I went to my doctor last week to see if I needed to be on some sort of antibiotic to wipe out the infernal illness that had kept me weakened and bed-ridden. After flipping through two issues of People magazine and the “Arts” section of the Times, I was summoned into his examining room. “It’s been a year to the day that I last saw you,” he indicated as he flipped through my chart. He gave me a once-over. “You look like you’ve gained some weight since you’re last visit, hop on the scale.” After removing my clunky winter boots I did so dutifully, knowing he was correct. He proceeded to do a standard check-up, listening to my lungs, taking my temperature, looking down my throat and in my nose and ears. Satisfied I didn’t need any medication, he prescribed I take an over-the-counter expectorant to clear up my illness. Then he took my blood pressure, telling me to “think relaxing thoughts.” He looked at the numbers and made a scrunched frowny face. “What?” I asked. “You’re blood pressure is pretty high. That’s not good.” He wrapped up the appointment by telling I needed to lose weight and cut my sodium intake. “I want to follow up with you in three months,” he said. The news was disappointing; my personal infrastructure was crumbling. I knew I had a tough decision to make. I had to find another doctor.
Sigh. If only. I can’t start seeing someone new, just because I want them to tell me what I want to hear, as appealing as that idea might be. Besides, finding a new GP who takes my insurance? It’s not worth it. I’ve already got three, almost four years invested in my current primary care physician. He has an excellent bedside manner, he manages fit me in to see him even when he’s booked up, we even have the same taste in music, apparently — bumping into him at a Scissors Sisters concert was at the time weird, and now slightly endearing in retrospect — so I’m not willing to throw that away. I guess I’ll just have to take his advice.
Before I left he handed me a pamphlet on lowering my blood pressure. I am now the kind of person to whom medical pamphlets are distributed. Pamphlets with multi-ethnic, middle-aged “real people” — the human equivalent of clip art, really — who extol the virtues of their new, healthy eating habits. I flipped through it on the subway, feeling patronized by their earnest smiles and affirming quotes. Fuck you John Mortimer, I don’t care if you’re setting a good example for your kids by eating more vegetables. And screw you, Janice Chen, I don’t care if you’ve grown to love low-fat yogurt!
The thing is, I’ve always eaten fairly healthy. I don’t touch fast food, I happily consume salad with low-fat dressing. With the exception of my occasional rapturous devouring of BBQ, I’m relatively sensible where food is concerned. It really comes down to the exercise. Looking back on the past year, I can see how sedentary I’d become. I don’t belong to a gym. I barely rode my bike at all this summer or fall. I used to just rely on the amount of walking around the city I did to count as my workout. Now, I can’t so much.
Various members of my family have scoffed at the doctor’s suggestion I shed a few extra pounds. “You looked great last time I saw you,” they all say. Well, thank you health shamans, but I’m going to with the opinion of a licensed medical professional, because ultimately he’s right. I’m the one who has been cruising around in spaceship me for the last few years and it’s true I’ve put on some added ballast. More than one pair of jeans I used to slip into comfortably now won’t button.
So, while out Christmas shopping I impulsively bought an exercise DVD in the sale bin of the Strand. That should indicate how non-workout-y I am, that I purchased an exercise DVD at a bookstore. Still!
Naturally, this news would come during the holidays, when consuming inordinate quantities of booze and gorging on salty, fattening food are ritual. When lying around on the couch watching TV is considered an acceptable activity for the day. And I defy anyone to lower their blood pressure while spending time with family members.
After the Holidays are over, I’m resolved to giving the whole lifestyle change a go. I’m going to be one of those people who now adds losing weight and dieting to the list of New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to read the labels on food items at the grocery store and gasp aloud at the sodium content. I’m going to refer to a certain pair of jeans as my “skinny jeans” and use them as the yardstick for my weight-loss success. I’m going to become one of “those people.” At least until my next check-up.