Whipping That Stranger In The Mirror Into Shape

John H. McCord, DPM

“When I get an irresistible urge to exercise,
I lie down until it blows over.”
— Mark Twain

This has been my mantra since I left Army basic training in 1970. I hate to exercise so I haven’t for the past 42 years. As a podiatrist, I was pretty quick to advise my patients to go on a diet or go to a fitness gym, but I was lucky. I did not need it for myself.

   Mark Twain’s plan worked well for me until I reached my mid-50s. I began to get fat. First, there were a few extra pounds, around five pounds per year. I stayed active with hiking and fishing so I concluded that I had earned the extra weight. Nobody seemed to mind. My family doctor never said anything.

   Today is the eve of my 66th birthday. My health has been good other than some eye issues, which resulted in a cataract surgery and a subsequent cornea transplant that improved my vision considerably. That was not all good.

   I looked in the bathroom mirror about three months ago and observed a bald, wrinkled old man with a beer belly. “Who the hell are you?” I growled. The fat guy just stood there staring at me. I turned off the lights.

   I haven’t been totally avoiding exercise. My wife bought me a membership in a fitness facility where she does yoga three mornings a week. I am not sure what yoga is all about but I imagined a bunch of old ladies in Spandex leotards contemplating their navels with their feet wrapped around the back of their necks. I opted to ride the stationary bikes and walk on the treadmills.

   That worked out well. She went into a room with all the other gals in their Spandex outfits and I headed for the bike where I would sit and read for 30 minutes. Then I would head for the treadmill and set the dial to 1.5, just a little faster than a crawl.

   After doing this low stress exercise routine for two and a half years, I had to admit I had not lost an ounce and the beer belly was causing some comments. I suppose I should have pedaled the bike.

   The lady who runs my favorite Korean restaurant lit into me, yelling that I was getting too fat. I took it graciously and vowed to go on a diet. I quit eating Korean food.

   The confrontation with my inner fat guy in the mirror was a turning point. I had to do some repair work on my antiquated frame. My knowledge of nutrition and exercise was very scant. I spotted a personal trainer putting a client through a series of fitness routines in the gym and asked to have a word with her.

   I confessed that I had become fat and out of shape. She sat observing me and I realized that my explanation was redundant. However, she was kind and asked me what my goals were. I explained that I wanted to lose 30 pounds, stand straighter and have the strength to pull my airplane out of the hangar without help. I also wanted to live a bit longer and I know the inverse relationship of waist size to longevity.

   We got started. She put me through a number of strength and endurance tests. She was kind and sweet but I could see her shake her head and frown when I failed to meet the minimum performance criteria on weight lifting, sit ups, balance and just about every aspect of fitness.

   We then developed a food plan. There was no diet. I simply had to keep a log of everything I ate and e-mail it to her a couple times a week. I really hated to disappoint her so I started being careful about what and how much I ate. This was new territory to me. The initial results were immediate with pounds dropping away every day. Then we took a cruise and spent a week in Paris.

   Getting small portions of healthy food is tricky on a cruise ship, cruising the Adriatic between Croatia and Italy. I vowed to only use the stairs and no elevators. I also spent an hour in the fitness spa every day. There are no scales on cruise ships so I had to guess.

   I’m three months into this and have lost 17 pounds. I love the exercise routines and actually pedal those bikes now.

   Dr. McCord retired in December 2008 from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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