Cutting the fat

Posted in: Being sick, Food, Real life

I shouldn't have been at McDonald's today, but I was.

I took a blood test around November of last year, just because I was interested in what might be going on inside me, health-wise. I talked to my doctor about it, about what things they could measure for, and they said that without any real reason to do a blood test, all we can really do is check for cholesterol levels. I was kind of hoping for quite a larger swathe of checks than that, and I think my doctor noticed my reaction, so they thought to throw in some Hepatitis B/C checks in there too, using my Asian descent as an excuse :)

A week later I took the blood test, and a week after that I got a call from the nurse with the results.

The nurse didn't really have much to say - I don't secretly have Hepatitis B or C, and my cholesterol levels weren't taking me down the highway to the danger zone. They were however, leading me to the on-ramp to the highway to the danger zone, and the nurse decided to start talking about that.

Yes, because I can totally draw parallels between my cholesterol levels and Top Gun

With a few measures outside of the desired ranges according to NZ Guidelines (total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol higher than suggested), and with the nurse making me feel like the worst possible person for not exercising (kinda like how dentists make you feel horrible for not flossing), I thought it'd be a good idea to try do something about it, particularly if I wanted to live beyond retirement age.

No, I didn't start exercising hard-out and doing all sorts of crazy diets (although I did start wondering if I should go back to dance classes and really make my weekend swimming a regular thing). Instead I thought to just change one thing: how often I go to greasy fast-food restaurants.

Since then I've reduced McDonald's and Burger King from an almost weekly lunchtime food, to an every-few-months food. I wanted to do see if doing just that would would help move the cholesterol levels in the right direction, but I've started to notice another change which I'm still trying to figure out if it really is related to my slightly-healthier eating: my immune system isn't as crap as it used to be.

Sick teddy bear
This is now a less-frequent occurrence

I'm no stranger to being sick. I'm often the guy who needs twice as many sick days as everybody else, and am also the guy who usually starts rounds of summer/winter colds at the office. One year at university I caught the cold 5 times in a row during the winter, and at my last job I was sometimes referred to as the "ebola monkey". Heck, I'm so familiar with being down with the sickness that I have a category in this blog dedicated to being sick.

But after switching off from those burgers and filling the void left by them with healthier alternatives (there's no shortage of salad or salad-like places in the city nowadays), I have been sick only twice since November, and for 1 or 2 days a piece. My average (looking back through previous years I have sent "I'm sick" e-mails to work) is about 5 times a year, taking about 2 or 3 days off at a time. I've also felt a lot more resilient to sickness, eg: when others in the office are all taking their sick days and the seasonal cold is making it's way around, it either skips me or I just get a slightly stuffy nose for half a day, before it shuffles on to somebody else.

The hayfever season also seems to have flown right over my head. That's not technically an illness, but if it has a bearing on my allergies too, then I won't complain!

So that's what I've noticed about myself by tweaking this one little thing about my routine. I'm still hoping that this all makes a dent in the cholesterol stakes when I ask for another blood test later this year. Even if it doesn't, at least I've made some gains towards bettering my shitty sick-leave record.