Getting Healthy – Part 2

Several months ago I posted My journey to Getting healthy. At the time, I wasn’t planning to post a “part 2”, but I noticed one glaring flaw in my post – I focused entirely on my weight while ignoring everything else about my health. If you have not had a chance to read that post, feel free to read that one before starting here. I will be discussing some things that are related to weight, but that will not be the focus of this post.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there were several things that I observed and thought that I needed to lose weight. From pictures to the numbers on the scale. But the pictures and the numbers on the scale were simply symptoms of my poor health.

In 2014 at my yearly health checkup, my doctor told me I needed to exercise and eat healthier. And while I don’t have the results from the blood work, I do remember one thing. At almost 25 years old, I had high cholesterol. I don’t recall my weight at the time, but it was probably around 175 pounds (79kg).

When I finally saw the results, I couldn’t believe it – my body fat percentage was thirty-eight percent.

Fast forward almost four years to early 2018, and that is when I started to take my health more seriously. One of the first things I did was participate in a program at my gym. The specifics were simple, they would measure your body fat and muscle percentage, and whoever had the best results throughout the program would win. (I don’t recall the prize.) The cost was small (less than $50) to participate, and you would have a DEXA scan done before and after to measure the changes. Fat percentage lost + muscle percentage gain = results.

I was a bit nervous about the results and was expecting to see something around twenty-five percent body fat. My logic was simple – I had barely crossed the BMI obesity threshold, so I assumed I’d barely be past the body fat percentage obesity threshold. When I finally saw the results, I couldn’t believe it – my body fat percentage was thirty-eight percent.

The mental impact was so large I put the results paper in my bathroom so I would see it every day.put the results paper in my bathroom so I would see it every day.

A little more than six months later, I had lost twenty or so pounds (9kg) and put some back on during the fall and Thanksgiving. It had been over four years since I last had a health checkup. I’d always put off going to the doctor, but since I was trying to make a change in my life it was time to go. I also had to get health results as a part of starting work at the company I was moving to Japan to work for.

Same doctor. Guess what he told me? You’re probably right – he told me I needed to diet and exercise. Pretty sure he told me I was fat again. My weight was more than the last time I saw him, so from his perspective, all the work I did to be more healthy and also to lose the weight wasn’t there. My health was worse than when I was there four years prior.

I do still have the results from this checkup. I’ll post the highlights here:

WeightBMI (< 25 healthy)LDL (< 100)HDL (> 40)Triglycerides (< 150)
88.45kg (195lbs)28.216544291

My cholesterol was through the roof. I can only imagine it was probably much worse a year before this. But I didn’t know. I knew it was high, but not this high.

I decided I needed to continue being more health-conscious. As mentioned in my previous post, I did the diet with my friend, Nick, again. Exercising the way I liked was a bit more difficult here in Japan. In the US, I would go to the gym at work. I was blessed to work for a fantastic company, MessageGears, that subsidized my gym membership. I didn’t realize that gyms (even the one subsidized by my company) in Japan were more than twice the full price cost of what I was used to. I opted to just run outdoors for my exercise a few days a week.

My ankle turned, I felt a pop – and a lot of pain. I “walked it off” and then jogged home. The next day I could barely walk…

Unfortunately, I hurt my ankle a couple of months before moving, and I didn’t realize that the injury was going to have a large impact on my plans. The first couple of weeks was fine. I wore a brace while running, and my ankle was just a little sore. Then, one morning, about a kilometer from home, my foot landed halfway off a slight drop in the sidewalk. My ankle turned, I felt a pop – and a lot of pain. I “walked it off” and then jogged home. The next day I could barely walk, and ever since then, running causes me to limp for a day or two if I run.

Effectively, I stuck with just dieting and Judo (with a brace of course). Judo was usually fine and was pretty low impact on my ankle and it was good cardio.

October rolls around, and it’s time for my yearly checkup. Honestly, I was a bit excited to get the results. I knew I had lost weight of course, but I hoped my cholesterol had finally come down. This was the first time in my life I was excited about a health check – aside from the blood draw part of course. 

“Fun fact”: I have trypanophobia – a fancy way to say I’m scared of needles. “No one likes needles” you may say. And you’re probably right. But does the room start to spin five minutes before you get blood drawn? It does for me.

I go through all the tests. Thankfully I live through the blood draw. They take my weight, etc. A few weeks later, I got the results. I’ll share some of them here:

WeightBMI (< 25)LDL (< 100)HDL (> 40)Triglycerides (< 150)
81.7kg (180.2lbs)26.111545190

While my cholesterol was still high, it had dropped by thirty-five percent and was no longer high, but now “borderline high“. I was almost out of the “overweight” category for my height. From a health standpoint, things were looking in the right direction.

Then came 2020. If you read my previous post, you have already seen the results from the third year of dieting. Unfortunately, that post was published when all of the COVID lockdowns started happening. I’ve been working from home now every day since March. That in itself has been great, but like many people, I put on a little bit of weight due to my lack of calorie burn.

In May, I decided to buy a road bike. And I was determined to ride it often. I kept it up all summer. I even rode at least ten kilometers for twenty-one days in August. I’ve done less now with the colder weather, but in general, I could still jump on the bike and ride at least 80km (~50 miles) if I wanted to – probably more.

The problem was that is wasn’t over. After what seems like forever, she finally is able to get enough from my other arm. At this point, my face has gone pale and my blood pressure had plummeted.

As October rolled around, I was right in the middle of my 75Hard Challenge. It was time for my yearly health check. I arrive at the health check, prepared for everything except the blood draw, and excited to see how much more progress I had made.

Did I mention I have trypanophobia? Yeah – for the first time ever, I almost passed getting blood drawn. As usual, the room was spinning one I knew it was time. I told the lady I was fine, and to proceed. She has trouble finding the vein. I’m hating every second, thinking to myself, “just get it over with”. She inserts the needle, starts to draw blood, and then tells me she wasn’t able to get enough. At this point, I’m a bit light-headed, but knew it would pass in a few seconds. The problem was that is wasn’t over. After what seems like forever, she finally can get enough from my other arm. At this point, my face has gone pale and my blood pressure had plummeted.

The staff help me over to a table, have me lay down for around ten minutes until my blood pressure went back up. And now I know that I can handle one needle – if you call the room spinning “handling” it – but two needles is too much.

Three weeks later the results came in. Here they are:

WeightBMI (< 25)LDL (< 100)HDL ( > 40)Triglycerides (< 150)
74.8kg (164.9lbs)23.91144786
* Using my weight and BMI from the end of my 75Hard challenge – almost a month after the health checkup.

For the first time since 2014, my Triglycerides were not high and had dropped another 50% from a year prior. I did some research and spoke to my doctor about my LDL not lowering any further. My doctor said that my numbers were good, and to keep up the good work. From my research, if your triglycerides are low, but LDL is still elevated, it’s probably a sign that you’re consuming good fats instead of bad fats, and it’s not necessarily bad.

If you’re struggling with health – whether it’s weight, fitness, or anything else – take if from me: You can do it! It may take time. You might fail, but keep at it. All the dieting and exercise that turned into lifestyle changes have been worth it.

It took over six years to finally get my cholesterol down. And now, in almost every category, I’m probably the healthiest I’ve been since I got married.

Just a note about the health results I shared:

I’m aware that there are many other tests other than cholesterol that will help paint a more full picture of health. Personally my results were almost all within a normal range except for my cholesterol.

There are other things that I have not tracked over time, but have noticed are doing well. One of these is my resting heart rate. I don’t know what it was 6, 4 or even 1 year ago. It has gone down since I started cycling, but I don’t have any longer term data on this.

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