Weight loss is probably a goal of many runners – maybe even the majority of hobby runners like myself – so I suppose I should share how I lost 12 pounds from November to March.
In late November I drove to an ear doctor’s appointment, and they took my blood pressure. It registered so high that they actually brought out a different machine. Well, by the end of the appointment, they took it again and it had come down, but was still high. So, I was advised to follow up with my general doctor. Since I had a physical already scheduled, that was easy enough to do.
At that appointment, the doctor found that I had borderline high blood pressure.
(You can find information on blood pressure numbers here: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/KnowYourNumbers/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp. Really, though, if you have any concerns, check in with a doctor.)
I know that there is a lot of debate over whether or not the annual physical is good or necessary, but a quick check with a doctor once a year or every couple of years is a good thing. It identified this problem for me, and physicals give a doctor a chance to see you when you are healthy, so that if something does go wrong, they have a sense of how bad things are. So, I think there are soft benefits that go beyond some of the measures used to evaluate the benefits of the annual appointment.
My choices: I could try to control it with diet and exercise and check in with the doctor, or else I could go on medication.
Being naturally pill-adverse, I wanted to try to solve it on my own. So, I took the diet and exercise route. This led to my dropping 12 pounds over the past few months. While I looked for advice from reliable sources, and had information on the DASH diet, I tried to keep it simple.
First, I started a food diary and tried to limit my salt intake to 1500 mg a day or less. That led to a few big changes. First, it reduced the amount of bread and processed food I ate. I also eat out a lot less – holy cow does restaurant food and deli meat have a lot of salt.
One trick was looking at the labels and avoiding anything that had more than 100 mg of salt per servicing. That seems to help a lot. I found some bread that is 105 mg per slice, which is about a third of the salt in the bread I was eating before.
Second, in addition to packing my own breakfast and lunch every day, I began to make my own salad dressing.
The dressing recipe I adapted from the Internet was:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Honey Mustard
Stirring up well makes it better. Mustard can be high in sodium, so you need to choose carefully which you use.
In addition, I looked at the American Heart Association for suggestions on exercise. I had a bit of concern that it might not be good to work out too hard, but the Heart Association’s advice was that the benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks and that 40 minutes of exercise was good for people trying to control their blood pressure (a little more than the standard 30 minute recommendation). Here is a link to the recommendations for physical activity: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Getting-Active-to-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301882_Article.jsp.
Since I have been physically active for some time, I decided to keep up with what I had been doing.
So, I got on the treadmill for 40 minutes about twice a week, fenced about twice a week, and lifted weights about twice a week. When I couldn’t lift, I would do bodyweight exercises at home.
Over the course of a few months, this led to my weight loss. My blood pressure is still a bit above 120/80, and I think that stress plays a big part in it. I certainly welcome any suggestions on how to manage stress, but I am working on it.
I still need to keep at it, and it is easy to slip out of the food logging habit, but I can tell you that if you keep most of your meals healthy, even when you do have a burger and chips (and ice cream), your daily totals for things like calories and sodium can still be in a healthy range.
It can be as easy as it looks, but it takes a little time, patience, and creativity. (And, yes, sometimes I still just want some salt in my meal, but it is worth it to skip it.)
This app does a lot of the food logging work for you: http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/
This is great Ben. For stress I would recommend a phone app called Headspace which is a great quick guided meditation system designed to do at work or anywhere. Short sessions to get you on your calm place. Free trial of about ten sessions will give you a sense of whether it works for you.