Friday, October 5, 2012

When Life Pushes Life Changes

We were talking about a spring trip to Las Vegas or a Princess Cruise together and my mother and father flying somewhere from January to March escaping the brutal cold of Chicago winter - a lot of life before us. The next moment stopped us on a dime. I spent most of the next days talking about the x-rays, the options, the doctors and talking about remembering fun times together. That’s when it sank in. This might be the real end. When you get that kind of news you start to re-evaluate what it is that we are doing on a day to day basis. How you eat, exercise, live, love and generally approach anything you are interested in. My dad was my mentor, coach, gambling partner (occasionally, we’d even win) and biggest fan (next to mom, Lorrie, my mother and father in-law and Greta).

That is when it sank in.

“How long have you been a diabetic?” This was the question to my father after his initial (and incorrect) stroke diagnosis that stopped me cold. ‘I’m not a diabetic’ dad retorted. “Yes you are. Look at these numbers” said the nurse. My dad never received treatment for diabetes, but apparently he ate his way there. Dad fell asleep around midnight and I drove home from the hospital. The only sound was the engine and air rushing over the open sun roof on a jet black night with the moon beaming like a spotlight in the face.  The message wasn't lost on me.

It’s time for massive change.

I called my friend Heather Fink longtime friend, Ironman, age group duathlon world champion and nutritionist in Indianapolis. “Hi Heather it is Bob. My dad is in hospice. It won’t be long now. Once we get past the funeral I’m going to call you and we will make real, permanent change in my diet.” Heather helped me get my body weight down to 157 pounds in 2003 for Ironman USA (Lake Placid). Sitting in the hospital waiting room when I called her that afternoon I was 210; lazy eating habits and not exercising. When one of your best friend is in the hospital I think it is normal to get a case of the “fuck its”. As in, I’ve been at the hospital 24 hours straight. I should eat a salad. I want a Wendy’s cheeseburger – fuck it. Every one of those decisions was a bad one - but a normal human reaction.

I got a physical. Not horrible. Fat as I am the numbers where “normal” according to the nurse and my doctor. Then my dad’s saying popped into my head. “Average is failing. Average sucks if you are really trying.” Average, that word drove my dad insane. If you are average, you weren’t trying. “No person was meant to be average.” So if you were average, you weren’t trying in our house growing up. Some of those numbers jumped out at me: blood pressure – 121 or 122 when “average” was 120. Never been that high before. Pulse – 54. Last time I was that high was 1994 when I hadn’t worked out in three years straight. I have to get my act together.

The Diet
When most age group “athletes” talk about diet, most are looking for performance results. I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m changing the diet looking to get healthy. To max out the energy I can achieve and at a chemical level change my life. Performance may change from that, but that isn’t the reason I’m here.

For openers, I’ve eliminated:
Meat (not fish or eggs)
Dairy
Cheese
Caffeine
Sugar

As I was putting this plan to eat better together I started reading Rich Roll's book and it really made sense on a biochemistry level.  What the hell are we doing with our diet? 

The first week Lorrie and I started on a “cleanse” diet of only certain foods and veggies. We’ve worked with Heather to ensure nutritional values of iron (for example) and protein to ensure that we are getting the right food. Funny experience, as soon as I put it on our Facebook pages we started getting objections. “You’ll get an eating disorder”, “You won’t get enough iron”, “You won’t get enough protein”, “You’ll be too weak for training, let alone competition”. Gorillas eat nothing but veggies and fruit and they don’t seem to have a problem with iron and protein. Seem pretty strong too. Is there a need to watch the diet more closely? Of course I will need to watch my protein intake (no problem in the first 21 days), calcium (again… not a problem).

My Future
I will eat meat on rare occasions. I eat fish. I eat eggs. So, I’m not doing this 100% of every minute of every day like an OCD nut case. Balance is good. (No offense to my cousin Sarah who is vegan because she cares very much for animals as a vet. For her, it is an issue of how we (humans) treat animals. I admire her principles very much and she has some really good points.)  What is interesting is that I've had a filet once and I felt awful after it.  After meals I'm not crashing with energy levels.  My mood is level all day.  I don't "need" caffiene.  (I never really did... just got into a habit.)
I am doing this for my health. With health comes the ability to train. The ability to train brings the ability to get fit. Fitness brings results. Three weeks in – I’m down 12 lbs. The weight loss has slowed, but I think that is to be expected.  I’m in to change things like blood pressure and other numbers.  My body will figure out what weight I should be at.