Dr. Doug Pooley
I Am 50 and I Want To Be Healthy - What Should I Do?
Now that I am well over 50, my practice for the most part is following suit. Crazy isn’t it? It seems like age 20 was just yesterday; but when I look in the mirror, there is no mistaking the roadmap of middle age. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s health was a given, something that we all just took for granted. There was no doubt that what we did yesterday, could be done tomorrow… then insidiously that vitality and seemingly limitless energy started to diminish. Somewhere and somehow we started to feel old.
As I moved closer to that magic mid-century mark, I noticed a few more aches and pains, a few more pounds, and a lot less energy. Activities that I used to do without thinking now took effort and often were accompanied by at least some discomfort. I did not like what I looked like, how I felt, and even my attitude became sadly middle-aged where I was less tolerant and a little more cynical. I decided that I needed a change, and what I did altered my life to this day. Over the next three years I went from frumpy to a body building champion. I revitalized my practice, found the love of my life, and have enjoyed more personal and professional success than I could have ever imagined possible. This is how I did it.
There is a wonderfully poignant Zen saying: “If a man is right, his world will be right.” In essence this means that if I wanted to change my world, I had to start by changing myself. The world that we find ourselves in is nothing more than a reflection of the decisions ---good and bad--- that we have made in our lives. I realized that in every facet of my life, I had made good and bad decisions that resulted in the man looking in the mirror. So, the first thing that I did was to sit down and take inventory of every facet of my life, taking into consideration health, finances, professional growth, relationships, spiritual, recreational and philanthropic aspects of who I was, and more importantly who I wanted to be. This surprisingly took about 2 hours to do and provided me with a snapshot of who I was at that time and more importantly a horizon to shoot for in moving forward with my life. With this information I was able to fashion a blueprint to create a new me. For perhaps the first time in my life I actually had a pretty good idea of who I was.
Although I certainly did not like everything I saw, there was an undeniable truth to the exercise that was both liberating and invigorating. Without understanding your past, how can you possibly create a different future….it is just not logical. This exercise gave the information necessary to allow me to best determine who I really wanted to become.
Now, I needed a path.
Goals provide the path that directs the process. Without them is like planning a road trip to Los Angeles without using a GPS or a map. The chances of you getting there are at best remote. A clear set of goals allows you to pre-view your future and adjust your course to reach the desired outcome. For me, I set goals for all areas of my life, but with specific attention to my health. Here I started with my ultimate end goal of living to be 100. Now I worked my way backwards to best determine the most logically effective means for achieving that end. We all know that becoming a “centenarian” requires a certain amount of luck, but there are predictable factors and activities that can certainly hedge your bet and at the very least improve quality of life dramatically. Things such as regular exercise, balanced diet, a reasoned attitude towards stress, friendship and having a purpose are all critical to longevity. First and foremost I took honest inventory of who I was physically. I booked a check-up with my medical doctor complete with urine/blood work and relevant cardiac testing to more accurately determine what if anything required immediate attention. For me this demonstrated a need to lose 25 lbs., elevated cholesterol, and a marginally raised blood pressure. I was given the option to take medication for the cholesterol and BP, but chose a more natural approach using diet, exercise and biofeedback to attempt resolve first. Now my short term goals became simple: I was fairly confident that by adjusting my diet to lose the 25 lbs., in combination with a well structured exercise program of cardio and resistance training would normalize my immediate concerns. My research demonstrated that by far the best and most logical dietary regime was a “Ketogenic Diet”. This, in combination with a mixture of daily exercise consisting of ½ hour brisk walking and three 30-45 minute sessions of resistance training in the gym over a four month period should do the job. Well, it took five months to achieve, but I did it. I lost 27 lbs., dropped my blood chemistry to within normal limits and brought my blood pressure to 126/85. This took care of phase “one” of my plan which was to have my body in a state of “neutral health status” where I was not necessarily healthy, but I was certainly not sick. What I did, was to “patch the boat so I could float it.”
This provided me with a reasonable baseline from which to craft the new me and led to “phase two” of my plan. Stay tuned...