Why are Good Test Results Demotivating?

Two weeks have flown by since I got the great news that my lo-co lifestyle changes are working to drive my cholesterol down.  But instead of motivating me to stay on track, I’ve gone haywire.

Here’s what’s happened since I got the results:

  • I have only cooked ONE lo-co dinner.
  • We’ve eaten take-out Pizza, Chinese Food and Indian Food nearly every night.
  • I have not made (or even ordered out) a single salad for lunch or dinner.
  • Consuming Phish Food ice cream while prone on the sofa watching The Biggest Loser or some other TV show is still a nightly treat (though in truth, this habit has never wavered so I can’t blame the test results.)
  • Twice in 2 weeks, I have had lunch at Wendy’s. Twice!
  • Have not stepped foot on the elliptical even once.
  • The only lo-co habit I’ve managed to keep is breakfast: oatmeal with almonds and apples.  But even that’s been mixed: I dropped it for my old fave (bagel and lox) three days in a row when I kept ‘forgetting’ to make oatmeal overnight.

What is up with that?

How is it possible that good results have totally derailed my new lo-co ‘habits?’

Sure, some of this can be written off to an uptick in the craziness factor of our life right now.  Work’s more insane than usual.  Our son is in the midst of seemingly never-ending HS Baseball tryouts (it does not help when it SNOWS for 2 days of baseball tryouts!).  And we are navigating the confusing world of ‘which Junior-Year courses should he take for the kind of colleges he may want to apply to’ (AKA please just shoot me now) and that deadline, is, oh, today.


But even with family life more stressful than usual, still I could have done far better than the pitiful record shows.  There must be some kind of internal/subconscious rebelling going on.  I mean, come on, I ate lunch at Wendy’s TWICE in 2 weeks.  That is normally something I do every couple of months, max.

I do not understand how it’s possible that good test results have been demotivating.  But since I am not about to get a psych degree, I guess what I should do is get my butt in gear and plan dinner for tonight.

Though we still have Chinese leftovers and it’d be wasteful to throw them out, right?


The Siren Call of Girl Scout Cookies and Easter Candy

In a cruel twist, the day after I received my directionally-positive cholesterol news, the 9 boxes of girls scout cookies we ordered arrived.

Yes, nine. Yes, that’s embarrassing (though in my defense, we like to support the neighborhood girls. And yes, I realize we could have given them the money and donated the cookies. Somehow, though, that’s not what happened.)

Sadly for my lo-co goal, only 1 was a box of “Tagalongs” – the peanut butter cookies I despise. All the rest were Thin Mints and Samoas – which to me are the very definition of irresistible. Fortunately, our 16 year old son also has a weakness for Thin Mints and Samoas.

Though I have to admit that I hid a box. Of each.

Shameful, I know.

Matters worsened when, several boxes of Girl Scout cookies later, I was shopping my local CVS to see if a fish oil brand guaranteed not to contain mercury actually exists (upcoming post on this topic). On my way to ask a pharmacist, I saw it — the only junk food more irresistible to me than Phish Food and Mallomars and Girl Scout Cookies.

Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Easter Eggs.

These are such a huge weakness that my sister in North Carolina and I actually stockpile and mail these to each other. (Kathy, we have to stop that!)

So there I was, standing in the middle of CVS with a bottle of fish oil pills that might or might not contain mercury – but will purportedly lower my cholesterol — in one hand. And in the other? Somehow 3 chocolate marshmallow eggs had leapt into my hand.

Actually, this is progress. Usually, I buy at least 6 of those marshmallow eggs per drug store visit. I got out of there with just 3, and promptly ate all of them on the drive home.

Clearly, I need to stay out of CVS until May, and tell my son where the last box of Thin Mints (the Samoas are gone) is hidden.

Or not. My next cholesterol test isn’t for 6 months. If I just exercise every day, surely that will counteract…

Oh, fine. I’ll go grab those cookies right now and hand them over to my son.


Cholesterol Test Results!

The results are in!  The results are in!  Three months of lo-co lifestyle changes and the results are…..(wait for it!)…. Mixed.

Mixed.  Can you see my eyes rolling?

OK, so here’s the great news:

  • My total cholesterol dropped from 267 to 227.  Still not at/below the 200 target, but a significant improvement.  And a return to my ‘normal’ cholesterol level.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol also dropped from 167 to 139.  This is close to the <130 goal, and again, a more ‘normal’ result for me.

And the bad news:

  • My HDL (good) cholesterol dropped from 81 to 50.  It’s above the >46 goal, but going in the wrong direction.
  • Triglycerides nearly DOUBLED to 192.  Now I am no longer in the desired <150 range.

In all, the best news is that my doctor said with these stats, she would no longer recommend treating with a statin.  I need to continue what I’m doing (with some adjustments) and have a fasting blood test again in 6 months.

The lo-co lifestyle changes are WORKING and I don’t need a statin…yet.   WOOT!

So what adjustments do I need to make to my lo-co ‘program?’  To deal with the triglyceride issue, here’s my new Rx – keep going with my lo-co diet but with these adjustments:

  • Take fish oil daily
  • Exercise more (like, um, daily)
  • Watch how much alcohol I’m drinking (she may have said ‘reduce’ but I do not recall)

The fish oil I’ve already purchased (there’s a whole mercury issue – I’ll post about what I learned). I took one big, gigantic fish oil horse pill on day 1 – then promptly ‘forgot’ to take any more.  I have to figure out where to store the bottle so I see it and remember to take with food – apparently leaving it ON THE KITCHEN TABLE is not enough of a visual cue for me.  Sigh.

The daily exercise thing?  That is going to continue to be a challenge.

As for drinking less…well, that is a distressing thought.

Net, I have a decision to make.  Which is worse: eliminate my daily glass of wine or exercise every single day.

Cue the drumroll because THIS might finally be my daily exercise motivation.

P.S. – If you would like more info about the ‘target’ cholesterol numbers, they are from The Mayo Clinic’s “High Cholesterol Tests and Diagnosis” website.  You can see that page here, and there’s also a permanent link on my ‘Resources’ page.


The Triple Threat Oatmeal Breakfast

Breakfast offers a surprising opportunity to easily add several cholesterol-lowering foods to your daily diet. Simply changing to oatmeal with a few key mix-ins is a lo-co triple threat.

After a lot of trial and error, here’s the breakfast I now have nearly every morning:  A cup of whole-grain oatmeal (read, steel cut oats, not instant – recipe attached), with a bit of sugar, a lot of cinnamon, and the following mixed in:

  • A handful of almonds – dry roasted and unsalted.  I cut mine in half.  As I do not like almonds, I thought I would hate this, but turns out to be innocuous in oatmeal – just adds some nice crunch.
  • Some wheat germ. For maximum cholesterol-lowering properties it should be flax seed not wheat germ, but I found that too difficult to manage (have to try again), so I add this high fiber food instead.  Gives a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Diced apple.  I could just eat an apple every day – but I do not like apples, so found that difficult.  But adding diced apple to the oatmeal tastes great.

Along with the Metamucil I chug (while waiting for the oatmeal to heat up and the coffee to brew), this has turned out to be THE ONLY lo-co change that has been relatively easy for me to make.

In fact, my husband just told me how surprised he was that THIS was the one lo-co thing that I now do every day – he thought changing breakfast would have been hard for me, and that daily exercise would have been  easier. (OK, I added that part about exercise, but he implied it).  Surprising or not, it was relatively easy for me to change to eating a breakfast that works to lower cholesterol every day.

The only hard part about this breakfast is the steel-cut oats from scratch.  Instant just doesn’t have the cholesterol-lowering properties of whole grain oats, which take forever if you try to cook them every day.  However, it’s EASY if you have a crockpot.  See attached recipe for Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal.

With this triple-threat breakfast, now when I invariably fail to plan for a lo-co dinner, I have at least not failed for the entire day.  And given how often I still fail at planning dinner (oh, and exercising daily), this new breakfast has been key for me.


Downward Dog Bit Me

I bit the yoga bullet this week, fully expecting to quickly feel the benefits of all that balancing and stretching on my over-tight achilles, calves and hamstrings.

Instead, downward dog bit me.

Let me start by saying how embarrassing it is to get hurt doing yoga.  Especially since I’m a good athlete…and I’ve done yoga before.  I mean, I’m no pro or anything and it’s been years since I’ve ‘graced’ any yoga studio with my presence, but I do know the basics.  And it’s not inherently dangerous like tennis (last week a friend got hit in the face with the ball.)  So while my legs felt great after the yoga class, the fact that downward dog did something awful to my bicep/tricep/shoulder was surprising and frustrating.

Worst of all, I had to cancel tennis the next day. Because of course it was my right arm, my tennis arm, that was dissed by yoga.

So now, my only option for the exercise portion of my lo-co lifestyle is the elliptical.

And we all know how that’s going.

Truth be told, my elliptical desire is even lower than previously reported because I just finished the last episode of the 1st season of  ‘Cougartown.’  This was a show I was surprised and pleased to find is LOL funny – and it provided a glimmer of desire to get on the elliptical.

I guess I could open the Mad Men season 1 DVD I got for Christmas, and get my butt in gear.

Or I could break out the Phish Food until my arm/shoulder is better.