PUMPING IRONY: Smugness and Denial

My annual “health score” is occasion to crow about all the good things I do to improve my health and downplay all my failings.

Last week, I received the results of my annual health check-up, a ritual that elicits a wondrous combination of smugness and denial. My score this year was 84 out of 100, down from 92 last year, but still not bad for a geezer whose butt spends a good portion of each day plastered in a chair.

The nice thing about these snapshots is that you can pretty much translate the results any way you like: blood pressure of 148/88? White-coat syndrome. Glucose reading of 107? Way below a high-risk level (126). Cholesterol at 269? Doesn’t mean a thing, since it’s the ratio of total cholesterol to “good” cholesterol that matters and at 3.2:1, mine is way under the 4.4:1 considered low risk for heart disease. And would you look at that Triglyserides number? Anything under 149 is considered low risk and I’m sitting here at 55, which is slightly lower than my resting heart rate (58), which along with my body-fat percentage (23.0) can only mean that I am, given my age, pretty much a freak of nature.

Gotta feel good about that.

The report is always accompanied by a call from a wellness coach, who is ready to help you address any problem areas that may have emerged. They ask you what you tend to eat during a typical day and how much exercise you get, so there is a completely understandable inclination to slightly embellish your description of reality. It’s just human nature; folks want to represent themselves in a positive light. Who’s going to tell a health coach that their favorite meal is a bag of Doritos washed down with a couple of Budweisers?

So, when my coach asked me about a typical day in the life of the plate in front of me, I talked up my yogurt and fruit breakfasts and mostly skipped over those Chipotle lunches and pizza dinners. I described in probably more detail than was necessary my 20-year meditation practice, my morning bodyweight/kettlebell workout, and the daily bicycle commute up that nasty hill on the other side of the river. Oh, and did I mention the weekly yoga class, my basketball league and tennis bouts with a certified USTA player (the formidable Baseline Machine)?

“Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job,” he replied, before I began back-pedaling, admitting that I try to get that morning meditation/workout in at least three times a week, the bike ride is really only about a mile, and I’m lucky if I make it to yoga three times in a month. TBM is actually a USTA player, but her serve is nothing to crow about.

“Awesome,” he reiterated, which for a brief moment made me feel like I should maybe be more forthcoming about my blood pressure and alcohol consumption, but the feeling quickly passed.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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