Every high school and college graduation speaker talks about "setting goals," and "planning the rest of your life." This is a great time for young graduates to ponder their future. Now that I've passed the age of 60, I realize that there's another special time in life to set goals. At the age of 60, the kids are gone, and we aren't as active as before.
My career of 30 years included daily exercise, sometimes up to four or five hours a day. I was always as fit as possible. It wasn't until I retired from teaching aerobics that my body started showing normal signs of aging. My cholesterol started to climb, my weight went up, and I had to see a doctor. He acted like it was normal to write prescriptions for high blood pressure and cholesterol. He didn't say a word about my recent weight gain or lifestyle.
As we age and our habits begin to affect our future, we need to set new goals as though we are graduation from school, however, this is a new type of graduation ... The Golden Years!
When setting goals, they need to be realistic and achievable. Why would you set them? When the doctor told me that he was going to prescribe a statin for high cholesterol, my first response was that I would try harder and let's wait. What happened? Nothing. I didn't go on the medication and my cholesterol didn't go down. On my next visit, the statin was prescribed, and the side effects were not agreeable.
After a couple of false starts, I set out to solve my medical problems before I officially became a "senior." I was specific. If I didn't lower my cholesterol through nutrition, I would have to be on meds for the rest of my life - and they made me feel lousy. I decided to set the goal of getting my cholesterol lower than 175 without medication. I signed on to a calorie counting app. As I counted calories, I wrote down the breakdown of nutrients in every bite. Wow. What a wakeup call. I thought that I was eating a rational number of calories, but there was a lot of animal fat in the form of yogurt, carrot cake frosting, and ranch dressing dip and chicken tenders. Chicken is healthier than beef, right? Oh yeah, but not with panko breading, fried, and dipped in ranch dressing. This documentation was the most valuable part of my plan. I had to get real about what I had been eating and what I needed to eat. I set realistic goals. This meant lowering my calories by 75%!
When I set goals for my future, here's how it went; "I am going to give up caffeinated drinks which lead to a growly, hungry feeling within 6 months. I am going to lose 40 pounds in the next year. I am going to lower my blood pressure within one year without medication, and I am going to try to lower my cholesterol from 225 to 175 in one year without medication." The next questions were if these were realistic goals, and what was it going to take to achieve them? It was time to go to work.
Now, let's talk about the present. This is two years later. Whew! It was a great experience to go over my documentation for the past couple of years. I wish that I could help everybody that I know walk that walk.
My first goal was to give up coffee. I had become a heavy coffee drinker. Not only did I drink it all day, even up until bed time, but I added real Half and Half to every cup. God, I LOVED that coffee. The problem with it was that although I drank it for years, as I got older, it made my heart beat really forcefully, and seemed to drive my blood pressure up. It was hard, but DONE! I just stopped drinking it.
I gave up coffee cold turkey. I was right that my stomach wouldn't get those hunger pangs that I was using as an excuse to eat. My next goal was a multi-goal. This would include losing 40 pounds, and lowering my blood pressure and cholesterol through diet. This was where I made my first mistake. I decided to go off of all animal fat and become a vegan. Lots of people are vegan, how hard could it be? VERY HARD is my answer. If you don't have recipes, or even understand how much protein you need, or what contains protein, you could go straight into the ditch!
If I had known then what I know now ... Anyway, I bought a bunch of processed soy products and came up with some awesome recipes. The volume of carbs that I was eating surpassed the calories that I had eaten in cheese and yogurt! I thought that if I wasn't eating animal products, I'd lose weight. Period. Just the opposite happened. I gained weight. I was obviously doing something wrong! I wondered if eating vegan was going to work for me. I missed yogurt and cheese, and gave up on the vegan idea.
This is where I decided to meet with a Registered Dietician. It was the most important decision that I could have made. Although she was not a Vegan Dietician, she understood my goals and agreed to work with me. She made it clear that processed foods should be kept to a minimum. So, all-you-can-eat tofu or tempeh is out of the question. She helped me to change the balance on my plate. This included less pasta, more sauce. When making tacos, it included less tempeh, and more salsa and cabbage.
I discovered tons of recipes that seemed bland and boring in the beginning, but are now some of my favorite things. Recovering from fat and sugar habits is hard! Not having sour cream or cheese on a taco is REALLY harsh! Over time, I've come to love a tempeh taco with red cabbage and chunky salsa.
So, with my goals still not completely attained, I have lost 39 pounds, my blood pressure medicine is less than half of what it used to be, and my cholesterol is 187 without medication. Being so much lighter, I exercise harder, and intend to achieve that one last pound of weight loss, and a few more points of cholesterol before the summer is over.
My life is nothing like it used to be. I'm trim. I exercise hard. I have lost all talk about "getting old." GOALS. Set them. Make them lofty. If you're over 60, NOW is the time to set the most important personal goals of your life!