I just returned home from the doctor, again.

I was last there six weeks ago, when I had my very first appointment, a meet-and-greet-but-also-checkup with this new-to-me Knoxville doctor, after having gone to the same awesome doctor in the Chicago suburbs for nearly twenty years. (Ouch, saying goodbye to her hurt so much!) I talked with my new doctor about my health history and told her that I would love to get to a point where I could decrease my blood pressure medication by one (of two). She listened intently, agreed that my goal was not ridiculous in the least, and told me to come back in six weeks to check in and we’d see what we could do. I left that day feeling great about putting her in charge of the professional end of my health.

I also left with a lab order to get a full panel of blood work, something I hadn’t done in a couple of years and, to be honest, dreaded. But I went to the lab on my way out of the building (I hadn’t eaten anything yet that morning) and got it done.

When the results came in the mail, my cholesterol number was high. I’ve been borderline for years but this time I couldn’t even see the border. The letter from my doctor that came in the envelope with the results said, ominously, “we’ll talk about this when you come back into the office.”

In addition to all of the other good habits I’ve brought onboard to help improve my health (working out seven days a week, cutting back on dairy by a lot, drinking more water, adding more fruits and veggies, keeping track of what I eat to make sure I’m not regularly splurging and also to keep an eye on my sodium intake), I immediately cut back on the amount of meat Jim and I eat. The last thing I want to do is add one more medication at this stage in my life. I needed to do something. After thinking about it I realized we were eating some kind of meat every single day: mostly chicken but red meat too, more often than healthy people should.

Listen. Here’s the thing. The thing is, I will never, ever give up meat entirely. Steak is my very favorite food in the entire world. If I were stranded on a desert island but could have one food flown in, it would be steak. In fact, my mouth is watering right now, just typing that.

Anyway. I went back to my doctor today and although I expected a lecture–the letter was so serious!–I didn’t get one. She said that with my other factors the cholesterol number doesn’t concern her. We talked about how I’ve lost ten pounds since I saw her last, and ten more since July. We talked about my now-normal blood pressure. We talked about my exercise habits and all of the things I’ve been doing with my diet to be healthier. I told her how Jim and I keep track of what we eat (and how we move) each day with an app. Keeping track makes me accountable to myself and it’s truly the only way I have ever lost weight: right before I turned thirty back in the Golden Age, before cell phones were common and before anybody ever thought of Twitter or Netflix, I lost thirty-five pounds by writing down everything I consumed. That was the last time I was serious about it.

Now, nearly *cough cough* nineteen years later, I’m serious about being back on that wagon. I sound like a fanatic when I talk about it, but I really am currently a fanatic about improving the overall state of my health, and if it’s what works, this is the way I’m going to do it. What keeping track does for me is it makes me think about what I’m getting ready to eat not only at that moment, but also for the rest of the day or the rest of the week. If I know that I’m going to have a big dinner with dessert, I’ll modify my breakfast and lunch so that the dinner and dessert don’t mess up what I’m trying to do. Of course there are days on which I over-indulge: I like food too much to be so strict that I don’t ever treat myself and also I don’t think that’s healthy anyway. These good habits aren’t meant to fulfill a short-term weight loss goal; they’re meant to help me continue to do all the things I love to do for the rest of my life, and to be around for my loved ones for a really long time. (You’re stuck with me, guys.)

At the end of my appointment, I nearly high-fived my doctor when she said that although she’s not ready to get rid of the first medication yet, she wants me to come back in March for another check-in, and that it would be her goal to get me off all of my medication eventually. So basically she totally gets me and I am feeling really good about finally having–and making–the time to focus on my health.

What about you? Are you taking care of yourself? What’s one little thing you can change right now? Do it. That’s good advice from a fanatic.