This is a guest post, written by my husband over at 10Bits:
The doctor said, “Here’s your prescription for Lipitor.”
After a Mayo Clinic executive physical, I drove away knowing I was fat, had high cholesterol, and high risk indicators for heart disease. Being an executive has its perks. Mostly I was thinking, Lipitor? I just turned 40! I asked the doctor if I “had” to take the Lipitor.
He replied, “You either have to take it, or you have to start working out and taking care of yourself. Obviously that’s not going to happen.”
So…I lost 45 pounds, ran 2 half marathons, a sprint triathlon, and am running a full marathon in March. I ran 16 miles the past two Saturdays, and I joined the Navy Seals. The Seal part ended up being a dream when I woke up, but the rest of it is true.
The point is I decided not to take the Lipitor. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up to January 4, 2011.
It was my wife’s birthday. I woke up, still fat and out of shape. I gave her something that she doesn’t even remember, and I decided I wanted to get in shape for her. I want to take care of my wife and my daughter and be happy, and I wanted to be around for a long time, but I was not going to take Lipitor. I thought I was supposed to be 68, 78, or at least 58 before anyone would suggest that to me.
A good friend of mine had recently been following a diet from a Timothy Ferriss book he suggested to me called The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman. The middle part caught my attention, but I also thought it would great to get into shape, and maybe if I followed a plan, I could do it.
I seem to be motivated by goals.
I needed something to kick-start my plan. My goal was to follow the diet part of this book for six months. It was a 30-day plan admittedly, but I was committed to doing it for half of a year. You have to buy the book to get all of the details, and there are a lot of them, but what I gleaned of them I followed closely: cutting out white starches, sugars, drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising. The best part of the diet was a built-in cheat day – not on the sex part, but on the food part. This was great for several reasons, but among them – I don’t think you can follow any diet that doesn’t offer forgiveness. We all need rewards and incentives. Like the bunny chasing the carrot, I chased those cheat days – and the elusive Grecco-Roman body.
Amazingly, within the first two months I lost about twenty pounds.
The month of June loomed ahead. I didn’t have a diet exit strategy. I can’t do diets forever, even with a cheat day. I needed a lifestyle that I could embrace. Then I noticed the weirdest thing: the meager pushups, sit-ups and short jogs that I was doing were leading to more pushups and sit-ups and longer jogs. It was strange, but I thought I was enjoying it. Around this time, another good friend of mine, a wounded veteran and military officer, and I both discovered a great organization called Team Red, White and Blue. The mission of Team RWB was meaningful for me for a lot of personal reasons but also for a lot of patriotic reasons. Team RWB supports wounded veterans of the US military through fitness and sporting events, community and relationships – a real esprit de corps.
When the good Captain asked me if I wanted to do a triathlon, my mind laughed at the thought I could do it, but my mouth said yes. Having a goal was good for me. It didn’t seem like an exit strategy anymore: I was not running from something, but I would be running towards something…literally and figuratively. I think in life it’s better when we run towards things rather than away from them.
The training began.
At this point I began a rigorous and disciplined approach to training. It was like I was in college all over again – 6 hours of basketball, two hours of swimming, and then exercising, followed by more basketball. But that was college. I did follow a rigorous plan again. The point was I had a plan to work out three to four times a week as I worked towards my first triathlon in twenty years – the Cajun Man in Lafayette on September 11, 2011.
It was hard work, but I noticed that I was getting stronger and more physically fit, and I began to slowly move to a new plan, which ended up being my exit strategy. I made a list of rules that I follow. They are very basic, and the best news is I follow 80% of them 80% of the time. It’s almost like having a moving cheat day. The point is I try to follow them most of the time and stay active following my training plan as closely as I can.
A few of my rules are not only things we read in books but are things our grandparents probably told us. I eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch, and a pauper at dinner. Drink a lot of water. And then drink some water. I don’t eat late at night. I eat whole foods rather than modified crap. I buy organic when possible. Too much of anything is a bad thing. I try to do early to bed and early to rise. And, every now and then, dessert won’t kill me. Yet. Although Death-by-Chocolate sounds nice sometimes.
September 11, 2011 finally rolled around. My training had prepared me well, and I finished in the middle of the pack of 500 people – and boy can the 20-somethings scream by you when you’re 40-plus. The half mile swim was controlled drowning, the 20 mile bike ride was somewhat of a joy ride, and the 5K run was a tough challenge but one that my training had me ready to accomplish. Doing this for Team RWB definitely gave me a lift that I needed. Wearing the Team RWB eagle definitely helped me cross the finish line. I had achieved all that I set out to do.
It was time to pay a flaunt…uh….a visit back to the doctor. I had my follow up appointment at the Mayo Clinic. I was still really nervous. I was excited that I had lost weight, and I knew those results would show up. But both the lifestyle and the diet I had chosen – I was worried about what that would do to my cholesterol. Can eating three eggs and two pieces of bacon with wheat toast really reduce my cholesterol and fat? Do rib eye steaks really make you leaner? Is pure butter the food I need for the outcome I wanted?
Not only had my weight gone down, but my BMI had gone down 40%, my bad cholesterol had gone down from over 230 to 110 or 120 – the lowest since I was a zygote. More phenomenally, the doctor said my good cholesterol had gone UP. (That was probably the steak.) Either way, he was happy to take credit for all I had done.
“I told you that Lipitor would work,” he said smugly.
“Doctor, I haven’t been taking the Lipitor. I decided to work out…the other option,” I told him.
In his notes, he told me to continue doing what he told me to do and that I am already doing because it is showing great results. Yea me, and Yea to all my friends and family.
Now what is my goal? I don’t have anything to do? Wait! Another good friend of mine who is part Roman and totally cool said, “Hey Buddy, you look like you’re in good shape! Want to run a marathon?” The laughter in my head went on again, but my I heard my voice say, “Yes!” again. It must have been me, because he replied, “GREAT! It’s the day after St. Patty’s Day in Rome!”
So. More training. More intensity. Thank you to Halhigdon.com, where I found a marathon-training plan and began working towards it almost immediately. A couple of other events came up…Team RWB in Louisiana was doing a half marathon in January, and the Cowtown half marathon in February, which was perfect timing as I lead up to the full marathon in March. I finished the half marathon in Louisiana, and I was very proud to run with my Team RWB teammates. The great Captain carried Old Glory for the whole race – a flag that had been flown in Afghanistan. I carried the flag of my brother who had died twenty years before on active duty in the US Navy. It was a great moment, an unbelievable experience I’ll never forget. It was my first marathon with my brother, and I felt like he was with me the whole time. He even won. He crossed the finish line just ahead of me –it was an amazing moment.
So now I am at the point on the Hal Higdon plan where I ran 16 miles two weekends in a row. Yes, my knees are sore. No, my Achilles hasn’t exploded yet, thanks to sticky KT Tape; and I am continuing to press on towards the goal.
Looking back at last January, a year ago this month, there has been a change in me. Last January, if I had to work out, I would just groan and say, “DANG, I have to work out. “ Now if I miss working out, I say, “DANG, I haven’t worked out yet!” something I never would have expected a year ago. I enjoy all the people I’ve met through these fitness events. My friends have supported me, the athletes from Team RWB and other events have supported and encouraged me, and my family has supported me through this entire process. I have another official half marathon in three weeks, and I am six weeks away from my first full marathon of my life. I’m 41 years old, and win, lose or draw, whatever happens in Rome, I’m in shape and having a blast. I wanted to share this story because if you are sitting there thinking you can’t get in shape, I’m here to tell you that you can, and there’s 40-plus pounds less of me to prove it. I’m not going to offer medical advice but at least for me, when the doctor offered me Lipitor as a bridge to better health, I burned it down and ran to build my own bridge to a healthier lifestyle.