A reader named Sava William Jacobson, of Sherman Oaks, writes to ask if I will divulge my secrets for remaining healthy.
I would be happy to share my secrets, but I’m not sure my readers in general have the discipline to follow my advice.
“I recall that some years ago you had a bypass operation,” Jacobson says, “and that thereafter you went on a strict diet and exercise regimen.”
That isn’t quite what happened. I did have a bypass, but I did not immediately begin regular exercise and my diet was rather self-indulgent. I have always liked hot dogs, bacon, eggs and peanut butter, and I saw no reason for living many more years if I were deprived of them.
I convinced my cardiologist that I was getting enough exercise by walking up and down malls while shopping. He was skeptical, but they don’t like to tell you what to do.
Then one day a friend and I walked up a long flight of stairs together. When we reached the top I was puffing laboriously. My friend was worried. He had had a bypass a few years before me, and he said, “You’d better shape up, man.”
I enrolled in the Huntington Hospital cardiac rehabilitation program. Three mornings a week I worked out with other patients under the direction of three frisky young women who frolicked with us and played improbable medleys on the stereo while we exercised.
At the end of three months I was discharged and was declared the “most improved” member of the group.
I then enrolled in Ray Steffanus’ class at the Pasadena Athletic Club. Three mornings a week I exercised under Ray’s direction, riding a bicycle, lifting light dumbbells, using a leg lift and working various light arm machines.
I have been doing that ever since.
However, I will use almost any excuse to avoid getting up early and going to the class. On an average, I miss at least once a week.
However, one incentive for going is that after the workouts I indulge myself in a breakfast at the Konditori, Rose City or some other Pasadena cafe. Having earned this modest pleasure by exercising, I usually have pancakes, bacon and eggs. (Sometimes champagne and orange juice.)
Since my wife works, I have to fix my own lunch, or eat down the hill at the Packard Grill, where I usually have an Italian sausage salad or a hamburger. At home I heat a small can of chili or pasta in the microwave and eat it with a diet Pepsi.
For dinner I’m at the mercy of the draw--the draw being whatever microwave dinner my wife happens to pull out of the cupboard. Usually these are chicken and pasta dishes, but sometimes we get cheese enchiladas or lasagna.
I almost never eat dessert, but every night before going to bed I eat a dish of frozen yogurt. My favorite is chocolate chip.
Meanwhile, the friend who cautioned me at the top of the stairs has had a second bypass. Evidently they’re only good for eight or 10 years.
If that’s true, my time will soon be up. I don’t know whether I want to go through the ordeal of another bypass. On the other hand I do enjoy bacon and eggs and frozen yogurt and various other amenities, including watching sex and violence on television with my wife, so I’ll probably be willing to go through with the operation to gain a few more years.
When you find yourself in my predicament, you find out things about yourself. For example, there are certain things I won’t do, even to add a few years to my life. My wife bought me an exercise bicycle, but I never used it. I said it was too boring. She bought me a television set to put in the bedroom so I could watch television while cycling. I tried it once or twice.
Eventually I gave the bicycle to my older son. He put it in his bedroom but never used it. His wife finally made him get rid of it. My younger son’s wife took it and put it in her bedroom, but never used it. I have no idea where it is today.
My regimen seems to be working. I usually ache in the morning and get tired in the afternoon, but who doesn’t? My weight has been stable for years. I can still wear all my old clothes.
Undoubtedly, the most important health measure I have ever taken was to quit smoking. That is why I am alive today and able to eat bacon and eggs and hot dogs and hamburgers and chocolate chip yogurt.
If I have to have another bypass, I probably will. I have unfinished business. Among other projects I have just started to read the King James version of the Bible, top to bottom.
Surely God won’t let me die until I finish that, no matter how many hot dogs I eat.