like apples and oranges in my lunch-box. It’s not perfect but it’s a start. And when the weather permits, I’m going to start going for long walks after work.

Meanwhile I still have a ton of salty chips and other unhealthy snacks laying around the kitchen; the pinch-penny in me won’t allow myself to throw them out but once they are gone, I’m not buying any more of them. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Add to that list some way to stop my craving of unhealthy food and I think they would have something there.

 

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