Bad Numbers, Hard News

For eight weeks now, I’ve eaten a vegan diet. No animal protein, but plenty of protein from vegetables, beans, and other sources. Fewer carbs, but the carbs I have eaten have been whole-grain. I’ve allowed myself one small fried veggie per week and one small vegan dessert per week. I’ve not had a single drop of alcohol. I’ve increased my activity levels dramatically.

So when I had my blood tested for the first time in four weeks yesterday, I expected the numbers to show measurable progress toward my goals: lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, lower serum glucose, lower uric acid, lower ALT levels.

Perhaps you can imagine, then, how it felt to see numbers as bad — or worse — than I saw eight weeks ago, when I was stuffing meat, fried food, fatty cheeses, and a half-ton of sugar down my gullet daily. Triglycerides were higher than they were just four weeks ago. Uric acid levels and liver enzymes are higher than they were on the “bad” report that started this journey.

My total cholesterol dipped into the very high normal zone (198, with 199 being the upper limit of normal), and my fasting blood sugar is now in the high normal zone (97, with 99 being the upper limit). My weight’s dropped from 230 to 213. But, beyond that, I’ve got no real progress to show for my efforts — and, in some ways, I’m measurably worse off than I was eight weeks ago.

I know eight weeks of eating well can’t reverse five decades of consuming as much fried, sugary fat as I could pound down my gullet. I also know there are people with real and life-threatening illnesses, facing dire and terrible futures, who would love to have no problems beyond high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high uric acid, and some wonky liver enzymes.

Still, because I’m someone who is highly motivated by measurable progress, yesterday’s blood test results hit me pretty hard.

My first impulse, of course, was to go find myself a large meat-lover’s pizza, a platter of ground beef nachos with melty cheddar, a dozen Sublime Donuts, and a pitcher of margaritas. (I didn’t. In fact, I had quinoa and vegetables for breakfast today, and a spicy veggie stir-fry for lunch.)

My next impulse, which I gave into, was to sulk and brood, which makes me bad company for poor Clyde, who has been nothing but supportive.

In the meantime: the numbers are what they are, and no amount of wishing or pouting will change them. I’ll find my way back to loving reality, mostly because any other choice is a waste of time. For now, though, learning whatever lesson I’m supposed to be learning from this is just no fun at all.

Update: Just writing this helped, of course. And then we went outside, into the sunshine, and met a friend for lunch. We talked about his wedding plans, and weddings in general, and the wonderful wedding we had back in September. And somehow, in the process of that conversation, the gloominess I felt earlier dispersed. (It also helped to get several encouraging notes from friends near and far.)

I’m the same person, of course, with the same triglycerides racing through my blood. Nothing’s changed at all, really, except my attitude toward the situation — and that changed because I stepped outside my own little drama and thought about someone else for a while.

I’ll file that away as a “rainy day strategy.” Meantime: onward, onward, onward. What else ya gonna do?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.


  • Don’t beat yourself up! Dropping seventeen pounds in eight weeks is good. Slow, steady progress is STILL progress 🙂 As someone who reads your blog regularly, I think you’re doing the right thing and doing it the right way. Some things —particularly cholesterol— are genetically predisposed. I pray that you do not get discouraged and continue doing what you’re doing. As bad habits are cumulative, so are good ones. I believe if you can last six months to a year the needle will continue to move in the right direction.

    I recognize from your post the same things that I’ve been through: I’d work my butt off doing cardio or diet only to find that I’d barely moved the needle on my lab work or weight.

    I sympathize with what you’re going through as weight was a struggle I could not beat on my own. You are doing the right thing and I hope you continue to do what you’re doing.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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