First up, you all need to go click this link. I find this amusing for many reasons, but when it showed up on one of my newsfeeds this morning, I had no idea exactly how prescient it would turn out to be. I don’t normally watch videos at work, don’t really have the time even if the company doesn’t really protest much when people do watch such things. So, I marked it for reading later, when I got home. Turns out that soon after I filed it away for future viewing, I would be living a little slice of that video.
So, why did that turn out to be such a glimpse of my future? Well, as those who have known me for a long time are very aware, I tend to really stick my foot in my mouth. Usually far enough in that you can read an imprint of the word ‘Nike’ somewhere on the wall of my lower GI. When I say or do something stupid, I do so with style, grace and force.
Most everyone’s employer probably provides some sort of health insurance. Mine is no exception. Given that I work for one of the relatively few healthy food service providers in this country, at least as healthy as pizza goes, it is in my employer’s best interest to see that we don’t all die off early because we ate too much of our own product. Things like a workforce with a life expectancy that is years, or even decades, shorter than people working in any other industry is not a piece of publicity any company wants. Just ask the asbestos or coal industries what that kind of publicity will get you… lawsuits and government regulation.
In my employer’s efforts to make sure we’re all healthy, or at least aware of how unhealthy we are, a health fair with free wellness screenings began today. For 15 minutes of time, answering a few awkward questions and letting someone milk your finger like a vampire would use a cow, you too can know exactly how many years you are shaving off your life!
Going into this, I knew that it wouldn’t really be pretty, but I figured, I’m only 32 (just barely at that), I weigh less than most everyone I work with and I get out as much as I can, when I’m not stuck at my desk working of course. Yes, I had put on a few ::coughthirtycough:: pounds in the last half decade, but in the last year my weight has been a fairly constant two-hundred-something. About six months ago I started working out regularly and was faithful to it for all of a whole six weeks before quitting! But during those six weeks, I proved I still had it (the gut is 'it’)!
And so, 9:30am came, my appointed time to receive 'the treatment’ and I walked out of my cubicle, down the hall, up the stairs (I’m in such good health I don’t need no elevator!) and met my appointment… with doom.
I’m greeted by a coworker with a clipboard. The form was surprisingly simple, more a short waiver where I promise that nothing they tell me is scientifically accurate but if I don’t believe their diagnosis then I might as well just start digging a hole out on the front lawn cause I’ll need some place to take a nice dirt nap really soon if I don’t change my ways. You know, the standard stuff. Oh, and my birthdate. Can’t forget to include that, because it becomes very important later in the story.
I sign and am shown to the first task, the BMI. I must say, the new handheld models are much nicer than the fat roll pincers of yore, or even the light cannon they have strapped to my forearm in past years. The nurse didn’t let me look at my reading, but quickly moved me on to the blood pressure lady, who also didn’t let me see my paper. The vampire didn’t let me see the paperwork, either, which is a theme I’ll come back to in a minute.
My first sign this was going to be about as bad as I had thought started with the blood pressure check. While it wasn’t terrible, the systolic value was on the high side of normal, the diastolic was well into the high. Now, to be fair, it had been about 2 minutes since I hiked it up that big, marble staircase in the lobby, so my heart rate was still mildly elevated, but not enough to cover a 10 point spread.
No real surprise there though as my father has been on blood pressure medicine for pretty much all my life. I had to inherit something from his side of the family, and this just seems to be my thing. After a bit of consoling, the arm pumper passes me on to the finger milker.
Now, its a good thing that I’m very used to needles at this point, since I receive 3 allergy shots almost weekly, otherwise the 15 year old dude about to stick my finger wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near any of my digits. Ok, so he was maybe 21, given that I can’t believe government regulation would allow for anything less. Still, he couldn’t be much beyond that. Thankfully the 'needle’ was more of a button that sent a quick prick into my index finger. I feel a bit better when someone idiot proofs a sharp object’s ability to pierce my skin.
After a bit of finger milking, the vampire fills two needle thin vials and deposits their contents into small little readers sitting on the desk in front of him. The machines whirl away (at least in my head they make whirling noises as they were battery powered and didn’t seem to have any moving parts) and in a few minutes, I’d know my Cholesterol and Glucose readings.
But for those few minutes, I had to wait out in the hall. Seems that the machines take some time and while they’re waiting for my results, they want to stick someone else’s warm body in that chair. Well, that’s fine, just give me my paperwork and I’ll go out… wait, what? You have to keep that? Sigh, ok.
I hit the hall, waiting for a spot with the 'counselors’ to open so they can tell me I’m unhealthy. Look, I’m overweight, don’t exercise, eat horribly and drink a significant quantity of beer. I know I’m unhealthy, but I sure don’t need someone to tell me that. I can read the paper, and I’m sure you’ll give me an idiot sheet to help figure it all out… if only they’d give me my paper.
Thankfully a couple coworkers were unexpectedly going through the process at the same time as I, so at least I was entertained by their company. They already had their paperwork back, so that meant I would likely see mine again quickly, and were just waiting for that chance to see the counselor. Both were disappointed with their estimated body fat %, but were making the best of the situation and trying to figure out exactly how many pounds of fat they were lugging around. Since my iPhone has a calculator, I helped them with their math, much to their amusement and chagrin.
Eventually, the arm pumping nurse came out of the procedure room and walked to me, calling my name, and handing me back my papers. Yeah! Now I, too, can, just like my coworkers, see how bad it is.
And boy, is it bad.
First number that jumps off the page at me is the 40% body fat. Ouch, man, I knew it was bad, but really? I grabbed my phone, did the math and came out with an utterly absurd 83 lbs of fat. Wait, hold on a minute, that CAN’T be right, but it didn’t stop there. I started looking at the rest of the numbers… LDL, HDL, Triglicerides, Glucose, BMI… OMG!!! How on earth am I alive?
It is at this point, in a bit of shock, I notice that first reading of the day, the blood pressure measurements. Huh, somehow my bloodpressure is completely normal now. Totally different numbers than what the nurse, the one who just handed me the paperwork, told me no more than 5 minutes ago. What gives?
So I scan up the page and check out the birthdate (see, I told you that piece of information would come in handy later) at the top of the page. Somehow, my birthday now shows me to be born in the 1950s, not 1976 like I always thought.
Oh, sweet relief! I’m not really going to keel over any minute of a heart attack! My bloated body isn’t going to pop a knee cap from the pressure of holding up all this non-existent weight. I won’t have an artery rupture from the exertion of just walking back to my desk.
Sadly, in my elation at realizing this is NOT my paperwork, I forget that it is SOMEONE’S paperwork, namely the dude sitting a few feet away from me. Being the kind, sympathetic person I am, I hand the papers to the other guy while I, in an overly loud voice, say, “Thank GOD this isn’t mine.”
Smooth. Really smooth.
Not realizing what I had just said, I saunter off in search of my paperwork. About halfway to the procedure room, it hits me what I’ve just done and that, once I get my paperwork from the black abyss that is the procedure room, I’ll have to go back to the waiting area and sit there watching the dude I just unintentionally humiliated.
The nurses are VERY appologetic, knowing that if I (really the guy whose paperwork I had been given) wanted to, I could sue them for divulging medical information improperly. I can’t say I blame them for nearly tripping over themselves trying to keep from being slapped by a lawyer (something like that anyway).
My real paperwork in hand, which I just know will vindicate me and show me to be the paragon of health I really am, I stride back toward the waiting area, only to see that the only person remaining there is the old guy.
So, I sit down with him, explaining that the nurses were really sorry about the mix up. He’s like me and knows this stuff happens, so shrugs it off. I appologize for having seen his paperwork, but just can’t bring myself to admit what a total ass I had been about it, so I try to make some small talk while I read down the page.
Lets just say that my reading drove all thoughts of chit chat right out of my mind. See, that old guy sitting next to me? The one who I had been such a jerk to? The one who was about to die? Yeah, minus the body fat % and BMI, dude was healthier in every single category than me.
Yes, a man in his 50s has better dietary and lifestyle habits than me… and he knows it, too. I show him my results, admit what an idiot I am, and wonder exactly what to do now that the results are in black and white.
Its at this point where the guy shows how better he is than me… he starts talking about while his health is better than mine, he’s got some good genetics on his side that give him advantage, and he’s been where I’m currently sitting. The guy is so good, he even starts telling me some things I might consider to change my habits.
When the next counselor becomes available, he even sends me on in front of him. Yeah, I feel about 2" tall at this point.
(Don’t worry, my ego recovers. If I’m blogging about it, that means I’ve already figured out a way to turn it into something in my favor. I mean, you’ve read this far and have hopefully been entertained at my fiasco, so that’s a plus!)
The 'counseling’ was about what I expected, a woman in her mid-40s who looked like the younger sister of the guy I left sitting in the waiting area, suggesting how I can live healthier. Sadly, she’s got a credibility issue in my mind, given that she’s obviously less healthy than am I. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Before anyone gets worried about me, there is a bit (a lot) of exaggeration in this post. While there were a few bright spots, namely my excellent HDL, there were more than enough low spots (LDL, BMI, Glucose) that could use work. Other than the LDL, nothing was in the “OMG, I’ve got 6 months to live!!!!” category, but I could probably use a lifestyle change or two. Nothing is bad enough to require medicine as of yet, either. Lets hope I can figure out a way to keep it that way. At worst, there is someone who feels she can help me get healthier.
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