First, a little about me. I’m a 47-year old man. I’m fit and healthy, except that I suffer from chronic fatigue, which means that I get tired easily and have to be very careful about how I manage my energy each day. I believe this to be caused by a viral infection that I caught at the age of 30. Before this, I had very high levels of energy, and still do, on good days.
One of my grandfathers died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 40; my other grandfather died of a stroke at 50; they were both dead before I was born. My father had a triple heart bypass operation at the age of 60. So my family history isn’t encouraging. Like most of the UK population, I am likely to die from heart disease in one form or another (heart attack, stroke, brain haemorrhage, etc.)
Some time in my thirties I decided to fight back. I armed myself with books, and learned all I could about healthy living and healthy eating. I resolved to do all I could to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible. People who know me will say that when I decide to do something, I am determined and driven. Some may say obsessed.
I had always been slim, but over the years, the pounds had slowly crept on, and I was 15 pounds heavier than I had been at the age of 21. I didn’t take regular exercise any more. I decided that if I wanted to be as fit and healthy as when I was 21, I would have to weigh the same as I did at that age, and be just as active.
Within a year, I had lost the excess 15 pounds of weight, and my waist measurement had dropped from 33 inches to 30 inches. In the past decade, I have shed another one or two pounds and my waist measurement has dropped by another inch. Since the age of 40, my Body Mass Index (BMI) has remained between 18.9 and 19.3 (it was 21.5 when I started my new diet.)
I aim to exercise intensively every day, for between half an hour and an hour. Most days this is yoga (Astanga yoga – the dynamic form). One day a week I lift weights. On some days I run a mile. In practice, I don’t succeed in exercising every day, but manage about 5 days out of 7. In addition, I do housework and gardening. We have a big garden, so this can very easily amount to an hour a day of hard physical work in addition to the exercise.
I am very careful with my posture. My yoga teacher taught me to always remember: “head over heart over pelvis.” This is a good way to stand, or to sit. When possible I avoid sitting in chairs; instead I sit on the floor, cross-legged. Some people think this is weird.
I also try to behave in a childish way, like running up and down the stairs instead of walking, and sometimes hopping around the kitchen when I am cooking. If I think nobody is watching me, I stand on one leg. I don’t think my wife knows about this.
I believe that I am now as fit and healthy as I was at the age of 21 (apart from the chronic fatigue.) I weigh the same; I am just as active, and probably stronger; my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal. Obviously I am 26 years older, and 26 years closer to death, but I am hoping to push that event as far away as I can.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas (another Welshman)
In the next blog article, I will detail what I eat, and why.