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Susie Ekberg Risher, Published April 08 2014

50/50: Diet, exercise changes have deeper impact than just on the scale


“Good, can you read the next line?”

I’m sitting in the blue Captain Kirk swivel chair at the eye doctor’s office. I’ve always had great eyesight – never needed glasses.

“Just wait until you’re 40,” my brother-in-law told me.

But my face remained glasses-free despite the thousands of hours reading in dim light or sitting too close to the TV.

“Just wait until you’re 50,” he told me next.

OK, by the time I was 50, I had to squint a little, but I thought I was just too lazy to focus. So at age 53, with a cute pair of glasses on my face (see my column photo), my vision was now crystal clear.

But I never liked the idea of deteriorating eyesight. Society tells us that as we get older we go downhill. We get stiff; we get tired, we get fat; we lose our hearing and sight; we get diseases and generally just fall apart. I’m not buying it.

About three weeks ago I noticed that I couldn’t see properly with my glasses. I don’t know how to explain what that means other than over the course of a week I could tell my vision was changing more every day. So I made an appointment to get my eyes checked.

“Huh,” the doctor said, “I can’t quite understand this, but I may have a theory.”

I shifted a little uncomfortably and waited for her to continue.

“So your uncorrected vision was 20/70, but now it’s 20/30. Do you have any thoughts as to how this could’ve happened?” she asked.

“Well, I haven’t eaten refined sugar since Jan. 1, and I’ve been gluten free for the past six weeks. It really started about two weeks after I went off gluten.”

“I think the decreased inflammation in your eyes improved your eyesight,” she finally said. “Were you doing anything else?”


So while I may lament the slow decrease of the scale numbers, I am now understanding in a real way that all of the changes I’m making are having a deeper impact than helping me look good in my distressed jeans and weighing what I did in high school. We’re talking health here.

I think I’m turning back the clock through just nutrition and exercise, and that’s astonishing. Really. I know the 22 pound loss is also good for my health, but what else is going on beneath the surface?

I think of my liver, my kidneys, intestines, heart, lungs, muscles and bones. Are they getting as buff as my backside?

Out of curiosity I went in to my amazing doctor, Tracy Martin, for a complete round of tests to compare to my October test results.

We’re checking my cholesterol (it was 265 back in October), along with glucose (Mom had diabetes), as well as Vitamin D (mine’s been tanked at 31 for the past two years) and other good ones. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

This is the 50 percent that goes on inside of me, not anything you can see on the outside. This is all internal, and I never thought a significant eye improvement was even possible.

Maybe there are no limits to our ability to improve our health just by diet and exercise. I have goose bumps just typing that.

And guess what song came on the radio while I was on the way home from the eye doctor? “I Can See Clearly Now.”

Susie Ekberg Risher is a writer living in Fargo. Follow her on a yearlong journey to lose 50 pounds – half through emotional work and half through physical effort. Readers can reach her at tall_susie@yahoo.com.