In wrapping up our week of no excuses, I’m going a bit off personal finance today to talk about health. You could argue that health is heavily related to finance because unhealthy people generally pay more for doctor visits, medications, and insurance premiums. You might remember that I’ve been having a bit of a struggle with my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. I’ve been steadily improving, but decided to kick it up a few notches before getting blood work done last month. I almost hit the floor when I got my results and found that I had lowered my triglycerides by over 100 points!
I Was Using Excuses
My cholesterol has always been borderline if you look at the numbers. At first I used the excuse that it was genetic. I can’t help that my family tree has a branch growing high cholesterol and triglycerides. After all, I exercise almost every day and don’t eat that bad. Aren’t I doing better than most people?
If I’d stuck to that theory, I probably would have seen my levels increase yearly until I had to go on medication. My doctor wasn’t ready to do that last year, and we both agreed that I’d work harder to get my levels back to a normal range.
I Really Wasn’t Doing That Great With My Diet
After really looking at what I was eating, there was lots of room for improvement. My killer is carbs. Just because you aren’t eating steak and eggs at every meal doesn’t mean your body likes what you’re feeding it. I also have a weakness for cookies and chips, and I think I ate a few too many. I also used the excuse that I had a kid so I could buy stuff for her, when in reality, I am the one who enjoys it most.
You Can Beat Your Genetics
I’ve learned that as I get older, I can’t get away with so-so eating habits. I have to be on my game most of the time. Since the beginning of the year I have done a number of things to try and get the fat out of my blood.
Ate Mostly Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains
I generally have a fruit smoothie with low carb or Greek yogurt for breakfast, some sort of salad for lunch, and lean protein with veggies for dinner. For snacks, I have been eating fruit, carrots, protein bars, and almonds. I’ve tried to avoid chips and processed food as much as possible. I do eat pasta sometimes, but buy the lower carb varities. We still have pizza, but I make it at home instead of ordering out. I do fall off the wagon. I had fried chicken last week in Kentucky, but ate salad the next meal. This is not a diet. This is my life, and it’s honestly pretty sweet when you get used to it. I haven’t craved a chip in months.
Exercise More Productively
I have always exercised regularly, but I have been known to hop on a stationary bike or elliptical machine and kind of phone it home while reading a book, not really breaking a sweat. I used the excuse that I’m in good shape, so I don’t sweat that much.
In order to get your blood pumping and knock out that cholesterol, you have to get your heart rate up. I also was very lacking in strength training because I hate lifting weights. I used to go in and do my cardio, planning to lift afterwards, but I’d feel rushed and just leave.
After much experimenting, I’ve found that doing boot camp classes a couple of times a week plus doing some running alternated with walking while I lift dumbbells or do lunges works great. Doing interval training really gets your heart rate up, and it doesn’t really seem like I’m lifting weights. I am not working out for longer periods of time, but I’m using the time I have more effectively. For a multi-tasker like myself, that’s a win-win.
I have mixed feelings about supplements. I’ve seen too many people with serious health problems try to fix them with homeopathic remedies, only to end up in worsening the problem. However, I know that certain supplements do work if used correctly and in combination with other things. I did some homework and decided that fish oil combined with a plant sterol supplement might really help with my numbers, so I’ve been religiously taking them since March.
Last year my total cholesterol was 214. Now it’s 177.
My HDL (good) cholesterol was 55. Now it’s 62.
My LDL (bad) cholesterol was 112. Now it’s 92.
My ratio was 3.9. Now it’s 2.9.
My triglycerides were 233. Now they are 117!
I’m not sure if this is due to diet, exercise, or supplements, but I suspect it’s a combination of all. My numbers haven’t been this good since I was 25!
Excuses Why You Can’t Be Healthy
If you are a picture of perfect health, skip this section and come back when you turn 40. If you aren’t where you need to be, why not?
Here are some common excuses I hear from patients, friends, and family members as to why they aren’t healthy.
-I don’t have time. That’s not an excuse. I’m sure there is an hour somewhere in the day for exercise, even if it means getting up at 4AM. I don’t have time to cook on days when I work, so I make sure to cook extra on weekends or have things like chopped veggies ready to go for busy days. It’s all about planning and priorities.
-I can’t afford to buy fresh food. Yes, you can. This post will tell you how.
-I hate exercise. There is no way you will hate exercise if you do it consistently for a month. Try different things. I would rather eat raw liver than do zumba, but some people swear by it. What works for me might not for you. Even if you never enjoy the physical part of it, there is no way you won’t feel good after the fact.
-I’ve had a condition or surgery that makes it impossible to exercise. Anyone can walk or swim. If you can’t walk on land, do it in the pool. Ask your doctor. I’m sure there is something you can do.
-I have small kids. Get a baby jogger. I can’t tell you how many laps I’ve made around my neighborhood with a baby then toddler in tow. Our rec center also has child care for $2 an hour. That’s a pretty darn good price for allowing an uniterrupted hour of exercise.
-I can’t afford a gym. Do you have shoes? Arms? Legs? That’s all you need. Walk, run, do jumping jacks. There area also tons of free exercise videos on YouTube.
-I can’t afford supplements. You might not need them. I think my numbers would have been better but not as good without them. If you decided to try one, look for buy one get one free sales at the grocery or shop on Amazon Prime for the best deals.*
-Life is too short not to enjoy what I eat. If you feel that way, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’ve never seen anyone who has had a life threatening problem due to poor health habits that is really ready to die. You don’t hear,” I’ve enjoyed my life and want to die of this heart attack at age 55. “
Excuses make us broke, unhealthy, and stuck. No more excuses. If I can lower my cholesterol 100 points, you can too. What’s holding you back?
Do you use excuses more for debt, work, or health? Are there valid reasons why people can’t exercise and eat better?
*I’m not an expert so please check with your doctor before starting any sort of new exercise program or taking any supplements.