The very first thing you should do to get a hold of your health is make an appointment for a physical. Yes. See your doctor before you go full steam into any exercise routine or diet. This is such a standard disclaimer that everyone completely ignores it. You must find your baseline and see where you’re at. It may not be pretty, but you need to know what is going on inside your body in order to come up with an appropriate plan to fix it.

It blows my mind to hear so many people complain about the cost of a doctor’s visit, then turn around and spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on gym equipment, supplements, and special foods for imaginary intolerances or supposed “hidden” allergies they’ve never even been tested for. But a doctor visit to actually check their body’s diagnostics? Oh, that’s too much.

The program you follow, the diet you will require, the medications you may or may not need, are all dependent upon your body and how it is currently functioning.

Important stats to know:

 Weight / BMI

Your BMI is a calculation based on your height and weight that guesstimates the ratio of fat to lean body mass (aka “muscle”) on your body. For most average people, it is a good tool to get really honest about what constitutes being “overweight” and “obese.” You may think “yeah, I’ve let myself go a bit...” when, in fact, ‘a bit’ is a gross underestimate. These numbers can wake you up right quick.

Of course, it is a bit of a crude tool. You can have two people of equal height, one being a 250 pound bodybuilder and one a 250 pound slob, with the same calculated BMI. But that’s why you do this in your Doctor’s office, because they can provide an objective view as to which end of that scale you happen to fall, lest you walk away thinking, “I must have really big bones.”

Blood Pressure & Heart Rate

Your blood pressure and heart rate are indicative of how hard your heart has to work to do its job. The harder and faster it has to work, the more likely you are to have health problems, like heart disease and stroke.

Most of the time, you can manage this through weight loss, watching your sodium intake, and getting active. But you need to know your base heart rate and blood pressure because they are silent ninja killers. You don’t feel them creeping in over the years and unsheathing their samurai stroke swords of death. Strokes can be worse than heart attacks. If you survive a heart attack, you can be back in business after surgery and rehab. If you survive a stroke, you may have lasting problems like nerve pain/damage, loss of some motor function, mental fog or concentration issues. Stroke ain't no joke. Make sure your BP is in the right zone.

Cholesterol Levels

Your cholesterol numbers will have a pretty large say on your diet for the foreseeable future. Too much LDL cholesterol, plus low HDL can lead to heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of people in America. Did you hear that? NUMBER ONE. While people don hazmat suits over one Ebola patient across the country, cholesterol laughs.

There are three numbers to your cholesterol profile: LDL (the “bad” kind that builds up and forms plaque), HDL (the “good” kind that seems to counter the plaque and buildup) and your overall cholesterol score. Basically, you want low LDL, moderate to high HDL and a low to moderate total in order to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

You need to know these numbers, because they’ll have an impact on your food choices, your supplement options and how often you’ll need to exercise. People worry about terrorists, plague, zombies, alien invasions, and all kinds of real and imaginary things they have no control over. This energy might be better invested in preventing a real killer – the NUMBER ONE KILLA - from killing them, instead.

Blood Sugar

 Most of us have the equation in our heads that eating a lot of sugar gives us diabetes. While there is a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and being overweight with acquiring Type 2 diabetes, the reality and risk factors aren’t so simple. Genetics and other factors play a large role. Diabetes isn't a disease of unchecked sugary gluttony. It's a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. Although a person can sometimes manage their blood sugar with diet and exercise, don’t let sensational documentaries fool you. Ignoring your doctor’s advice and eating a vegan diet won’t “cure” it. The truth is diabetes is a progressive disease and often has to be managed with medication as well, whether you do everything by the book or not.

Diabetes is very misunderstood and stigmatized by the general public. The diabetic is overly-scorned, while the disease itself is under- concerning to most people. Well, guess what? Skinny people get Type 2, too, so pay attention. You need to know your blood sugar to make sure you aren’t in the diabetic or pre-diabetic zone, and if you are, you’ll absolutely need to change your diet in specific ways and get treated properly.

Liver Enzymes & Kidney Function

 Your liver and kidneys are the filter system by which your body digests and eliminates. Their tasks are many, their function and dysfunction are dependent on too many variables to get into on a blog post. But they are hella important. And if they are not functioning tip-top, do not think you should be taking a ton of supplements, because you will stress out these organs. (Yes, even “natural supplements” and that Milk Thistle crap tax your body’s filtration system.)

Thyroid Function

The thyroid is a small gland in your neck that regulates metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. Some people like to blame their inability to lose fat on a genetically inherited “slow metabolism” and most of those people are full of shit. But some of them might have a thyroid problem. All it takes is a simple test to find out. And if you do have a thyroid problem, there is good news – it’s treatable.

"Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program" - the advice that is so basic, everyone ignores it. 

Each gender at every age and stage has unique health concerns and needs. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms or nagging issues you may be having, including those possible “allergies.” Take care of yourself now so there are no surprises to derail you later. While you’re at it, get the appropriate screenings and tune-ups suggested for your demographic. Don’t take care of your car better than you take care of your own body.

With insurance companies covering well visits and many preventative measures these days, you can’t afford not to go. Why listen to random people on health forums who don’t know you at all, when you can have a real read-out of what your body is actually up to in the palm of your hands? Yes, you can go work out and eat healthy food, but without your body’s baseline and parameters, you’re never going to know what is best for you, specifically, or be able to track your true progress. How else are you going to know if what you are doing actually works?

See your doctor. Even if it has been a long time. Even if you are scared to find out what your numbers are. Let this appointment be step one to your new life.