Taste Buds in a Monastery
“How much do you weigh and how tall are you?” asked the good doctor at the Hoag Clinic on Ocean Ave.
“5’ 11” and 207,” came the sheepish reply.
The question was asked because when my blood pressure was taken, the systolic was 160. The nurse beat a path for the doctor. I explained I have a severe case of “white coat syndrome.” The two of us then had a reassuring chat, followed by another BP measurement. It was now 180! That is about ER time.
“Look Jim, it is probably just white coat fever. But I want you to take your BP three times a day for a week, record each one, and then get back to me. Also, lose 10 pounds at least. That could be affecting the BP.”
A few minutes later I was at CVS, arm in the BP machine, thinking calming thoughts. The machine showed 131/70. Due to a change in diet and more exercise, my latest measurement was 119/61. But I am still overweight. Old, man fat is hard to lose. This is especially true during the holiday season. There is so much tasty stuff to eat that would go directly to the spare tire around my stomach.
Some time ago, I wrote a scolding column on how Americans are too fat, and we should eat a less caloric diet. I could not be the pot calling the kettle black. Laguna is the least overweight city in the county. My bulging stomach was putting our ranking at risk.
So, a new diet and increased exercise became my credo. I would be the Gandhi of Laguna Beach. That lasted for about a day, but changes were made.
After becoming a widower, my food pyramid was less than stellar. The broad base was composed of grilled meats. Next, a very thin layer of green vegetables. (You know, if you hold your breath while you chew, you cannot taste broccoli.) The top layers of the pyramid were Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, chocolate cookies, and, at the very top, Snickers bars.
Now my taste buds are in a monastery. Most breakfasts are plain oatmeal with a small scoop of peanut butter, lunch is soup and crackers, and dinner is usually a salad. I fight the urge to smother the salad in Thousand Island dressing. Okay, there are “cheat days.” I still know Gina’s Pizza’s number by heart.
Exercise is the other key to losing weight. Unless you take the advice of a well-known American who said in a New Yorker article that it is a dangerous thing. He compares a person to a battery, saying we are all born with a finite amount of energy. Exercise diminishes that amount. Who would hold such a strange view? Let’s just say he plays a lot of golf, but never walks the course, and suffers from acute tie elongation.
Every day is either a 3-mile walk or an hour on the stationary bike. Sometimes I do both. I start my morning walk at Alta Laguna Park by walking along the dirt path behind the baseball field. A small part of me never fails to ask, “What if I meet a mountain lion here?” Are you supposed to puff your chest up, raise your arms above your head, and yell? Or just run like hell?
With a partially torn meniscus in both knees, I must wear bulky braces on both legs when I attempt my speed walks. Oh, those joggers with flat stomachs, those mountain bikers coming off the trails at the end of Alta Laguna with their bulging leg muscles. They encourage me to quicken my pace as I silently curse the Cheetos that probably still lurk in my blood stream.
Slowly, the weight is coming off. Some days, the scale at Pavilions has me at 197. People in town are in less danger that the top button on my shorts—which until recently, was under great pressure from my fat stomach—will come shooting off and hit them.
I am winning the battle, if ever so slowly. Someone pointed out to me that losing weight would be even easier if I stopped consuming alcohol. Wait, Scotch and wine have calories? Who knew? Just the thought of being abstinent makes by blood pressure rise.
James Utt is the author of “Laguna Tails and Boomer Wails.” He vows to quit drinking when the Angels win the World Series.