You are never too old to learn something new and make changes. Seniors who believe this and adjust their eating routines can significantly improve their health.
His doctor said his fasting blood sugar was too high and he needed to lose weight or start diabetes medication. Being “stubborn,” as he wryly describes himself, Paul McDonough, a 73-year-old retired Boston police officer from Hingham, Mass., chose not to take medicine.
He’d seen other people start on diabetic pills, then use insulin, and “next thing you know, they lose a leg.” He had other plans for his retirement, like walking and enjoying nature and spending time with friends in Florida and his grandchildren.
He had exercised all his life, but now he knew he had to tackle his diet. His friend Bob Keyes encouraged him to join Diet Boot Camp, an eight-week program offered by the Hingham Recreation Department. Think of it as basic training for healthy eating.
In late February, the 6-foot-tall McDonough weighed 231 pounds and had a fasting blood sugar in the diabetic range at 144 mg/dL. He received a wake-up call in the first Diet Boot Camp class when he assessed the calories his body required and learned how going over that amount not only increases weight but also blood sugar and cholesterol.
Week after week, as he got lesson after lesson on the ins and outs of healthy eating, McDonough adjusted his diet and steadily lost weight. Eight weeks later, he lost 21 pounds and dropped his blood sugar 40 points, putting him outside of the diabetic range. His tremendous effort in changing his diet has put him in control of his health.
How did he do it? He faithfully kept a food journal to improve the quality of his diet and to avoid a daily calorie intake of more than 1,700 calories.
He pared down his portions. Over the years, as a police officer, he had acquired a “grab and go” attitude toward food. Regardless of his hunger level, if food was available, he ate it, and a lot of it.
He planned healthy meals and snacks and ate sensibly. He changed from cranberry juice and ginger ale to club soda. He ate more fruit and stayed away from cookies, scones and ice cream.
He changed the way he cooked (his passion) and began making more meals with generous portions of vegetables and fish instead of meatloaf, kielbasa and potatoes.
He kept his sense of humor –– “looking forward to wearing a Speedo in Florida” –– and a positive attitude.
“I am thankful for what I have. I want to take care of myself and be healthy,” he said.
McDonough, at 73, was “the biggest loser” in Diet Boot Camp, outdoing some people half his age.
Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wickedgoodhealth.com. This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before changing your diet.