health


A few weeks ago in house church we had to to draw what we would come up with if God asked us to remodel heaven.  Here’s mine:

heaven

Note The Non-Allergic Great Outdoors, where the weather is always perfect and the pollen/mold/fungus count is always at 0.  Enjoy creation to your little heart’s content without the plague of itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, or breaking out in hives.  Next observe The Bakery of Heavenly Goodies, where you can obtain fresh, homemade pie, brownies, or chocolate chip cookies at any time.  I added Tex-Mex and Chick-fil-A sections following inspiration from a teammate.  And then we have The Eternal Game of Ultimate Frisbee (which is, after all, God’s favorite sport), which is actually more of a friendly, only mildly competitive tournament because that way everyone can be on a team and have fun.

I wanted to add a Room For Everyone, Yet Still With That Small-Town Feel And No Traffic Neighborhood, but I ran out of room (and time).

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I have been exercising fairly regularly since about 8th grade.  A year ago, I had just started training for a marathon, and six months ago I finished it – in the process, aggravating a recent knee injury to the point of being unable to walk.  Four weeks and a steroid shot later, I was on the road to recovery…except I moved to France, where there are stairs everywhere and few “accommodations” such as elevators or escalators.  The knee flared up pretty bad and I have been sidelined since.

But weeks months of therapy and at-home exercises have started to pay off.  On Saturday I was able to play ultimate – really play, not moseying around the field.  I mean I was clearly out of shape, but this time it was my lungs and heart holding me back, not my knee.  And today we joined a gym!  I was able to use an elliptical for 30 minutes and it feels so, so good to get my heart rate up, sweat a bit, clean up and…nothing.  No limping or sharp pains – I still have to go up and down stairs somewhat baby-ish, and I have a few more physical therapy sessions, but I am so happy to see progress!  I am particularly excited about the ellipticals, because I can get a good, weight-bearing cardio workout with little to no impact on my knee so I can get the rest of me back in shape without worrying about damaging it again.  Hooray!

I must not have been thinking clearly when I decided to come live with a bunch of people in close quarters, along with all their children (why is it that kids always have snot dribbling out of their noses?), in the middle of winter.  I haven’t been sick much in the past 3 years, mostly because I worked in a small office with a very limited pool of people to interact with.  Before that I taught preschool, before that I worked retail, and before even that I was in school and I was sick. all. the. time.

So far amongst the people I am in closest contact with there have been bronchitis, tonsillitis, a small fevery sick child (the particular illness is yet TBA), an eye infection, several snotty kids, a double ear infection, some sort of virus, a few other infection-y type things I am pretending to ignore, and now Jake has fallen ill with something that involves thick green snot, an extremely sore throat, and sleeping all day long.

As for me, usually so unconcerned with the possibility of germs, I have taken to Purell-ing my hands at every opportunity and am popping Airbornes like Smarties.  Woe to he that doth causeth any illness to befall me, for his grief shall be great upon the visitation of my wrath, and he shall be sore afflicted with many miseries, and I shall smite him with my arm of retribution, and he shall be smote with mine indignation and fury.

I just realized that all* I ate today was pizza.  No breakfast, Pizza King** for lunch, my leftover Chicago pizza for dinner.

And I could totally eat pizza again tomorrow.  Um…is there a support group for this?

*Oh wait!  I did have some pineapple in there too, so I at least got a bit of fruit in.  I am totally healthy.

**An Indiana staple.  Thin crust, which I usually do not like, but Pizza King is good, toppings all the way to the edge…and the drinks are delivered on a model train.  Perfect. Although apparently they do not have a website.

  1. First I found out Lisa can’t run with me Saturday, which is Long Run Day.  11 miles is intimidating all by me onesie.
  2. My watch, which keeps track of distance & speed for me so I can monitor my pace, needs its battery replaced after a whopping 2 months of use.  The irritating part is I had to send it away, so I until I get it back I am totally in the dark as to whether I actually run the distance I meant to run…and let me just say that it feels like 11 miles around mile 5, so relying on my keen internal odometer isn’t the most accurate method.
  3. And then, my knees started hurting.  NOT GOOD.  I had knee problems my senior year of high school which took 3-4 months to recover from.  As in, I missed the entirety of cross country season.  It feels the same right now.  It is “just” runner’s knee but I want to train for a marathon, not rehab in a pool or on a bike for a few months.

So, after a really, really good run on Saturday – I started to think, I can actually do this! – I hit a huge wall of discouragement.  If anyone has suggestions for a quick recovery while maintaining my present fitness level, bring ’em on!

Five or six months ago my doctor (nurse practitioner, actually) told me I had high cholesterol.  Not like “Your arteries are completely clogged and you will die in 20 minutes” kind of high, but just elevated to a level to cause concern.  She was particularly concerned because she knows I am fairly active and eat relatively healthy.  I’m not a health nut or anything but I eat better than many of my peers.  This, she told me, is the result of genetics.  Of course I knew this.  I have been watching my family medical history play out my whole life.  That history is my future.  I know, for example, that if I take no deliberate steps to guard my health, I will become obese and diabetic (diabetic at the very least), with all the accompanying health problems.  And I will live, feeling horrible, for decades and – barring some sort of accident – will die of a stroke in my 80s.  That is my future.  The odds are so overwhelming in favor of that outcome I would willingly take my Baptist self to Vegas.

But in 8th grade I made a conscious decision.  That will NOT be me, I decided.  Health is not all genetics – your choices play a huge part in that.  I can change this, I thought.  And I diligently began exercising 5 or 6 days a week, running.  I ate very, very healthy foods – shredded wheat and bran for breakfast (I will admit to you now that it tasted worse than the box it came in, but back then I pretended I liked it), nothing greasy (pretended I didn’t like pizza), and dessert only very rarely and even then just a tiny piece, just enough to taste.  I backed off the stringent restrictions a bit somewhere during college but still ate pretty healthy…and I will admit that during the past 2 years I haven’t been exercising quite as diligently, but still several times a week.  I was shocked to find myself, at 25, staring down the barrel at a future that came to call early.

I started exercising more.  I quit eating red meat (I have it occasionally, usually when we eat at someone else’s house).  I started eating more fruits & vegetables.  I don’t eat much dessert anymore, and when I do it is usually a small piece of dark, dark chocolate.  I started taking niacin, which is a B vitamin that helps your body produce good cholesterol and remove the bad.  I went back for testing last week and the results: cholesterol is back down in the normal range!  It is still on the high end so I still want to work on it, but I’m not going to die from it any time soon.  But, she told me, your triglycerides are high.  And what are triglycerides, you ask?  Well, they are fats in your blood.  And how do you lower them?  Well, you drink a lot of water (check), you exercise (check), you stay away from obviously fatty foods (check), you eat fruits and vegetables (check), you eat high-fiber foods (check), you limit sugar and alcohol intake (check), you get omega-3s (check).  So, what can I do to lower them?  I can up my intake of fruits and vegetables but that’s it.  Nothing left.  No supplement to take or change to make.  Oh wait, my mom said I can cut out dairy completely – except that I have to use milk to eat my high-fiber oats in various cereals each morning, and I LOVE cheese.  After that I’m stuck with whatever I have.

I am really, really irritated about this.  And maybe a little angry.  I mean it’s not like I sit around eating Fritos all day…but I would like to enjoy them occasionally.  It’s not fair.  You can’t choose your genes but I thought I was on track to defeat them.  I thought I had about 10 years and maybe a couple of kids to go before I had to cave into things like low-fat salad dressing and checking my weight.  I feel like I’ve been robbed, looking forlornly at cakes and pies that need a good home, robbed of 10 years when all that was required was casual attention and maintenance.  But I have to always, always have my guard up, because that future is like the bogeyman, always hiding just around a corner, waiting to jump out and claim me as a victim too.  I thought I could fool him but he found me anyway.