Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food ~Hippocrates
Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy ~Author Unknown
(Note, this is part 2 in a series of blogs on the subject of diabetes during National Diabetes month. Please see previous blog post for part 1.)
Diet…that word sends messages of disappointment and frustration throughout my being. Over the years, I have tried many diets only to yo, yo, right back to my original weight or heavier. When I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in the Spring of 2005, it should not have been a surprise. I was stressed after a major move and job change. I was beginning menopause and my weight was at an all time high. After my move, my new doctor told me I had Type 2 Diabetes. She speculated that I was probably pre-diabetic for awhile. When I received my medical records from my previous doctor, I was surprised to read that I had previously been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. How could I be so unaware? I was like Scarlett O’Hara, a moment of panic at the initial news and then “Oh, la, de, da, I’ll deal with this tomorrow.” My tomorrow had come. I had to make changes.
My doctor wrote orders for me to attend American Diabetes Association (ADA) approved training and meet with a nutritionist. She then said, “Your ‘diet’ will have to change significantly. You may not be able to have sweet fruits like mangos or pineapples.” The ADA training re-educated me on the food pyramid and to be cautious with carbohydrate intake. My nutritionist re-enforced the notion that I needed to limit carbs to no more than 45 grams per meal. I followed the meal planning guidance religiously for awhile, and even added exercise, but when I got to an “ok” weight, I relapsed back to my old ways.
My diabetes education taught me that I had a condition that could only be managed, not reversed. I seemed to be managing ok, but I wasn’t feeling great. I became curious about claims by celebrity doctors who proclaimed it was possible to reverse diabetes. Amazon filled my bookshelves with books by Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Joel Fuhrman and many others. Over-thinker that I am, I was intrigued by the common thesis that a primarily plant based diet might improve my condition. “This can’t possibly work for me.” I thought. I was traveling internationally for my work and didn’t think my lifestyle could adjust to this type of eating. I tried to limit carbs which worked during meals. “A plant based diet, can’t be healthy,” I thought. “There isn’t enough protein.” Truth be told, it was my overactive sweet tooth that craved processed carbs.
Dieting was something I did when I had a future event to go to. For most of my life, I focused on “doing”. My health was something I took for granted. I paid attention to healthy habits when symptoms popped up that couldn’t be ignored. I was too busy “doing” and enjoying what I thought was a productive life. I spent time studying yoga and meditative practices that demonstrated the benefits of “being”. I was going through the motions. These practices were something to be “done” I needed a break from too much “doing.” I knew something was amiss with this lifestyle formula, but it seemed too hard to change. My nutritionist finally told me she didn’t think I’d improve my condition until I curtailed my crazy globe trotting lifestyle.
My husband’s diagnosis of congestive heart failure and subsequent surgeries, quickly transformed my “doing” state to a “being” state. It felt like all I could “do” was “be”. It was in this frame of mind, that a man named Jon McMahon, entered my life through the internet. In a series of documentaries which he called iThrive Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity, he interviewed leading medical experts on what it would take to reverse Type 2 Diabetes and overcome obesity. Many of those he interviewed were authors of the books, I had read over the years. Expert after expert placed blame on the Standard American Diet (SAD) for national heath issues and advocated for a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet as a solution to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. I listened intently from my “being” state.
As, I watched each interview, I recalled the words a doctor who decades early cautioned me that “focus on healthy habits helped ensure a longer quality of life, not quantity of life.” I started to make different choices, gradually. I avoided processed foods and started cooking more plant based foods at home. While I continued to question the logic of WFPB eating, the experts presented compelling evidence for better health. One interview, in particular, stood out to me. The interview between Jon and Dr. Fuhrman drew me in. There seemed to be a good connection between the two of them and Dr. Fuhrman seemed genuinely interested in helping Jon get better. Dr. Fuhrman refers to his plan as Nutritarian. With a focus on whole foods with a high nutrition content, he also allows some lean meat and fish in his plan. This plan seemed more palatable to me than some of the other options.
I focused on “being” a healthy care giver and started to lose some weight. Not a lot, but “being” aware was making a difference. I was also learning what foods would best serve my husband as he had multiple conditions that required awareness of what he consumed.
By Spring, my hubby was well enough to resume his heart healthy crockpot cooking. I continued to follow Jon McMahon on his iThrive FaceBook group. Jon announced his progress as he followed Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendation. He announced that Dr. Fuhrman would be offering his Lose 10 pounds in 20 Days Detox Program to all iThrive FB members. With little hesitation, my “being” self committed to “doing” the program. I started the plan on April 3rd and religiously followed the guidance through the rest of the month. As promised, the weight began to drop. I started to feel better and my daily blood sugar readings were moving toward the normal range! The recipes provided were easy and not too complicated for me to make in my “being” state. I was “doing” the program while “being.”
When the iThrive Challenge was done, I continued to follow the general guidelines of the Fuhrman plan. I had my quarterly checkin with the doctor in June. I had forgotten about the April challenge but was still reaping benefits. The nurse asked me to step on the scale, noted my weight and began to enter it into the computer. “Holy shit, oops, I’m sorry!” She exclaimed. “You’re at the lowest weight you’ve ever been since coming to this office over 10 years ago. High five, you go girl!” I was stunned as my “doing” had kicked back in. I was being less “aware” of my habits. I had gone on vacation and was disappointed in myself because I hadn’t achieve the weight goal I had set for myself…. but I had still lost over 25 lbs in 6 months. Then, I received my lab results. My blood sugars, triglyceride and cholesterol were all in the normal range and I had one of my diabetes medications eliminated.
In my next post, I’ll explore the other pillars (see intro article) for thriving and how I strive to maintain the momentum I developed in April. Stay tuned.