What you are about to read likely will earn me a spot on the enemies list of every health and fitness guru on the planet.
It might even have Jack LaLanne roll over in his grave after doing 150 fingertip push-ups.
I polish off three quarts of ice cream every weekend. This past week it was a container of Dreyer’s coffee ice cream on Saturday followed by a container of Dreyer’s Neapolitan ice cream on Sunday. And I do so on Saturdays vegging out watching my latest Netflix binge. I’ve almost wrapped up season three of All American. I might add Saturday night is the only time I watch the tube at home.
Sunday’s 1,600 calorie splurge is kind of nerdish. It’s either while consuming a book on water policy and water politics — may favorite reading vice — or downloaded PDFs of various state government reports which explains why I never have a problem falling asleep.
And for the record, I did not buy my home in Manteca because it is within a half mile of the 97,000-square-foot plus Dreyer’s Ice Cream distribution center in Spreckels Park although it is comforting to know there is a stash nearby in case the supply chain snafu hits ice cream as well.
In case you’re wondering the freezer is 50,000 square filled with bliss down to a nice ice cream cool 20 degrees. And to think it’s all waiting for someone to enjoy.
None of this squares with someone who drives people nuts who know me with my predictable five-day — sometimes six-day — a week eating habits that for the most part is crazy with its predictability on a daily basis: Almonds, two huge salads, two veggie burgers (the real ones and not the expensive fake meat stuff), apples, bananas, pistachios, four yogurts, rice cakes, humus, cottage cheese, oranges, and low fat cottage cheese. I’ve been known to go off the reservations on Wednesdays with a large M&M Blizzard sans the chocolate syrup and substitute Cheez-Its for a sleeve of plain rice cakes and container of humus for my third meal.
Yes, I do follow the old Taco Bell advice of fourth meal after midnight which is not a run for the inexpensive fast food border but typically an apple and almonds after working with light weights. No, I don’t go right away to bed, I do some more work or read before I hit the sack before the sun comes up.
I have what more than a few might view as a weird schedule.
And I am also human.
That is why at age 65 I’ve finally stopped — well, sort of — worrying about what others think of my eating and exercise habits.
It is a revelation born in acceptance of one’s basic DNA and that references not just the hand we’ve all been dealt at birth but that which comes with the paths we chose and/or take through lives.
It hit me last Saturday when I was being screened for platelet donations that I do 24 times a year at the Red Cross Blood Bank in Stockton. I use sitting for two plus hours with needles in both arms —and long hikes I try to take on alternating weekends – as an excuse to justify sending Nestlé’s stock through the roof with my 39 gallon a year Dreyer’s ice cream habit.
You read that right. And if you toss in Blizzards and count them as ice cream I’m probably north of 45 gallons of ice cream annually.
But to tell you the truth I don’t need an excuse to eat ice cream. And while I could eat even better, the point is my ability or need to consume 3,000 to 4,000 on days when I’m not trying to see how far I can hike in terms of distance and elevation is driven by one factor.
It is the same factor that has allowed me to rarely get sick, have a clearer mind (more than a few people will debate that point), and fall to sleep easy. It’s called exercise.
Since I turned 29 I’ve missed less than 10 days of not getting in a minimum of 40 minutes a day.
Currently that involves a 20 to 40 minute jog after 15 minutes of light weights with another 15 minutes of weights after I get home from work. My hikes tend to be a little more intense.
Now you might think I’m trying to look like someone who works out. You know the image: either lean and mean or someone with a lot of definition. But that is not me.
There are three basic body types and mine is on the opposite end of the spectrum from sinewy.
I could hit heavy weights religiously each day and pump my body with steroids and still be hard pressed to get even a one-pack. But to be honest, I could likely get part of the way there — minus steroid use of course — if I really wanted to but it would take me dropping a lot of things I like doing that have nothing to do with diet or straight exercise.
And that is point No. 1. If you want to be healthier and fitter you need to do things that make sense for you. I can give you examples such as a lady in Manteca who dropped 60 pounds by simply walking an hour a day with her dog almost every day of the week. She has kept that weight off for 25 plus years by simply setting aside a part of her day to walk. It is how she has not only kept her weight down, but has improved her health, made her less susceptible to illness and — in her words — improved her mental outlook.
Exercise is honestly a natural high.
I’m not going to lie. The first few minutes of almost every jog and even when I’m using light weights is not a joy to the world moment for my body. But once I’m doing it and long after I’ve finished it I reap dividends that make the initial pain inconsequential.
So how do I measure the effectiveness of exercise in quantifiable numbers?
Well, I have weighed myself every day since 1985 except for vacations and dutifully noted it on the calendar.
You probably can hear the heads of health professionals shaking their heads in abject horror. But speaking as someone who first peaked at 240 pounds at the end of the seventh grade and then dropping 50 pounds over the summer and eventually packing the pounds back on until I tipped the scales at 320 pounds on my 29th birthday, it works.
I know the advice that it sets you up for failure if the numbers don’t drop as you expect them to do. But it is a way to remind one’s self not to lie to yourself. More than a few others I know who were significantly overweight and have kept the weight off do the same thing.
I have discovered my “set point” — a reference to the weight range your body naturally returns to with fluctuations between under and over eating tempered by your physical activity that includes a regular exercise program — is between 168 and 175 pounds. It’s never deviated from that range for going on 18 years.
And while I’m fixated obviously by tracking my weight to make sure I’m honest with myself that isn’t the number that has been driving me for the better part of four decades.
That brings up point No. 2. The need to focus on the big picture which is not the cut of your muscles, whether you can bench press an Amazon delivery van, or be in the running to be on the cover of a fitness magazine.
My platelet screening every two weeks requires the phlebotomist to take my heart rate and blood pressure. Both provide numbers that are essentially a “reading” of how well your body is operating.
My blood pressure last Saturday was 118 over 60. My heart rate was 54. Both are typical of the readings I get on platelet donation days.
The 54 reading is considered “athletic” for a male 65 and older. It actually is a number that is classified “athletic” for every age group 18 and older.
If any of my PE teachers over the years from Mr. Strong (his real name and he was an ex-boxer to boot who taught seventh grade math) to Jack Gayaldo heard anyone describe me as “athletic” they’d be laughing so hard they probably couldn’t breathe.
It is why labels can be misleading.
“Athletic” references how you have conditioned your heart and to a somewhat lesser degree your lung functions.
Why this is important to know is that most of us can improve our health and fitness. We just have to let go of the assumption that in doing so we have to be an actual athlete.
I’ve been told I jog like I’m carrying a 30-pound backpack with the “blazing” speed to match. I’m about as uncoordinated as you can get. I’d be thrilled to be told I throw like a girl as it would mean I have significantly improved my athletic skills.
I have bunions and hammer toes that make physicians wince to look at. I have nerve damage in a thigh that is a pain. And I also have a shoulder issue or two.
Yet by simply being consistent to an exercise regimen that makes sense for me I can deal with those issues and more.
Is it work? Yes. Does it take trying a number of things and continually looking for ways to change things up to be effective? Yes. Does it take carving out time for oneself during the week to make it work? Yes. Does it involve some level of pain or discomfort? Yes.
The last point brings up the “no pain, no gain” line that has morphed into something that is misleading to most people deciding to start or stick with an exercise program.
Too many think that is a reference to excruciating pain.
Here’s a news flash. If you never do more than a walk, starting to jog can hurt every muscle in your body not to mention your lungs. The same is true if you start lifting weights even if it is 3 or 5 pounds in a repetitive motion for a period of time even if you are fairly active.
It is the most natural thing because you are using your body in ways it hasn’t been used either for a long time or never before.
If you want to build up your aerobic conditioning that can lead to lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and other advantages to reduce the stress on your body and improve your health you need to start out walking. Then when you’re ready to step it up maybe you run walk for 3 minutes, jog for 3 minutes, walk for 3 minutes, jog for 3 minutes — you get the picture.
It gets less painful as you progress. And, yes, it is always going to hurt more exercising than sitting around doing nothing. But then again if you keep eschewing exercise it’s going to hurt simply sitting as you age. The “use it or lose it” line is anchored in reality.
Eventually you can end up “jogging” — which in my case is somewhere between an 11 and 12 minute mile.
I am not a runner. I have done “runs” of 90 minutes nonstop but my go to jogs are 20 to 30 minutes and don’t have what would be referred to as diminishing returns.
More power to runners, but it’s not me. And even though I occasionally get a twinge of “embarrassment” when someone passes me up whether I’m jogging or hiking up a mountain I just remind myself I’m not competing against anyone else except me. My goal is to optimize my fitness and health without crossing the threshold when it clearly can be counterproductive.
The only marathon I’m running is my life which is more than just focusing on 26.2 miles. That said they are people out there that marathons make sense for not as a competitor but the lifestyle and fitness level they are capable of obtaining and want to obtain.
At the end of the day it is about diet, exercise, taking care of your body and moderation.
However, take it from me — or other people I know who have lost an inordinate amount of weight north of 100 pounds and kept it off after going up and down over the years. The biggest factor is keeping your body in shape through some type of exercise regimen that gets your heart pounding, your lungs working, challenges your muscles, and stretches your flexibility.
It’s how I can get away with a 39 gallon a year Dreyer’s ice cream habit.