Friday, December 9, 2011

Do you know your numbers?... And my smoothie escapades...

As part of my journey to better health, I decided to go in for a physical. My first one since probably the ninth grade. I felt it was important for overall health, but also because I had a half marathon I planned (notice the past tense) to run in March. Upon meeting for a follow-up with my doctor yesterday, I found out two things: 1) My cholesterol is a little high for a 24 year old, and 2) I have a very severe Vitamin D deficiency.

The cholesterol I found surprising considering I try to exercise and eat right, and do better than 80% of people I know. But that got me to thinking, and after researching and asking serveral people, I realized something: It's not that everyone has better cholesterol than me, it's that no one gets it checked until there is a problem. No one knows their numbers. All my numbers were fine, except my LDL cholesterol was 109, when the most desirable is below 100. He essentially said that those 50 pounds I'm wanting to lose? That has to come off before I do anything else. PERIOD. He said it isn't going to affect me yet, but if I stay like I am for another 10 or 15 years, that number is going to get worse. This has really made me realize just how important it truly is to focus on true health and well-being, and not just weight loss alone. I know this comes from living a life of southern fried food, a high stress lifestyle, and loving comfort food. But over the past year, I have learned the true value of eating right versus eating to diet, and my whole perspective on life and health has changed.

The Mayo Clinic as well as many other sources (including your doctor... *cough cough*) have ample information on cholesterol and other important numbers, but here are the ones I want to present to you:

Total cholesterol
U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 200 mg/dLBelow 5.2 mmol/LDesirable
200-239 mg/dL5.2-6.2 mmol/L Borderline high
240 mg/dL and aboveAbove 6.2 mmol/LHigh

LDL cholesterol
U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 70 mg/dLBelow 1.8 mmol/LIdeal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dLBelow 2.6 mmol/LIdeal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL3.4-4.1 mmol/LBorderline high
160-189 mg/dL4.1-4.9 mmol/L High
190 mg/dL and aboveAbove 4.9 mmol/LVery high

Long story short, LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol, and the lower it is the better. If you do not know your numbers, I would suggest seeing your doctor. Yes, you may not be sick now, but wouldn't you rather take preventative steps and live a long, happy life filled with loved ones and great experiences, than wait until there is a problem and it may be too late?

I was very happy to be able to tell the doctor that I am already on my journey for weight loss and true health, and I am solidly working out (doing CrossFit ever since the doctor restricted me from running), but I do believe I'm going to step it up after this discovery. Hence the importance of knowing your numbers.

Also, the Vitamin D deficiency... Doctors are finding more and more correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and critical illnesses, which is why testing for it is becoming more and more frequent. After the lab results showed how low mine was, I researched it and approached the doctor with a barrage of questions because I wanted to know about this inside and out. What I came away with was reenforcement for a healthy (i.e. healthier) lifestyle: Take a high concentration of Vitamin D (he gave me a prescription); take fish oil capsules (stocked with Vitamin D); get it from things such as milk, lean chicken, oily fish, and eggs; get outside and get some sunlight for at least 20 minutes a day.
Sunlight is obviously the preferred choice because the UVB rays allow the synthesis of Vitamin D3, and those are the key vocabulary words to remember when it comes to Vitamin D boys and girls: UVB NOT UVA (like you get in concentrated form from tanning beds... tanning beds will only have 6-9% UVB rays IF ANY) creates the synthesis of Vitamin D, and Vitamin D3 has been proven to be more effective for our bodies than Vitamin D2.

I am by no means a doctor, I have no certifications of any sort, and I am NOT trying to tell you what to do. But I am on a journey for better true health and quality of life, NOT a fad diet for quick weight loss. This means I want to listen to and understand my body, and this is part of it. And I wanted to pass the knowledge onto you.

Moral of the story: Get checked. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. You never know what you could find out, what your body could be needing, or what you could be doing to improve your quality of life.

On another note: The Smoothie Escapade has started!!
Part of my journey is that I want to start incorporating smoothies into my daily (or at least weekly) routine. Someday I will write a post about the benefits, but for now just accept that it's good for you. ;-)

So far I have tried two kinds. The first was a green smoothie, because despite the fact that it's hard to get used to the idea of having various types of grass in something you're consuming, they are overwhelmingly good for you (superfood and all that jazz) and dadgummit I am BOUND AND DETERMINED to learn to like them! So with the advice and guidance of Amanda and Robyn Openshaw, I started exploring the options for my first green smoothie. Also, here and here and here are three of my favorite posts of Amanda's that have been invaluable!

I know, not a very pretty picture, but bear with me, I'm new! :-)

My first green smoothie:

* 2 cups spinach
* 1 cup milk (any kind works... I used cow's milk because I was a little scared :-)
* 1/2 tablespoon flaxseed
* 1 banana
* 1 tsp green powder
* ice

My verdict? It was ok. I think I need to warm up to the whole green smoothie taste. It tasted very fresh and cool (if that makes sense), but will definitely take some getting used to.

Sooooo.... After trying the green, I decided to go a completely different direction one morning, and try something that was packed with protein and could hold me for awhile. The result was a love child of a lot of different recipes combined with whatever I had in my kitchen and felt like throwing in.

Morning Protein Smoothie

* 1 tsp cinnamon (got the idea from Amanda, and it worked out amazingly!)
* 1/2 cup coconut milk (I like mine thick, you can adjust accordingly)
* 1 1/2 scoops protein powder (If I want it more sweet- because face it ladies, it happens- I substitute about a tbsp of Nesquick)
* 1 banana
* 1/4 cup raw organic peanut butter
* 2 tsp chia seeds (not necessary, but I like to add them when I can)
* ice

I don't care who you are, this smoothie tastes great. It stays with you, but it's not super heavy, it's packed with nutrients, and... Not gonna lie... It helps me cope with the green smoothies better. :-)

I will update as I continue my smoothie rendezvous, but for now that is all I have to report!

Everyone have a great weekend!!

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