Gardening has enhanced my life in so many ways that it is difficult to fully quantify, so I’ll not count the ways, but I will chronicle them. And here, in this series, I’ll bring gardening in to the fullness of my health and social awareness through my life-journey, in the Emersonian way (see poem “Success” here, as sometimes maybe miss-attributed to R.W. Emerson).
In my blogs each season regarding the state of my gardens, part of the title always includes the word “Journey,” and this is for a very good reason. I believe that living and learning give meaning to life, not some long-term goal or destination. Yet it is true, and maybe obvious if you’ve read any of my other blog postings, that I’m big on planning things. And one could say with complete justification that that is just another way to state my short-term goals. Guilty. But here too it is carrying out those plans, successfully or unsuccessfully, that is the real fun, where the real learning comes in, no matter how much enjoyment or fulfillment I get from completing a plan as planned. I mean, if that weren’t true for me I’d go nuts what with all of the things I don’t accomplish, and the plans that don’t go as planned.
As I just hit the half-century mark a couple of years ago, I was a good boy and went to the doctor for those check-ups (which of course eventually included that uncomfortable one where they take pictures of your digestive tract, up close and personal, beginning with the end). Though I was in fairly good health, like too many people (Americans at least) my cholesterol and related numbers were too high, and I carried around enough extra pounds of flesh to keep Antonio out of trouble with Shylock for, like a year or more, I sweareth.
With these high marks on my tests, the doctor threatened to medicate me (and not in a fun way), if I didn’t make some lifestyle changes. It took a couple rounds of these warnings to kick my butt in gear, but in gear it is now. In the six months since my last tests, I’ve dropped from 212 to 174 for my overall cholesterol count, my pretty good blood pressure got better, and I lost 21 lbs (so that Italian merchant of old will have to look elsewhere for help, and me-knoweth that my belt no longer protests too much). All I did was eat better. No extra exercise or athletic activity, other than the full-contact gardening and yard work that one participates in this time of year.
But the real point here is that it didn’t take a “diet;” or any store-bought, low-cal, low-fat, low-taste, JennyWatchers crap in cardboard, with some plan for a measured amount of time. Just real food and easily sustainable changes to my eating habits, that’s all it took.
I replaced most of the empty carb junk with fruits and veggies that I like, mostly from my own garden this time of year. And I didn’t force myself to eat something I don’t like in replacement of those foods. I greatly curtailed my intake of processed sugars and of all overly processed foods in general. And though I wasn’t bad before, I no longer drink sodas or sugar infused drinks (okay, maybe a little root beer with pizza once in a while, and I still take my coffee with cream and sugar). And there too is part of the point, I still eat most anything I want (pizza, bacon, cheese, or pizza with bacon and cheese), I just watch the portions and frequency of the bad stuff, and eat mostly the good stuff.
None of this was rocket science; I think most of us know what is good for us and what isn’t, and which of our habits are healthy and those that aren’t. But my journeys into the world of gardening, and the actual gardens, have helped me so much in my efforts to be healthier. Through this site and the wisdom you all have imparted, and what I’ve soaked in through other social media and other research, I’ve learned what to pay attention to, what kinds of foods do what, how bad processed food is, what is happening in the world of food and to our food in the world.
As to those test scores? They’re better, but still too high, so journey on I must. So now I need to add in some exercise beyond the full-contact gardening. Maybe a bit of walking, or, shall I say, “marching?”
-- "We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." Joni Mitchell