Remember that health class lesson when they taught you it was acceptable to eat macaroni and cheese day and night like there is no tomorrow? Yeah, me neither. But to me, cheese is its own food group, and it’s the best one! As it turns out, my cute little cheese- and carb-loving habits were not so helpful for better health.
It was our second move, and added to the move was the fact that now we are part of TRICARE Prime Remote, meaning we aren’t stationed near an installations or military treatment facilities. So, I did just what I did the first time around—I asked my husband who our new assigned doctor would be and then, presto, I had a doctor!
When I had my first appointment with my new doctor, I wasn’t sick or concerned about my health. I was going because I needed a referral.
However, she asked me general health questions, including when was the last time I had routine blood work done. I was pretty sure the last time was close to three years before—the first time we moved. She suggested I go ahead and have it done again, so I did.
My results were only communicated to me through an online portal. I didn’t think much of them. I thought a lot more about them the next year when they were communicated through the same portal along with a prescription for cholesterol medicine. If it was okay with me, I could just agree to this medicine right through the portal, and begin taking it with no further discussions with my doctor before starting.
Given I had no frame of reference to compare my results to, I wasn’t really okay with that. How bad were my results? Other than knowing they were bad enough for medicine to be suggested, I had no idea.
For several reasons, I ended up switching doctors a few months later. At my first appointment with my new doctor, I discussed the blood work and how I chose to not take that cholesterol medicine. He was able to pull up my results and discuss them with me.
From that discussion, I understood that, while my results were bad, I could still try some other options first—before medicine. My new doctor encouraged this because he felt I was pretty young to start cholesterol medicine, which is usually taken for the remainder of a person’s lifetime.
Whew! I had choices! Agreeing with my second doctor that I could do better for myself, I made some lifestyle changes. Some of my goals were exercise related and some were nutrition related.
Specifically, I set out to walk during my lunch hour two days a week, every work week, and also use my elliptical machine for about half of the days in a year.
My nutrition goals were pretty vague. I wanted to eat fewer processed carbohydrates. Pulling from heart-heathy suggestions I found online, my meals changed a lot, too. I tried to eat more fruits and vegetables. My longest span without eating cheese was 21 days!
At some point, I realized that I wasn’t eating enough calories during the days I was trying to eat healthier. My solution to this was to try a portion program which didn’t cut out any food groups and ensured I would take in an appropriate amount of calories.
I still ate all kinds of foods I enjoyed and learned to save the indulgences for just that—indulging.
Coming up to my blood work recheck, I hadn’t fully met any of my health goals. I ran out of days to walk or use my elliptical as much as I wanted. Food wise, I realized my original goals weren’t really that great, but I was still working on eating healthier and trying new ways to support that lifestyle.
Guess what? Working on my goals, even if I didn’t meet the bar I set, improved my blood work results. I lowered both my cholesterol and blood sugar levels! I celebrated by running over to a co-worker’s office and eating cheese while doing a little dance. I’m not kidding!
How lucky are we as military families that we get to change doctors every couple of years without even considering it? The first time I had to leave doctors that I’d seen for years, the idea of being shuffled around between all new-to-me health professionals was extremely stressful.
You know what though? The second time, it’s been a blessing—a huge one! Without my first doctor at this location suggesting the cholesterol medicine, I probably never would have taken my health changes seriously.
It wasn’t the first time my eating habits were brought to my attention. It was, however, the first time I wanted to make the changes. I wanted to avoid that medicine, and the changes I made were my route to better health.
How satisfying to know I could and did do better for myself with health choices supported by my new doctor. It doesn’t end here and now. I have a strong base of lifestyle changes and some results to prove it was all worth it, and there’s no reason not to keep working towards my better health.
Please remember that my choice to not take medicine recommended by a doctor is only that—my choice. As were my choices to change my eating and workout habits. This is only my story, and I’m by no means an expert. I wanted to share my journey in hopes of inspiring better health. I do encourage you to discuss all of your health choices with your health care providers before making any big choices that could impact your health.
Speaking of inspiration for better health, check out Being the Best You in 2017, from which I appreciate this sentiment: “We are faced with needing the motivation to move forward.”
Personally, I found my motivation in my blood work. Where might you find yours?