A year ago, I had my annual physical exam, and I had no apprehensions (I am 39 years old, by the way). After all, I tried to eat healthily. I rarely ate pork or beef. I ate cakes and chocolates but not every day. I ate fruits and vegetables. I drank soda only maybe once in three months or so. But when I received my lab test results it was like getting red marks on a report card. My blood sugar and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad kind) levels were borderline. I was alarmed since we have a family history of diabetes and heart problems. I decided to quit cold turkey, so to speak, and made a DIY approach to get my health back on track.
To anyone who has read any article on cholesterol and blood sugar numbers, this simple list will sound familiar because they work. What is challenging isn't just about eating everything in moderation; it is about making a mindful decision each time until it becomes a habit. For my health, I persevered.
1 I did not take cholesterol-lowering medicine. My doctor prescribed it, but I sought a second opinion from a cousin, Dr. Ryan Dalman, who favors natural remedies. Instead of the cholesterol-lowering medication, he advised taking two capsules of fish oil a day instead.
2 I stopped eating meat. Instead, I ate fish high in Omega-3. I filled my grocery basket with salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna.
3 I snacked on nuts. I used to eat peanuts only, but I found other nuts that could help like almonds, pistachios, and Brazil nuts
4 I became much more conscious and mindful of what I ate. Dr. Albert Jo, another medical doctor who advocates natural food and remedies, encouraged me to go vegan. I was not ready to do that so, instead, I consumed more vegetables. When possible, I ate fresh instead of cooked vegetables.
5 White chicken became my saving grace. A few months into my all-fish-and-vegetable diet, my mother, who is a registered nurse, suggested that I at least should eat chicken, the white meat without skin, to break the monotony. Her tip worked well because I became less stressed about eating. Whenever I had a choice between processed meat (turkey ham or chicken sausage) and white chicken meat, I would go for the latter.
6 I chose rice. Between pasta and rice, or bread and rice, or potatoes and rice, I would pick rice, brown rice, more accurately.
7 I had to give up chocolates. But I allowed myself a small bite on rare occasions. I also stocked up on frozen yogurt for periods when I wanted to have some ice cream.
8 I didn't need to cut out sources of sweetness completely from my life. I use coco sugar and honey, even stevia when available. When I had a craving for pastries, I would drop by my favorite vegan cafe, Kismet Cafe in Makati. Or when I had the luxury of time, since I love baking, I altered recipes of my favorite cupcakes and cookies to be either completely sugar free or with honey or coco sugar.
9 I also made a conscious effort to engage in more exercise. I used to do these high intensity exercises three times a week, so I upped my goal to five times a week. But I varied them, now alternating between Zumba and yoga so my body would not get used to one kind of activity. But when I was not feeling up to it, I would do yoga, which has now become my default exercise. I also practice it at home, following yoga channels on YouTube. (My favorite: Yoga with Adriene.)
With all the above, I did not feel anything drastic, like moving down several dress sizes. But I did fit better into my clothes and even fit into clothes I last wore three years ago.
The best part was when I got a more extensive battery of lab tests 10 months later. Not only did I improve my test results, my blood sugar and cholesterol levels were normal! My internist pronounced me to be in good health and said, “See you next year!”