Sunday, October 11, 2009

la bronchite

Well, the nurse practitioner says I have bronchitis, and prescribed three meds for me to take over the course of the next two weeks. Two are tablets; one is a syrup. The cost of consultation was $62; the meds were an additional $42. Ouch. I'm left to wonder, though, why I was prescribed an antibiotic (amoxicillin) when most cases of bronchitis are viral.

I was also told that I have very, very high blood pressure--- a fact I've known since last year, when my diastolic was around 90 (it's higher now). I supposedly need meds to get the pressure down, but I'm going to go old-school, no meds, and you'll be privy to how that works (blogging is narcissistic, after all; this blog never stopped being about yours truly). I know this won't make the clinic lady happy, but I'm both financially strapped and unwilling to view pills as my salvation: I know that simple effort and will can take me to the same goal.* I promise, O Clinic Lady, that I'll go in for a checkup once I'm both healthier and properly employed. Maybe that won't happen until I'm back in Korea, but I'll be sure to have myself checked.

The thing about being fat-- and periodically attempting to get in shape-- is that you stay current with the medical wisdom. I probably know more than the average bloke about how to approach cardio, how to plan out a strength and flexibility training regimen, what sort of diet I should be on, etc. But as is also true with a lot of fat folks, knowledge isn't the problem: motivation is. Call it oomph, gumption, ganas, or whatever, but if you lack the will, then all the knowledge in the world is useless. If I were vain enough to worry about my looks, I'd have lost weight long before now, and would have kept it off. Obviously, vanity won't motivate me. But as I've come to realize, I have a reason to be healthy: Mom and Dad need me. "Etre fort pour être utile," as Georges H├ębert, the grandfather of Parkour, said: be strong to be of use. Maybe today's quick clinic visit was just the kick in the ass I needed to see that more clearly.

So I'll plan out a multipronged approach to my blood pressure problem, and implement it starting this coming week, if my bronchitis is showing signs of improvement. To be honest, this will be a bad week to start because I'm supposed to cook something decadent for Sean's birthday celebration (he turns 30 on the 15th, but we'll be celebrating as a family on the 16th). But I can't let that affect me. If I'm feeling better, then I need to start the long project of getting myself healthy, even if that means initially starting small.

Thinking out loud now... here are some issues to address, all with the goal of lowering blood pressure:

1. Stress. I need to get back to some good ol' Zen meditation. This has helped a lot in the past, but I've never been regular about it. In some ways, that's worse than not meditating at all. Mom's cancer is one obvious stressor, but there are others, most of which have not been mentioned on this blog, some of which have.

2. Sedentary lifestyle and concomitant bodily weakness. Some sedentariness is unavoidable if I plan to maintain a blog and write emails, and/or if I find a work-at-home job that involves using a computer. Still: even when working at the computer, there's plenty of time to fit in some quick cardio and strength exercises. With so many hours in the day to play with, I really have no excuse for not squeezing in some meaningful exercise time.

3. Bad diet. I have plenty of bad eating habits that need to go out the window, so I need to trim portions (radically), avoid snacking (especially at night), and be sure to eat the right types of food during the day. I should also make a "no food after 9PM" rule. That's what's killing me.

4. Bad sleep habits. This is going to be especially tough, because I like being a night owl. Thing is, even though I complain about waking up early, I do actually function better in the early-morning hours. In Korea, at the beginning of a 7:40AM English class, I was usually far more peppy than my students. The trade-off to becoming a morning person, though, is the rapid decline in energy in the evening. I don't look forward to losing that stamina, to losing my ability to say, "What, 3AM? Ha ha-- the night is young!"

5. Poor balance and limited flexibility. Both of these are important in life, not just for the benefits they confer on the body, but also for what they do for the mind. And if mind and body are not-two, then the whole person benefits: balance and flexibility are more than just exercise goals: they're moral virtues we internalize and apply to daily living. I need to recover whatever scraps of gracefulness I possessed long ago (back when I did theater in college, I was complimented on my smoothness and grace... ah, faded glory!), and rework them into something that will benefit me today. Perhaps it's time to dig up all that dormant taekwondo knowledge.

While I'm sick, I can begin this new campaign with a change in diet. Soon after, I can begin to add light cardio to the mix, along with balance and flexibility training. Later on, I can add strength training, but only later: pushups and weightlifting temporarily drive up a person's blood pressure-- not good when your blood pressure is already dangerously high. So: leave weights and such for later, then go easy when I start them. The weight training will eventually lead to greater muscle mass and better tone, which can affect metabolism, causing the body to burn food more efficiently, leaving less of it to go to the waist.

See? I know this stuff. But knowing means nothing without doing.

Expect a plan of attack to appear on this blog sometime before Monday Tuesday. [I wrote "Monday" by mistake, forgetting that it was Sunday. Still, I might have a plan fleshed out as early as Monday night.]

*I'm aware that some folks need blood pressure meds despite being otherwise perfectly healthy. It's possible that I fall into that category, but it wasn't long ago that my own blood pressure was normal. For the moment, I'm assuming I can return to that. I may be wrong. I may discover, at my checkup, that despite my efforts, my blood pressure remains high and will require meds to control. If that's the case, then fine: I'll concede and get the meds.



JW said...

Hey Kevin,

How about no meat on the weekdays? Dunno how it would affect blood pressure, but I'm pretty sure it can help you live longer and healthier. I'm trying it and don't find it all that difficult but only because I find that I only need two things on the table to make me happy during most meals -- rice and gim (dried seaweed).

Jason said...


Thanks for posting this. I have been stuck in the knowledge and reading portion of my diet for a few weeks now. I lack the motivation and this was inspiring. I was looking at your issues and was thinking at the same time, "yep, that pretty much describes me as well."

Good luck on your new campaign and as always you and your family are in my prayers.

Kevin Kim said...


No matter what dietary strategy I settle on, this is going to be painful for me. The list of foods I can't stand is pretty short; I eat (and love) just about everything.

My brother Sean has been doing the Atkins diet for a while now, and has shown fantastic results with it. This diet allows for meat (not processed meats, and not much red meat, but chicken and fish are encouraged) and lots of vegetables, but really kills you on the carbs-- no fruit, no pasta, no bread, no rice, no carrots, potatoes, etc. If I tilt toward Atkins, then a rice-and-seaweed diet will be out. But we'll see. I'm still cogitating.


Surely you jest. You're way thin! What the hell do YOU need to go on a diet for? Don't tell me your Significant Other thinks you need to shed a few pounds...?!?

Koreans are merciless when it comes to fatness, but I have a feeling that that's going to change. The sedentary Net cafe culture, the increasing prevalence of fried street food and packaged/processed snacks and meals, the insistence on hours and hours of endless study... these are all having an effect. In my time in Korea, I saw a significant increase in the number of zitty faces and plump students-- especially girls-- who barely fit into their uniforms.

Anyway, my point is that, pretty soon, Koreans are going to lose their healthy culture if they don't watch out, and they won't have a leg to stand on when criticizing us plump Americans.


JR said...

No actually she doesn't care. Her mother does remind me that I have gained some weight. Which doesn't bother me that much, as she doesn't nag too much.

I lost about 80 pounds in my first year in Korea. I have gained at least 25 of that back. I had cut all fast food and was only eating Korean style dishes and was working out 5-6 days a week. I would like to get back to working out that much.

I agree that Koreans are slowly but surely losing their healthy culture. I haven't been in Korea long enough to see it with my own eyes, but I do see a lot of chubby students in my classes that get no exercise unless you count walking from their apartment to Hagwons exercise.

Maven said...

Regarding the bronchitis, and not knowing if your doc is an MD or DO; I think really highly of DOs. Most folks don't know the diff; but DOs can do musculoskeletal (sp?) adjustments that can help with the inevitable upper back spasms from too much bronchitis related coughing. Hope you feel better soon. These things really can wear you down. The weather really took a turn this week, didn't it? Bone chillin' cold!

Also, I did Atkins for close to two years. The first two weeks "induction phase" is enough to drive a normal person insane. But if you get past that, it's not horrendous. But beware, if you (or someone you know and love, hint hint) is on this diet, you should get your kidney function checked regularly as it does have the ability to increase protein in the urine, and raise risk factors for painful gout. (Ask me how I know.)

Be well.