First off, sorry to hear that you've been on daily medication for five years. I'm not a doctor, but I'll tell you everything I know. As well, if you have any questions you don't want to share here, or if you just need some support, my email address is on my profile page.
The worst reading I ever had was 240/120, but I lived in the 200+/100+ zone for a long time. Over my entire battle, my average would have been around 220/110...
It will likely be easier if I basically open source myself. At the time, I was 5'11 and weighed about 210 pounds. I should weigh 170. My daily regiment looked a whole lot like this:
- The only time I ate breakfast was when someone brought in doughnuts, at which point, I'd usually eat at least two.
- My caffeine consumption was extremely high. I'd have a minimum of three 500ml travel mugs every morning. 500ml equals two cups, so, that was pretty heavy. In the afternoon, I'd usually cut back a little and only drink two travel mugs. The fact a liter of coffee was considered cutting back is somewhat scary to me now.
- For lunch, I often (at least 2x per week) went to a great Thai restaurant, where I often had Paht Thai. Sushi was another common lunch food. I was one of those sushi eaters who downed prodigious amounts of soy sauce.
- We normally worked until 6pm, then went out for dinner and drinks. After dinner, I'd usually head back to work until 2am. This is when things really hit the crapper. I had no willpower after two pints and my nights at work usually had at least one or two convenience store breaks. Potato chips were common snacks. When I wanted to be healthy, it was salted peanuts.
- I'd be satisfied if I got an average of four hours of sleep a night.
- Water? Did people drink that??
Long story short, nutritionally, I was a complete mess. That's where I did most of my work.
- My first step was to fix my diet. I all but stopped going out for lunch and started making my own lunches. Breakfast became a new friend - poached eggs are actually really good. And I started going home and cooking dinner. Finally, I cut my salt intake dramatically.
- Not only did I change what I ate, but I also changed the schedule. I wrote a Chrome extension that replaced all images with cats every two hours. That wasn't sign to go eat something and drink some water. Old me would eat two huge meals and snack at night. New me had breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and a healthy dinner. Snacks were usually something like raw asparagus, or maybe some carrots.
- I cut my caffeine consumption dramatically. This was the hardest part of the whole process. Turns out that caffeine is really a drug (and I'm an addict).
- I started drinking water. I didn't follow that eight glasses crap, but I made a point of drinking water with every meal.
- Exercise was huge. At first, I couldn't really exercise. Rather, I had to spend 20 minutes on an exercise bike barely moving. The idea was to slowly introduce myself to cardio while keeping my heart rate very low. When that didn't kill me, I bumped it up to thirty minutes. Then, I kicked up the intensity. After three months, my doctor authorized me to start lifting weights. At first, I could only lift really tiny amounts of weight, though I could do lots of reps. When that didn't kill me, I could start lifting a little heavier (10 reps to failure). And when that didn't kill me, my doctor finally agreed to let me lift heavy (ie - less than 5 reps to failure).
- A few months into the process, I went through a very deep, dark bout with depression. It was a mid 30s, I'm a complete loser, I hate my job, I hate my life and, if I died right now, nobody would care. Sounds crappy, but it was helpful because I got to realize that I wasn't living. I had a job. I worked with my friends. I didn't have hobbies and had forgotten everything (and everyone) I loved. I went through a few months of apologizing to th friends I abandoned in favour of my gig and worked to find myself again. That's when I realized that real life doesn't feel like a giant ball of stress. Rather, there was thus weird state called "being content in the moment."
- With that sudden interest in mindfulness, I started meditating. Meditating sucked and was likely the hardest thing I ever tried. Meditating is still very hard, but it is part of my life now.
- Between getting back into collecting vinyl, going to punk shows, working out and playing in a really excellent World of Darkness campaign (I never said my interests were terribly cool), I began to see two distinct versions of myself. There was crazy Greg, who worked all the time, had no joy and was always stressed out. And then, there was laid back, totally chill, happy Greg. Joy is, I'm both of those people and am in control of which persona I choose to wear around. It sounds like crap, but I decided that I wanted to be happy. I can't tell you how critical that was in my recovery - learning that stress happens (and that I can deal with the stressor and then be fine) was amazing. I realize that I was in the habit of feeling stressed. I made a new habit.
I'm not sure this is going to be helpful. I can't point to one particular thing that helped because I changed many different things. One thing though, changing my mind helped me so much. Becoming mindful of stress, learning to recognize it, and then using things like exercise, meditation, or a really kickass Werewolf to put it someplace helpful was amazingly beneficial.
On a pure, statistical level, my body is dramatically different today. When I started lifting weights, my max bench press was 1/4 what it is today. As far as lower body goes, my squat has increased 5 times since I started. When I started exercising, I couldn't run one kilometer without stopping; today, I routinely run 8km. While my raw measurements haven't really changed (I'm 5'11 and 195 now), my body is different. You won't get me and Arnold Schwarzenegger mixed up, but four year olds don't beat me in arm wrestles anymore....
However, I also seriously owe my doctor. Seriously, the man went way beyond the call of duty. He could have easily kept me on meds forever. Rather, he knew I wanted to be natural and worked hard to get me there. He put me on a very harsh regiment, where I had to check to check in with him once a month. He monitored me constantly and that is the biggest factor in how I got off the meds.
Seriously, I hope this helps and please feel free to email me!
Hi Greg, thanks for sharing your story. It's great to hear that you're staying very healthy now.
To all other friends here, I'm sure most of you have read the recent article by Jessica Livingston, What Goes Wrong. In the article, she said, "We tell people that during YC there are really only three things you should focus on: building things, talking to users, and exercising." Over the past year, I've been doing exactly the three things, and I'm feeling healthy in spite of the long hours, and crazy schedule.
Take care of yourself, everyone. So often we hear people say that doing a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. We really need it take it to heart.
Wow, that is indeed a remarkable and inspiring story. Thanks so much for sharing it. You are right - most physicians - including mine - find it far easier to medicate you for life than try and cure you naturally. I am certainly going to try the approach of diet, exercise and lifestyle change and see how it goes. Incidentally, a great book on this topic that I recently found is "Spectrum" by Dean Ornish.