I know it sounds like that stupid Cheerios commercial, but it’s true. I just got my results back from the doc, and they were even better than expected:

Jan. 2003 Feb. 2004 Notes
Total Cholesterol 221 126 Borderline High is 200-240.
Desriable is less than 200.
LDL 114 55 Near optimal is 100-129
Optimal is less than 100
HDL 58 58 Anything over 40 is good.
Triglycerides 243 65 High is 200-500.
Normal is less than 150.

The American Heart Association has a nice page describing cholesterol numbers.

To achieve this goal, I went on a diet low in saturated and trans fat and started running and weight lifting. As an extremely nice side benefit, I lost about 45 pounds, going from 209 last January to 164, currently. So needless to say, the past year has been rather amazing. I’m really at a loss for words on how well diet and exercise really do work. And I’m not talking about low-carb diets like Atkins or South Beach. Hell, in a typical breakfast, I’ll have about 100 grams of carbohydrates. Atkins wants to keep you below 20g for a whole day during induction. I know more studies really need to be done, but I call bullshit on low-carb diets. And even if they do work, they just don’t sound that healthy to me. The only points I agree with Atkins and South Beach on are stay away from trans fat and refined flour and sugar, eating only whole grains. Time will tell, I guess. And contrary to popular belief, I’m not hungry all the time eating lots of carbs. Sure, it did take some getting used to. Because typical portion sizes are so huge and the whole “clean your plate” mentality, you really have to re-train yourself to know when to stop eating.

While I didn’t use any magical diet, exercise machine, or drug, I’ll let you in on the tools I did use. First, I opened an account on eDiets.com. This was a great starting point since I didn’t even know how to begin a diet low in saturated fat. You just pick the type of diet you’re interested in, in my case, cholesterol lowering, and they provide you with a weekly meal plan, complete with a shopping list. My daily caloric intake was about 1,800. One annoying part of the meal plans was that invariably it chose many meals I just wouldn’t eat. So every week, I had to go in and tweak the meals, which was rather time consuming. And there’s no way to say “never assign me this recipe again.” You can pick a mix of recipes or frozen dinners. I didn’t really follow the plan when we went out for lunch at work, but after a while, I could pick out good foods and restaurants. The big things to avoid are cheese and butter, large portions, and anything fried. Often, I would eat only 1/2 or 1/3 of the meal served. I’m still using eDiets, but I’m trying to wean myself off that monthly payment. The American Heart Association publishes many good cookbooks with tasy recipies. I have the Quick & Easy book. My only complaint is that the recipies are very large for a single person. But I just make them on Sunday, and then I have dinner for a few nights the rest of the week.

For weight lifting, I bought a Bowflex Power Pro XT. Don’t order online! Call ‘em up and tell them you saw a commercial for a free leg attachment. You’ll save $200. Sure, Bowflex has cheesy commercials, but it was actually recommended from a friend of mine who is a personal trainer. And while, I may not get the best workout, it does the job and it’s very convenient. Keep in mind that $1,000 is 20 months of a $50/month health club. So joining a club may be better for someone else.

For cardio, I started running last September. I hated running while growing up, but I decided that running is a great cardio workout, and you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. You can just go right outside your front door. The only downside is that it gets a wee bit cold here in Chicago during December, January, and Februrary. Luckily, my condo building has a fitness room with a treadmill. My only advice for running is to get some good running shoes, socks, and shirts. And increase mileage slowly.

A couple other books I found useful were Cholesterol for Dummies and Restaurant Confidential, both of which I picked up at my local library. I’ll probably buy the latter since it has some good reference material.

So, yes, it has been a lot of hard work. But then again, it took many years of irresponsibility to get my body in the shape it was. It’s no surprise that it took a year of dedication to reverse that. And I’m not one for relying on pill popping, if at all possible. After hearing these results, I’m not sorry at all about the lifestyle changes I made. In fact, it only encourages me to keep them up. The AHA and FDA are correct in their advice, IMO.