Our quest for nutritional health began a little over ten years ago. Eliminating refined sugar, oils, white flour, and processed foods were the focal point of our dietary makeover. We made significant changes, benefiting with less seasonal illness, sustained level of energy, and shedding excess body weight. It proved true; it worked.
So what am I confessing?
Now, four months post-heart attack, there is a long list of things we have learned and unlearned. In my previous post Feel Healthy: Have a Heart Attack Anyway, is important information about heart attack risks and crucial tests. This post is about answering the question,
How did this happen?
Knowing is not doing; over the years, we got busy, a little lazy, and a bit arrogant. We compromised more than we thought. Even though our clothes fit a little tighter, we blamed it on our age and assumed we were fine; besides, we ate right most of the time and took supplements occasionally. The reality of the choices you’ve made is never clearer than when you face a serious, yet avoidable, health risk.
The statement that woke us up was from the cardiologist: “We know that what he was doing wasn’t working.” That was hard to hear because we thought otherwise. We have heard from more than a few people whose perception was that we followed a good diet and were relatively healthy. Well, we perceived that too. However, as we took a hard look at what we were really eating rather than relying on our knowledge of a healthy diet, denial was exposed.
Compromising adds-up in the form of convenience, justification, and rationalization. Compromise is exactly what got us (him) here—special occasions, dinner out with friends, mood enhancement, been good for a week, worked out harder this week, too tired, too busy, were all part of the excuse regimen. Whatever bargaining was necessary, we found a way to eat what we wanted, put off regular exercise, and still feel okay about it. These momentary “just this once” decisions appear harmless, even manageable. Seemingly small concessions, accumulate into health-robbing patterns.
Activity is not exercise. Having the ability to exercise, thinking about exercising, planning to exercise, buying exercise equipment, is not the same thing as actually committing to a lifestyle of regular exercise. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from stores, weekend hikes, walking the dog is all good, but it is not a substitute for real heart-pumping exertion 3-4 days a week. Technology encourages passivity. We sit in our cars, at our desks, at the table, when entertained, while we wait, you get the idea. Sedentary habits catch up with us and the medical bills tell the real story.
Diligence in diet and exercise prove true once again; it still works. In just a few months, cholesterol numbers dropped dramatically and so have the numbers on the scale (he shed 20 lbs and I shed 13 lbs). The funny thing is, I had been “trying” for over two years to lose those 5-7 lbs with no sustained progress. Denial had set in as I flipped through fitness magazines for new exercises and complained to friends that I just could not figure out why the scale kept inching up. I wondered if my metabolism had simply changed after turning 40 and this is just the way things would be—it happens to everybody at some point, right. No, I was in denial and unwilling to get serious about it.
I remember telling friends, “Life is too short to not have dessert“. They agreed, who wouldn’t? (We like it when friends validate our denial.) Well, I have adjusted that mantra. Life is too short not to have dessert; it will likely be shorter if we do. Don’t get me wrong, we will have a treat on our birthday and enjoy special holiday traditions, but it will be rare. This is not a fad diet or a knee-jerk response to a health issue; we have seen first hand what works, what doesn’t work, and the cost if we ignore reality. We are diligent with our diet and exercise now as though our lives depend on it—because they do.
Proverbs 28:13 (NIV) Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Scottish proverb: Open confession is good for the soul. (In this case, it is good for the heart as well.)