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A doctor's journey from fat to fit: Finding what works best for me

I've taken steps toward a healthier me since the last time I journaled. Every step makes me feel more accountable to myself and to the advice I give my patients. Here are some of the changes I've made so far.    

Better nutrition 

  • I had a nutrition consultation. Even though I have a basic understanding of nutrition from my schooling, it seems like recommendations have continued to evolve. Some of my questions were:

    • Should I eat three meals and two snacks a day or five to seven smaller portions?

    • Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

  • I've stopped buying potato chips (sigh). It has been hard because I love potato chips, and I could easily finish a bag by myself in a day or two. I still get a small bag with a lunch here or there because I've learned that depriving myself of my favorite food isn't feasible. This way, I'm no longer exceeding my daily calorie and salt intake with just one snack.

  • I've changed my grocery shopping habits. I've stopped buying groceries when I am hungry, which helps me make better food choices. I shopped while hungry recently and end up reverting back to my old habits of purchasing processed food.

  • I've also cut down significantly on my sugar intake. I no longer buy baked goods, like donuts and white bread. Instead, I'm choosing breads, crackers and pastas made with whole grains.

More exercise 

  • I'm putting my gym membership to work. Instead of heading to the gym three times per week, I have become a weekend warrior. I still get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week, but I'm able to do it all on the weekend. More studies are showing that this tactic is just as effective in decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke as working out 30 minutes for five days per week. This works for me and my schedule.

  • I'm taking the stairs. I live a few floors up in an apartment building and used to always take the elevator. Now I'm taking the stairs and burning five calories for each flight I climb. If I have both dogs on leashes and an armful of groceries, I still take the elevator, but I'm seeing its sliding metal door less and less.

  • I know my body composition. I learned how much of my body is lean muscle versus fat with a body composition analysis in a Bod Pod machine. Aside from calculating a body mass index (BMI) based on my height and weight, I had never done any further testing to assess:

    • if I'm at a healthy weight

    • how much of my weight is fat

    • how much is muscle

    • how much is other tissue, like bones and organs

 I won't share my analysis numbers, but I will tell you it was a wake-up call and I'm in the high risk category.

 Less stress 

  • I've adjusted my expectations about how frequently I get to the gym, which has been a big step for managing my stress. In the past, I would have set unrealistic expectations of getting to the gym nearly every day. When I didn't meet my goal, I would berate and bash myself. My unrealistic goal became more stressful than beneficial, and I would quickly find myself giving up.

This has certainly been an eye-opening journey for me. Some of the changes I've made have been easier (taking the stairs) than others (eating less potato chips). I have had some missteps, which I will get into in my next blog, but overall, I already feel like I have accomplished a lot of little victories.

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