Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Update to the Elephant in the Room

Back in February I received a diagnosis I was not ready to accept. Still not ready to accept if truth be told. 

Yesterday I returned for my first round of blood work to see how changing my diet has affected everything in my life. To say I was nervous about the results would be a vast understatement. I was afraid that by changing my diet to drastically cut down on carbs (including most sugars and grains) and drastically increasing my intake of eggs, fish, and meat other numbers that had been fabulous would suddenly be in need of repair (or at least tweaking). I was also afraid I was not doing enough and would be forced to take medicine for the rest of my life.

Fortunately my fears were unfounded. My A1C dropped from 8.0 to 6.3! To put it in context for those of you lucky enough to not know what that means, normal is under 5.7, pre-diabetic is 5.7-6.5. To put it into further context, my endocrinologist would have been happy with that number if I had been on medicine for the past 3 months. She was ecstatic with my ability to do it through diet alone. She also told me that doctor #1 who told me my numbers were "toxic" and that I had to go on meds immediately was wrong. 

I think I heard her utter the phrase "you are not diabetic," but I was afraid to quiz her on that preferring instead to let those words rest on my heart and in my soul. Four months ago I would have accepted being called "pre-diabetic" because that means there is hope it won't progress to a disease even the ADA insists no one wants.

I have a lot of bones to pick with the ADA and their website. It is peppered with phrases that say how horrible diabetes is, and how preventable it is, too. It is not caused by eating too many sweets or carbs. It is not caused solely by genetics. It is only caused by things I have done to myself. Gee, thanks for the support.

"Eating healthy" is another phrase with which I have a bone to pick. It seems there is always a new trend. I remember uttering the phrase "I wouldn't last past lunch on the Atkins Diet" to my brother in law when he was following that fad (yes, that is the one where the leader died from a heart attack), yet that's pretty much what I am following these days (oh, God has such a wild sense of humor). I wasn't following any particular diet, just trying to "eat healthy," yet still have some sweets, the occasional apple cider, and things that make life interesting. I was eating low fat, and trying to go vegetarian. In other words, I was having too many carbs for my body.

What changes have I made since February? I now eat fish, lots of nuts, Greek yogurt, tons of salads, almond butter, spaghetti made out of squash (spaghettini) and tofu. If someone says it has low carbs and is good for me, I am willing to try it. I've given up pasta dishes (*sigh*) and most desserts (*double sigh*), but will have a spoonful of ice cream and 2/3 of a cup of rice, definitely not in the same sitting, though.

I have cut my carb intake to less than 30 grams a meal. If you don't realize how hard that is, consider yourself lucky. It means either a 2/3 a cup of rice or 1/2 a cup of beans or 2/3 a cup of butternut squash. Not both at the same time. Always pair those carbs with a protein to make it easier for my pancreas to process them. So that means instead of grabbing an apple on the go (21 grams of carbs) I am to pair it with peanut butter or cheese. 

In the past four months I have lost 10 pounds without trying to lose weight. I am also eating 5-6 meals a day, and am still often hungry. I was told no need to lose weight (that was not what caused my pancreas to stop working), but when you eliminate grains and sugars, and are told not to have too many fats because fats make it harder for the pancreas to produce insulin, and exercise more, then there is no option but to lose weight. I've also knocked 30 seconds a mile (or so) off of my run times.

The "good" news is it is Type 2, meaning my pancreas does still produce insulin, just very slowly. The really good news is my cholesterol and other numbers did not jump past the normal range by vastly increasing my intake of meat (sorry, vegetarians, I wanted a meat-free diet to work, maybe someday I'll figure out how to make that happen for my body).

I was really hoping for better news -- such as "we are so sorry, but we mixed up your blood results with someone else's and you do not have any problems producing insulin," but even my husband admitted that was unrealistic. For now I'll keep on cutting my carbs to 30-40 grams a meal and continue to focus on what I am eating rather than focusing on testing myself. I found daily testing was stressful, and stress leads to higher numbers. Besides, the numbers were in the same 20 point range every morning, so they weren't telling me anything, and I was too stressed to do the before and after meal testing that tells something. Hearing things like, foods that work today might not work tomorrow (based on exercise and other factors) do not encourage testing. All I can do is focus on finding more low-glycemic foods and trying to stay within the guidelines. I also have to learn to let go of the guilt I've been feeling and return to enjoying life.

As with my earlier message, I encourage you to leave me a message with some encouragement. We can all use encouragement.

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