You got so much gravy in your arteries you should use biscuits instead of Band-Aids. This was my doctor’s official summary of my cholesterol numbers, and also my clue that it was time to move out of Hazzard County. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere else in the country that one can drive a Prius with a rebel flag painted on the roof.
For the majority of my adult life I’ve been the annoying healthy guy: the runner, the cyclist, the vegetarian. I was the freak who carried around the plastic container filled with a green-brown blend of tofu, bananas, wheat grass, and whatever produce I could jam into the blender. Look at those poor fools eating cheeseburgers when they could have brown goop! Fourteen different vitamin supplements every day…
And the lists! Stacks and stacks of legal pads documenting weight, heart rate, sleep duration, miles, reps, calories, foods eaten. Nothing was worth doing if it couldn’t be quantified and documented. I counted my footsteps, my breaths, my movements, all in fours.
There’s more to the story, but you get it: I had five percent body fat and a nice case of obsessive compulsive disorder. After around twenty years of calling my broken brain everything except OCD I finally got help.
The good news was that treatment worked well for me, the bad news is that it threw a portion of my life into doubt. Could I eat and exercise in moderation? Could I do either without counting obsessively? The idea terrified me. I had no idea whether I could take a daily walk without it escalating into 4 hour runs counted four steps at a time. I started eating like every other American, afraid that all other roads led to madness.
So here we are after a few years of hiding from a potential mental lapse and my doctor can’t believe my blood work’s not butter. Now I’m back to a regimented diet and am trying my best not let exercise slip out of control, though I do keep a push-up count on my office white board. Hey, it’s better than another legal pad stuffed in a drawer. Baby steps and all that.
Hardened arteries are nothing new. The Washington Post’s David Brown wrote last year about atherosclerosis in mummies. This, of course, answers the question why mummies walk so slowly, but it raises others. We’ve all seen the articles over the last few decades linking certain foods and diets to heart disease, and others to good, clean living. But what this particular study found was that ancient people from various cultures experienced clogged arteries, regardless of whether they ate yams or whale blubber. They didn’t even find any Doritos bags near the mummies.
I think what’s surprising about this finding is that it is surprising. We’re so committed to the notion that we can inoculate against death that we’ve overlooked the greatest lesson of the Industrial Age: machines wear out. They just do. Sure, your car will run well longer if you change the oil regularly, but eventually Cooter’s going to have to tow her down to the shop. It’s no different with bodies.
Honestly I don’t know what any of this means, other than that I’m a middle-aged man who is going to die someday according to both the mummy record and the simple fact that to date every single person in history has eventually died. Meanwhile, I have to balance the possibility of clogging my arteries earlier than nature intended with the equally real possibility of tipping back into obsessive madness.
But you know what? I like brown goop smoothies, and I like the way my body feels when it does work. Here’s hoping I can keep to moderation, not because I’ll cheat death but because I’ll be able to enjoy the kind of life that makes me feel good. A life well lived is measured by quality not quantity, even if the latter can be counted in fours and recorded on a legal pad.
One last thing: Don’t show the mummies either David Brown’s or my article. Next thing you know their arteries are squeaky clean and they’re moving faster, and I’m just not as quick as I used to be.
Categories: Good Men Project