As part of my yearly physical I had my cholesterol tested towards the end of last year. The news was not good. My LDL level – which has always been on the high side, although somewhat compensated by a high HDL level – had become dangerously high. A large component of this is genetic, but some is undoubtably linked to weight gain and generally high-cholesterol eating habits (I really do love dairy. Especially the full-fat variety).
While I was in Australia, I picked up a copy of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet – I’d looked over my mother’s copies (almost everyone in Australia owns a copy of this book – it was a phenomenon when it first came out) and decided that at the very least it was a good resource to have on hand. It’s not specifically a cholesterol lowering diet – although research shows that women on this diet have generally experienced lower cholesterol – but it illustrated to me that I really hadn’t been thinking about my food intake at all. As it turns out, the CSIRO diet probably isn’t for me, but it has plenty of generally useful guidlines, and much of the diet and supporting material for it has been published online. For me, it has been the first step towards really being aware of what I’m eating and the impact it has on my health. I was a little disappointed to discover that their exercise checklist hasn’t been made available online, so I made my own version – you can download it in pdf format.
Shortly after I returned to the US from Australia I had an appointment with a nutritionist, and she gave be specific suggestions for foods to embrace and avoid when trying to lower one’s cholesterol. As a result, I cooked fish for the first time in a long time last weekend, I’ve cut back on dairy (especially that with fat in it), and have a pantry full of whole-grains. I’ve also reinvigorated my gym going (which languished sadly while I was in Australia), and have increased the amount of time I spend there – 1 hour instead of 30 minutes on each visit.
So how do I feel? Generally good. It’s nice not to feel overfull all the time, and I’m discovering that whole grains really do sustain me for a substatial amount of time. I’m not missing dairy as much as I thought I would. I feel great after exercising, but am finding that spending an hour in the gym leaves me exhausted. I sort of flop in a heap afterwards! Still, I hope this will improve with time. Better yet, there has been weight loss, and already I’ve tightened my belt a notch. I’m definitely in this for the long haul.