A Lack Of Health

I have never been the healthiest person. I have been overweight since I was a toddler. I was pretty much always the fattest kid in my year at school. There have been a few times in my life where I have easily been over twenty-five stone, possibly nearer thirty stone. I have smoked, I have been a long-time alcohol abuser. And when not drinking alcohol, it would be nothing but full fat Pepsi all the way, none of that diet rubbish for me.

Pizzas, kebabs, burgers, ice cream, biscuits, chocolates, and anything else even remotely unhealthy has been shovelled down my throat, with nary a vegetable in sight (unless it was on the kebab). I was wearing four XL tops and fifty-four-inch waist trousers and allergic to any form of exercise.

The five years I lived in Manchester it was always a surprise to wake up each morning and be alive. My housemates would not have betted on me making it to my fortieth birthday, let alone for me to get into my fifties.

I was a walking (well, technically waddling) time bomb, and yet every (very rare) time I came into contact with a health check, the doctor or nurse would look at certain results, look at me, look at the results again, look at me again, and ask if they could redo the tests. Which would come back with the same results. I had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and perfectly normal blood sugar readings.

Since moving in with Helen most of my habits have become healthier. I no longer live on a compete diet of take aways. There are vegetables in my diet. I gave up alcohol completely two and a half years ago. I am now in XL tops and forty-four-inch waist trousers.

I got myself a full BUPA health check through employee benefits at work and went to have the medical on a Friday, ambling along to their centre near Euston. Only to find the so-called healthier version of me is a complete old crock now and there are at least three big issues with the results from the test.

The first is blood pressure. After years of low blood pressure readings, this one was so high that BUPA wouldn’t let me do the bike test part of the medical as they aren’t insured for me to pop my clogs whilst on their bike.

Then came the blood sugar readings. Which are through the roof, was above the top of the OK range. They have doubled in the last couple of years to a point where they would diagnose me with having type two diabetes.

Finally for this hat trick was Haemoglobin and iron levels. The first was well below the normal levels, which as it was said to me it was iron levels was a puzzle as Helen has us taking iron supplements with 120% of the RDA, and I have Grape Nuts for breakfast which have 80%, so that’s double before anything else goes into me during a day, but still not enough apparently. Only for me to get the full tests which suggest I have exceedingly elevated levels of Ferritin which stores iron in the blood cells. It is strange.

The cholesterol and ECG were both good, and the advanced tests came back with everything in normal levels apart from a below normal level of creatinine which may suggest kidney issues.

It would appear that it does all catch up with you in the end in a quite rapid and unexpected style.

It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to take out of my diet. Not quite bread and water – bread is a bit of a no go – but it will be close.

Having given up fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, crisps, ice cream, and pretty much eliminated bread and pasta (and taken with the fact I don’t really eat potatoes or rice anyway), the carbohydrate intake is way down. There isn’t much fat going in either, protein is staying about the same, but fibre is through the roof. In six weeks, I lost two stone, and that is still with a pizza Friday night and curry Saturday.

I had an appointment with the diabetic nurse and had to do new blood tests before going to that. The blood sugar level was reduced by a third, down from the diabetic range score of 66, to 44, only just inside the pre-diabetic range. And I am under eighteen stone. I really couldn’t tell you the last time I was at that kind of weight. There is still weight coming off as well. Not the big losses I saw over the first few weeks, but a pound or two a week, or a hundred grams in a week where I was away for five nights staying in hotels and eating out all the time, which was a bonus as was expecting a bounce back up.

A change in C foods will be the main reason. There is no cake, crisps, cookies, chocolate, cola (of the full fat varieties), candy, or chips, and a vast reduction in cheese. Instead, there is now celery, carrot, celeriac, cabbage, cannellini beans, chickpeas, and cold water. With lots of dashes of chilli sauce to replace the extremely high salt intake. The blood pressure was right down as well. At BUPA it was 159 over 90, at the diabetic nurse it was 117 over 73.

And it continues. Everything gets looked at now for calories and for sugars. It is an eye opener just how many ‘healthy options’ have much higher calorie, fat, and sugar values than items you might expect to be less healthy.

Aside from the shrinkage that has gone on, I have noticed another side effect of the weight loss. I’m cold a lot more often. I spent years of being warm all the time, wearing shorts and t-shirts in winter, and I didn’t own a jumper, or gloves. Now I find myself wearing multiple layers nearly all the time and gloves a lot of the time when out as my hands are cold most of the time when I’m outside.

I think it is like the drinking, it is easy at first to go cold turkey and not touch all those bad for me foods and drinks. With the alcohol I don’t miss it most of the time, but there is an occasional moment where I’d love a tot of rum, or a glass or port, or when sat in a French café in the summer sun, a cold beer. I am seeing crème eggs on sale, which were an absolute favourite. I look longingly at bottles of normal Pepsi, and a sausage bap or cheeseburger or doner kebab wouldn’t go amiss. Especially when working through a bowl of salad. But resist I will, as it is what is needed. For me, and those around me.