What will it take to get fitness results?
BY JENNIFER MIFFLIN AND SUZANNE C. WITT For Sun-Times Media
On a Saturday morning back in September, we took the "plunge" and partook in Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers "Wake Up Call Screening," a comprehensive cardiac analysis offered to gauge our risk for heart disease and stroke. Diagnostics entailed a blood oxygen level test; comprehensive blood cholesterol and chemistry level tests; body composition analysis; stroke screening/carotid artery ultrasound; abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound; peripheral vascular disease screening and heart rhythm screening for Atrial Fibrillation.
The eagerly awaited results arrived recently in a large manila envelope, and like anything unknown, were the cause of minor apprehension prior to being revealed.
I knew I had some issues, but seeing the results in black and white forced me to accept them.
BMI 35: ouch; cholesterol 177 - not too bad. If only it were just those two things. On the advice of the nurse who conducted my screening, I followed up with my doctor about my blood pressure and discovered it's too high. So now I'm taking blood pressure medication. I feel like I've morphed into my grandmother.
Remedy: Lose 65 pounds and adopt regular exercise. No problem; piece of cake.
Wait, doc, I'm an emotional eater. Whether I'm happy, sad, bored or excited, food normalizes me. I'm not a classic overweight person in the sense that I binge, I just make food choices all the time because I feel powerless around it.
Trigger foods: for starters, cheese, pasta, sugar. One begets the other. Carbohydrates raise my serotonin levels rendering me helpless to their deliciousness. Sometimes I feel hopeless and despondent because I'm unable to change my situation. Hmm ... maybe I'll make homemade mac n cheese tonight. No way.
Here's the truth. I hate being in this situation. I even feel unlucky and alone sometimes because for so many people food is just sustenance, not a controlled substance.
Is this just how it's going to be? Should I just accept this as my fate and continue to spiral out of control? Hell no. I've got too much living to do. It's time to stop feeling sorry for myself and consider my health. Goals: Lose the weight, get off the statin and embrace exercise as a source of empowerment and confidence.
When I first grabbed the mail and laid eyes on my results, I was less than enthused. In fact, I was downright nervous. In some ways, I like to bury my head in the sand when it comes to my health. What if the technicians discovered a tumor or something in my blood work pointing to a more serious issue? Knowledge is power so I deduced no matter what, I would work to remedy any less than desirable outcome.
Overall, I'm pretty healthy; heart and arteries are sound. My BMI is 25 and my blood pressure is back to normal. Perhaps I suffered from white coat syndrome at the start of the screening.
It's my cholesterol that needs a tune-up.
Back in 2003 I had it tested as part of an employer's full-body workup pre-requisite and the number absolutely shocked me. It was hovering around 200. I wasn't overweight; didn't smoke and drank moderately. Exercise was slightly spotty. But the real nail in the coffin? Diet.
I have a weakness. That weakness is cheese. I absolutely love it - aged cheddar, Swiss, Gouda - I don't discriminate. It's a total catch-22 because as I woman I know I need calcium but the fat content is outrageous yet there's something that's just so wrong in my book about light cheese. I've also enjoyed many an extra cheesy Friday-night pizza, and several other such mid-to-end-of-week treats that aren't great for optimal health.
By sticking to foods on the lighter side and walking daily, I was able to reduce my level substantially. But I haven't been quite as stringent the past few years and that's caught up to me. I'm at 184 - once again - too close to 200 for my comfort.
That leads me to my next area of concern: bone loss. Osteoporosis runs in my family. Having tested positive for mild bone loss I want to ramp up my daily weight usage and incorporate more calcium into meals - the right way - skim milk, yogurt, lowfat mozzarella - as well as adhere to portions, portions, portions and water, water, water even if that means spending half my day in the loo. Consuming two-thirds of a block of cheese in one sitting isn't going to cut the mustard anymore.
At this point in my life I'm open to some professional help. I don't want to go overboard; by making moderate adjustments, I'm confident I can get to where I need to be.
Enter Shelton Matsey, certified personal trainer.
We became acquainted with Shelton a few months back when the wheels started turning regarding our wellness goals. The LCMH exam coupled with a somewhat disciplined routine of motivational workouts by a trusted fitness expert could be just what the doctor ordered.
With two locations - in Chicago's Beverly community and Tinley Park - our prayers were answered, as we live nowhere near one another yet still want to encourage and motivate the other, if even from a distance.
As an added bonus, with Shelton's calm demeanor, it didn't feel like we'd be signing up for basic training. He's passionate about fitness, nutrition and exercise and encourages all to go at their own pace; through hard work, discipline and dedication anyone can reach their goals.
With children and hectic lives, we both are willing to commit to 2-3 days per week of in-house, training - the rest will be on us individually. Fit Code has a dietitian on-board with whom we're both eager to work as a first step toward better eating.
We'll be updating our progress every month or so.
Please wish us luck and join us on this weight loss, bone building, cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering journey.
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Jennifer Mifflin and Suzanne Witt are two Chicago-area writers on hiatus from daily assignments. When they aren't chasing terriers and a two-year-old or playing chauffeur to pre-teens, they throw caution to the wind and chronicle their journey as moms, friends and fellow neurotics on ChirpyGirls.com