Manage my covert cholesterol? All it’s taking is an epic effort

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

Mary Anne Creed, after her stepson Adonis Creed knocks down “Pretty” Ricky Conklin in the last round of their fight
Creed (2015)

I’ve never played chess blindfolded, but I’d imagine it’s not much different from managing your cholesterol.

A couple of months ago, I talked about my rising cholesterol. My primary care doctor wanted to see it come down so he didn’t have to prescribe a statin to keep it under control.

That made two of us. It also made me take a hard look at my diet. Over the years, many people have told me I eat really well. Though I can understand why they thought that, I knew there was slack in the line and my blood work was calling me on it.

I saw two opportunities for improvement.

The first was curbing my chicken consumption. It’s a terrific protein source and a solid red meat alternative. And I was eating it a lot. Grilled, baked, and skinless.

It was also mostly thigh meat, with the occasional leg thrown in. I love chicken thigh meat, and I wonder if the modest amount of saturated fat in each thigh (1.95g) was having a cumulative effect.

The second was my sweet tooth. I don’t know how much saturated fat is in my favorite baked goods, and if the bakers know, I’m not sure they’d be eager to tell me.

I knew enough to know I needed to cut back hard. A rare, maybe once-a-month treat instead of an occasional one.

“Just… DO IT!”

Shia LaBeouf, in his viral motivational video rant (1995)

And do it, I did.

I cut back on chicken in favor of seafood, mostly salmon. At lunchtime, I replaced dozens of leftover chicken-based meals with an orange juice with whey protein “smoothie”. Recipe’s still a work in progress. I’ll drink it, but I’m not loving it. I tried mixing the whey with water, and my taste buds declared it a culinary abomination. Like someone mixed water and talcum powder.

I’m keen to find a fruit- and greens-based recipe. When I do, it won’t be soon enough.

I also worked in some albacore tuna sandwiches on whole grain bread. I’m a Hellman’s Olive Oil Mayo fan. My palate finds nothing miraculous about Miracle Whip.

My road to lower cholesterol wasn’t without temptations. Though I stayed miles from the bakeries–my sweet tooth takes the wheel if I’m close enough–my resolve was tested during a couple of shopping trips to Wegmans.

If you don’t have a Wegmans near you, just know it’s a wonderful grocery chain. In close proximity to their front door is what I call Temptation Island, a fresh-baked cookie station. It never fails to summon my inner child…

Al, why deny yourself? Take the statins so you can indulge. You won’t have the issues other people have with them.

Remember how these cookies melt in your mouth, Al?

Two cookies won’t make much difference. You can get back on track tomorrow.

So far, I’ve resisted.

So far.

Before and after cholesterol levels

“We did it, we did it, oh yeah, yeah, yeah…!”

Marlon, after evading the hungry Anglerfish until it trapped itself
Finding Nemo (2003)

After substituting fruit for desserts, maintaining a consistent workout schedule, and curbing chicken in favor of seafood for two months, I achieved this improvement in total cholesterol:

August: 206

October: 170

That’s almost a 20% drop. And I bled for it, literally and metaphorically.

My small victory comes with a catch.

The caveat

“…The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.”

Q, telling Captain Jean Luc Picard he’s saved humanity once again, but his success will be fleeting unless he remains open to options he’d never considered.

All Good Things (1994)
Star Trek: The Next Generation 

I’m thrilled my adjustments made such a substantial difference in such a short time. It’s highly motivating. And I need it, because the only way I keep this issue at bay is if I sustain the progress.

Still, I’m grateful it worked, and I wonder how many others could benefit from a similar approach.

Keeping it real

When I got home from my appointment, I celebrated with cinnamon buns. And what a celebration it was.

Savored. Every. Bite.

Then, I went right back on the plan.

Halloween’s coming up. I have my sin foods ready so I can indulge a bit. Midnight Dark Milky Way and Dark Chocolate Kit Kat. I don’t know what other possibilities await. I’m a dark chocolate or bust person, so that narrows the field quite a bit.

Then I’ll resist temptation until Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Far greater challenges. Moderation is the goal.

Enjoy it while it lasts, I’ll tell myself as I indulge.

Only I’ll mean it.




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