Saturday, August 24, 2013

A change in direction

I recently had a routine checkup and one of my numbers came up in the red zone. The A1C tests the average levels of glucose in the blood over a three month period. A value between 5.7 and 6.4 is considered pre-diabetic. Above 6.4 is diagnosed as diabetic. I am at 6.2.

Diabetes runs in my family, so this number has my attention.

I am not obese. According to the notoriously inaccurate BMI, I am not even overweight, but I carry all of my fat around my stomach, which is the worst place to have it. And though people generally think of me as fit and healthy, the truth is, I have the diet from hell and I haven't done much exercising beyond gardening for about two years now. It think this has finally caught up with me.

My doctor is fond of saying that our genetics do not have to be our destiny, and this is what she told me when we discussed this during my office visit. She thinks that if I lose 10 pounds and start exercising again I can turn it around. So about four weeks ago I changed directions. I re-booted the running and got back on the road bike--both things that I enjoy and that, except for occasional timeouts (that admittedly last longer than they should), are things I've done all of my life.

What I haven't done all of my life is eat a healthy diet, so this has been a radical change for me. I know what a healthy diet is, for the most part, I just haven't been eating one. Even so, as I started to do some research and looking for recipes that would compete with the appeal of bad food, I learned a few surprising things. The most important thing I discovered was that there is an awful lot of really good food out there that is perfectly okay to eat. True, I'm going to have to give up some things and alter the timing of when I eat others, but on the whole, this is not a deprivation diet. I can still have pizza; it just has to be loaded with things that will slow down the digestion of the crust, such as veggies and lean meats.

My doctor said something else to me during that office visit. She said that society generally doesn't offer us much support for changing our diets, but I actually think we have lots of it. We just have to ask.

It is true that everywhere we go in America, there are pies and cookies and cakes being thrust at us. It is awfully hard to say "no" to these things, not just because they are tasty, but because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings. But I believe that if we are up front and say, "Thanks for the offering, but I'm a pre-diabetic (or diabetic)," people will generally understand and not feel slighted if we don't accept the offering. We don't have to make a big deal about it; we just have to be open and gracious.

So I'm off on a new journey. It will be interesting to see where it takes me. It has already started to shake up the recipe box a little.

And now I'm off for my Saturday morning ride. Ciao, bella.


14 comments:

  1. I am fat around my middle too and havent exercised really ever which is why I took up swimming. My diet is healthy but my motablism has slowed down hence the weight gain and I feel sluggish.
    You might be interested to look at GI diets. They are about gluten and if you eat things like boiled potates instead of mashed then it takes longer for the body to process it and you aren't hungry so quickly. I was also told that if you use things like unrefined flour, sugar, brown rice and pasta is was better for the same reason. ALthough I really dont like brown rice and pasta!

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    1. Helen, the GI diet is indeed what I've switched to. Let's hope it helps. It is much more complicated than simply cutting out sugar, but the good news is that there are so many things I can eat.

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  2. My triglycerides are too high. I am also changing my wicked ways. I am not fit, but I'm going to become that way. I don't want to die or have heart surgery. Consider me with you as you ride. I'll be walking hills on the treadmill.~~Dee

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    1. Dee, I will think about yu out there. We can do this together.

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  3. Humbling, whether in diet or chance genetics. That's in some of my family's past, too. I feel much better, finally getting back into my workout routine I began a decade before I moved. At least 3 days on a mountain bike or hike is part...not just fresh air, but natural spaces with native plants for order to my place in the world. And maybe some SPF #500...

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    1. David, you landed in a place with some great recreation possibilities. Enjoy!

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  4. The numbers are wake up calls for many of us...I used to walk every day and then I began blogging! It really messed with my heath, including my back! Now I am back to walking daily and not sitting as much. I feel so much better. I've enjoyed hearing your dinner plans. xogail

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    1. Thanks, Gail. I hope people don't get annoyed with the dinner updates. For some reason it motivates me to post them.

      Keep walking!

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  5. I tell patients when I provide nutritional counseling (prediabetics and diabetics, all on limited incomes) that the diet we discuss is a healthy one - something everybody should follow. I try to frame it in terms of what they can have to eat, not what they can't have.

    The challenge for many is being able to afford a healthy diet, especially in an area where the growing season is very short. I focus a lot on basic, whole foods - as close to their natural state as possible. Frozen foods vs canned (only take out what you need); buying in season, buying from the bulk aisle (I miss the old co-op and their focus on minimal to no packaging), inexpensive forms of protein, etc. As well as honoring cultural differences in food preferences and discussing ways to make traditional foods healthier.

    One of my favorite resources came from the state of Texas!

    We have had patients drop their A1c dramatically with diet and exercise (one person from 13 or so down to the normal range in less then a year - s/he went vegan, no oils, etc - very motivated).

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    1. All good advice, especially the part about thinking about it in terms of what you can eat. It is taking my body a little time to adjust to the increase in fiber, but I think that in the long run, I'm going to feel a lot better.

      That is inspirational to hear that someone went from 13 (!) to normal. Gives me hope. I am motivated to get this done (though I don't think I could do vegan :-))

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    2. That person made some pretty drastic changes - and it keeping them up so far.

      That said, my daughter once experimented with a vegan diet. A lot of junk food is vegan we discovered.

      Being motivated is the biggest battle. Keep up the changes, you will adapt and may find you feel more energetic overall (although you get so much done already I can't imagine what that would look like!).

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  6. my cholesterol numbers are always high, and it runs in my family, but recently I noticed one side-effect of my cholesterol medicine (aches and pains with no cause, like I didn't play football, nobody hit me, I didn't fall down...) and stopped that med. Then, after two weeks, I felt like a different person! I wasn't lethargic! I wasn't depressed! I had energy! Optimism! I could sweep and cook and do laundry! (okay, you might not celebrate that in ordinary circumstances, but those were kind of benchmarks for me. I could deal with things!) But I don't want to go back to the meds, so I have to work on lowering my cholesterol with diet and exercise. And it's not been that hard, so far. I've increased fiber too, but some of that has been fresh corn from local markets! Yum. DW

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  7. Susan, Good for you for taking the message from your body seriously. It's so easy to slip gradually into bad habits and then want to blame something else when the habits finally catch up with us. I have high cholesterol on my mom's side, and after menopause mine started creeping up. So I eat a pretty healthy diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruits (carefully on the fruits for their sugar content) and very few carbs. For my protein, I eat local eggs and cheese in moderation, plus occasional chicken and shrimp and such. I love oatmeal, so that's my breakfast staple (whole-grain, of course, not the quick stuff). But what I can't give up is chocolate. That's my sin. Sounds like you're on the right path--for me, changing my diet was the hardest thing, I think mostly because it was a long-term habit. But now that I have, it feels right. Good luck!

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  8. I have a friend who lowered her numbers by walking the mall early in the AM and limiting sugar, carbs, and dairy. She made a turn around in 3 months.

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