My Latest Pursuit of Health

Last Monday I gave up caffeine, sugar and other ‘white’ carbs indefinitely and limiting my carb intake overall.  I’ve learned a lot in the first week that I thought I’d share.

I should start by explaining why I started this journey.  After talking with a friend a few weeks ago about health issues she’s faced and the consequent diet changes she’s  successfully making, I began to wonder if I was closer down the road of Type 2 Diabetes than I wanted to believe.  I had hypoglycemia as a teen and since then I’ve been regularly screened for diabetes.  But lately there have been spells  of just not feeling right and other symptoms that I know are in line with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.

At my friend’s recommendation, I bought a blood glucose monitor and began checking my levels for about 4-5 days to see what was going on in my body. Of course, numbers mean nothing if you don’t have a context to put them in so I also started doing research.  First stop was the American Diabetes Association’s website for information on Type 2 diabetes and then further on pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.  I also found a bunch of sites for people living with diabetes that I have found tremendously informative and not just a little confusing because there are lots of varying opinions. But that’s for another blog.

Armed with this info and some great advice from my friend, I identified the ideal range I was targeting to keep my levels in.  The ADAs recommended range is actually a little more generous than the one I’m targeting right now but I figure that leaves room for an occasional splurges or the unexpected high blood sugar from stress but would keep my average levels well within the healthy range on average.

I should mention, I’m not advocating dealing with diabetes or even pre-diabetes without the care of a medical doctor.  My numbers are high but they don’t seem to be outrageously high and pretty quickly I realized that making different food changes got my numbers back in line.  I don’t particularly want a pre-diabetes diagnosis in my medical record if i can help it and I certainly don’t want a Type 2 diabetes one there unless it is something I can’t deal with apart from prescription help.  That and the fact I’m terrified of needles so the idea of letting this get worse and ending up needing insulin shots motivates me to try and get a handle on this through life change first.  So I plan on trying this until my annual physical in September and if at that point the test come back high because I wasn’t able to manage it on my own, then I’ll try my doctor’s plan…

Simply by watching my levels in the morning, before I eat and 90 min. to 2 hours after a meal, I’ve learned a lot about how my body deals with different kinds of food. This will be a process of learning but in just the first 4-5 days I quickly realized that sugar, white bread and white potatoes are not my friends! I also realized that my coffee drinking might be masking the messages my body was sending me about how I was feeling. Changes were definitely needed.

For the first time in a lifetime of ‘diets’ I really am faced with making changes for the sake of my health and long-term quality of life.  Turns out this is the difference maker!  I just reviewed my log and noticed that the last 4 days I’ve stayed within my target range after meals!  And that includes going to Chuy’s last night where I had some chips and fish tacos that had flour tortillas.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned:

1. Getting off caffeine hurts. Yes, I’m stating the obvious because it really can’t be over communicated. I had to take Excedrin on the 4th day because my headache got so bad. Thankfully since then headaches have been minor and intermittent not constant.  I still have moments of feeling sluggish.  And my body still wants coffee at 3pm in the afternoon almost like I’ve trained it to expect it!  But I think I’m past the worst of that. For me hot herb tea has been a good alternative. It’s certainly not the same as a good cup of coffee but it’ll do.

2. Exercise drops your blood sugar. For me, that means when I walk in the morning, I need to eat something before I go that will raise my blood sugar a little so it won’t go too low.  Otherwise, you feel really sick!  I think this is only because when I wake up NOW,  it is in the lower part of the range where I feel good, a week ago that wasn’t true.  On the other hand, I found that if it was a little high after I eat dinner, a walk around the block can bring it down some.

3.  You gotta have a plan. Again, I’m stating the obvious.  I’m learning this as I go but my first lesson was to have healthy snacks on hand because you need mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. FYI, the Word Entertainment vending machine doesn’t have any no-carb/sugar snacks available!  I think you want to make sure you have some things you really like of the things that are good for you. Secret weapon: Dark chocolate cocoa covered almonds (monitor your portions though!)  I haven’t felt at all deprived other than the cravings for sugar & caffeine.

This kind of diet really requires making meals. I can’t just make a quick sandwich or have a bowl of cereal for dinner anymore.  There are days I don’t want to cook when I get home.  So I’m working on options to have on hand to make a quick meal that is within my chosen diet. I also am gonna have to discipline myself to pack a lunch to take to work.  Those days where I would have quickly run through a fast food option to eat at my desk were rare but that’s not an option anymore. So I need an eat at my desk plan.

4.  Baby steps. You can’t make every change necessary in the first week so pick a few things and focus on them.  I probably picked a few more than I’d recommend but it’s been doable so far.

5.  Healthy eating is expensive! The Farmer’s Market is a much more affordable place to buy fresh vegetables & fruits.  And they taste better.

6.  Don’t set yourself up for failure! The other day I walked into Panera to pick up a quick salad to eat at my desk (review #6) and as I was starving, waiting in line and overwhelmed with the smell of baked goods I realized what an idiot I was.  I couldn’t get that salad and get out of there quick enough.  I escaped without a cinnamon roll but it was a close call!

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