Heart-Health Tips From A Former Fat Guy

At 25, this second baseman, swimmer and Navy athletic instructor weighed 145. By age 65, this new retiree had ballooned up to 195. Not bad on a six-foot-three frame, but I was not quite five-eight. My family doctor looked at the blubber, then told me I was headed for some big-time cardiovascular and other medical problems. Like maybe even conking out.
Diet and Exercise: He launched me on a heart-healthy diet and exercise regimen to take off the 50 excess pounds. The diet part was easy to understand, because he gave me precise lists of what to eat and how much. The exercise schedule was more complicated. 

It had been almost 20 years since I’d done any regular physical exercise. My daily life was mostly eight hours sitting in an office chair, followed by four of TV on a couch, with even less activity on weekends.

Heart-Healthy Exercise Schedule: He told me to get into the routines gradually, not to overdo any exercise to the point of exhaustion or uncomfortably rapid heartbeat. So, I started with a daily 30-minute early morning hike. 

At first, it was just a fat guy stroll. After several weeks, I quickened my stride. Later, I jogged 20 and walked 20 paces. Additionally, I recaptured some early swimming skills with twice-weekly lap swims at a health club. At first, all I could do were four 50-yard pool laps. Then, after several months, I was completing eight and gradually extended to 20 laps.

I joined the health club’s aerobic exercise class. To supplement my walk, jog and swim routines, I did push ups, flexing and stretching exercises before bedtime and first thing in the morning.    

Heart-Health Diet Plan: In addition to regular exercise, I had to drastically change my eating habits if I wanted to knock off the extra 50 pounds of blubber that were endangering my ticker. First, my doctor had me write a list of my current typical day’s food and liquid intake. 

It should’ve been no surprise, but it was at least 3,000 calories. The normal amount for my age and height to maintain weight is 2,000. To lose, I had to cut back to 1,600 daily. As with the exercise, I eased into my diet gradually.

Say Goodbye to Junk Foods and Booze: First to go were desserts, cake, bread, butter and fried, fatty meats. My new diet consisted of broiled seafood, poultry and lean meat, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Instead of sugar-loaded sodas, I drank fruit juices and lots of water. The toughest change in my routine was to cut out all beer and other alcoholic drinks until my weight was normal again.

Additionally, instead of three hearty meals a day of 1,000 calories each, my doctor changed it to four light ones of 400 calories each. In that way, there was no need for snacks.

Check Progress Regularly: Along with exercise and diet, I was monitored several times a month at my doctor’s office. I had blood pressure checked, was weighed and heartbeat measured. 

At the end of the first month, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had lost ten pounds. At that rate, I thought I’d take off the other 40 in four more months. However, because of occasional cheating on the diet and some forbidden booze, it took me a year to get from 195 to 145.
Conclusion: That effort was more than 25 years ago. At nearly 90, I still weigh in at 145 pounds. For advice to other overweight seniors, see your doctor and get back into that youthful shape you once had.

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