Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Three Minutes From a Heart Attack



Until January 3rd 2007, I was fat, happy, and seriously out if shape. My wife, Sandy had been recovering from a serious horse wreck that limited her ability to walk and left her in a great deal of pain. From the middle of August, 2006, she had been receiving physical therapy three days a week from the wonderful people at the Ouachita Rehabilitation and Fitness Center in Mena, Arkansas where we live. After the first of the year, she was transitioned from a patient to a regular member and I said I would join her at the fitness center.

When I naively walked into the fitness center to become a member myself, I went through the normal registration process. In addition to the normal questions, registration included a weigh-in and blood pressure check. I was shocked to see that I was fifteen pounds heavier than when I previously thought I was really fat. When they took my blood pressure, I was surprised to see a flurry of activity and the summoning of additional people for retesting. I think they were considering whether to rush me to the emergency room. My blood pressure was 181/118 and when I lamely explained that I had always had a “white coat” reaction to having my BP taken, they reluctantly took me to a treadmill where I awkwardly navigated for ten minutes at a slow 1.5 miles per hour. I was assigned a program that involved weight machines for upper and lower body on alternate days and given rudimentary instruction in their use.

This experience was a major wake-up call for me. I decided to see whether my experience as a night chef in a restaurant-the job that paid my way through undergraduate school-and my lifelong love of cooking could be pressed into service for weigh loss and blood pressure reduction. Since 9/11, I was a man on a mission in pursuit of comfort food. Chicken and dumplings, fried catfish, and other southern delights that had been such a comfort were my undoing. I mean, have you ever had fried corn on the cob (with or without batter)?

The photo above on the right shows me last semester winning two awards for our first annual Grit Cookoff (as in the most important thing in the college experience is "grit"-determination, sand, stones). I won two awards for my entries, a testiment to my love of food.

I put myself on a diet of less than 1400 calories, less than 1500 mg of sodium, and less than 20 percent of my daily caloric intake from fat. I started creating low-fat, low-salt recipes. I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my intake (and, to let me know how much I had left for the day). I also started going to the fitness center four days a week. I warm up with ten minutes on the treadmill (yesterday at 3.6 miles per hour), followed by two circuits on the weight machines, and finish with 20 minutes on the treadmill at regular speed and a five minute cool-down.

Yesterday I weighed in and have lost 22.5 pounds. My blood pressure was a respectable 128/80, and I feel great. I still have a ways to go.

I created this blog to share my progress and my recipes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog and very helpful and interesting resources, Joel! I will introduce your blog to my overweight friends and non-overweight friends.

Good luck and enjoy the sunny and sweet Spring, you and your family, and your family members, like cats...! :)

Chang Bo